Zipper’s Beachfront Restaurant
Cabo San Lucas, Mexico is frequently cited as one of the top ten travel destinations in the world. Expensive resorts line pristine beaches and cater to the rich and famous. Yet one of the most popular beachfront restaurants in the area isn’t associated with any of the typical tourist venues.

Zipper’s Beachfront Restaurant is a little off the beaten path, and there’s nothing fancy about it other than great ocean view courtesy of Mother Nature. The restaurant’s owner, Tony Magdaleno (aka “Big Tony”), is a mini-celebrity. My husband and I were introduced to Zipper’s and “Big Tony” about ten years ago by some friends who own a second home in Cabo. Now, every year when we go back we, Zipper’s is on our “must do” list. And Big Tony always remembers us. As soon as he sees us, he makes his way to our table to say hello and welcome us back. Of course, that’s part of the reason folks like us come back time and time again. Big Tony makes you feel special.

During one of my trips there, I decided to chat with Big Tony about how he built his business and how he manages to continue to succeed with so much competition. “Most business comes from word-of-mouth, and I never forget a face,” he explained. “It is important to get repeat customers.”

It certainly does the trick at Zipper’s. More than 60 percent of the restaurant’s customers are tourists. Since Tony launched the restaurant 14 years ago, he says he has watched families come with young children who are now grown and returning with their own children. “I really enjoy that,” he said with his trademark big smile.

Big Tony is also a brand in and of himself. There’s a Big Tony cartoon character depicted on the restaurant’s coasters and signage which includes Tony’s famous slogan “Sale y Vale,” which as far as I can tell has no meaning – except at Zipper’s.

Building a base of loyal customers doesn’t require a huge marketing budget. Follow Big Tony’s example. Zipper’s doesn’t have a website and Tony doesn’t spend a lot of money on advertising. Nonetheless, during the slowest tourism months in Cabo, you’ll still find a comfortable crowd at Zipper’s. Big Tony understands the importance of building a loyal customer base by making people feel special. That’s why if you are ever in Cabo and get a chance to check out Zipper’s, you can count on Big Tony being there working the room.  Tell him I said hello.

If you’d like more information on ways to build your restaurant customer base without breaking the bank, let me share some resources with you.

First,the National Restaurant Association works to help its members build customer loyalty and find financial success. For example, the organization sponsors members-only webinars which allow you to learn from industry experts. The programs feature insights into new trends, economic conditions, cash flow management, effective pricing strategies, innovative marketing and promotions programs. In addition, you can network with some of the leaders in the business so you can learn from the experience of others. The NRA’s annual conference and trade show is a popular industry event where you can network, learn new techniques for marketing and menu development, and find the latest products to help you build your business. is primarily a website development and online strategy company  for restaurants, but it also offers free, educational webinars. The webinars are presented by online marketing restaurant experts. For example, an upcoming event teaches you how to create an online sweepstakes for Facebook to attract new business. is a resource that offers practical know-how to help you market your products and services both smarter and better. While the material is designed for all types of businesses, the site does provide restaurant-specific content. You’ll find helpful newsletters, seminars, forums and conferences to help you design smart marketing strategies that work for you.

Finally, visit We have information, tips and inspirational examples of how small-business owners just like you took their businesses to the next level. You’ll find a host of segments produced for the restaurant and hospitality industry, including coverage of past NRA conferences and how to build your business dream through restaurant ownership.

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AvatarSusan Solovic

Susan Wilson Solovic is an award-winning entrepreneur and journalist, author of three best-selling books, multi-media personality and contributor to ABC News and other outlets, public speaker and attorney.