Starting a Café type Business- Any advice for an Expat?

My husband and I are looking to possibly move to Aguadilla or Isabela area and start a café type business.  Any suggestions/advice on starting a business as an expat?  Thanks!

Hi sboebaker,

Here is a pretty comprehensive guide to doing business in PR.

Doing Business in PR

Great Ambition!  Do you have experience in working in / running a restaurant?   Some of my family had a lot of experience in opening and running restaurants - I know for a fact that it is flat out hard work!  But it can be a rewarding experience.   

What type of cafe do you have in mind?   Are you familiar with the area and  the market for what you are considering? 

We would love to see a great steak house!

We currently do catering but we have both worked in restaurants as cooks and wait staff so we're up for the hard work.  Ideally we'd like to be near the beach or in town near shops.  My husband is famous for his bbq and I do alot of baking, homemade biscuits etc. so incorporating the two.  Still working out what the menu would look like!

Well...A great BBQ is always a hit!!   Having lived in Texas, I can claim to know good BBQ when I taste it! 

Great smoked ribs, corn bread and slaw!  Can't miss!  Let me know when you open, I'll be your first customer!

:)  Will do!

There is a woman in Rincon that runs a business helping ppl get all their ducks in a row when starting a business here. She is bi-lingual and I believe she services a wide area/neighboring towns. I will hunt down her info and PM it to you. I don't know her rates but I think whatever it is will probably save you ten fold in time and money.

Just wanted to add that there is one BBQ restaurant I went to in Isabela. It had acceptable/fair BBQ but the rolls and cornbread were super dry. Coming from the South that is unacceptable. :D Anyhoo, my point is, those guys are regularly busy so if bring some game, you'll probably have a stampede of ppl. There is another BBQ joint in the center of the island (off the beaten path) that does very good BBQ and that place is packed regularly. I'm talking a few hundred ppl at a time on weekends. They turn over tables quickly to boot.

Thanks so much for the information!!!

Please hire a lawyer to do the paper work for you otherwise permits etc will take even longer .Nothing happened quickly here. Also food is very competitive here and you definitely need a niche market.  Example Thai food is very hard to come by.  I live in Rincon and there were 2 here in town 1 left and the other one is only open certain times of the year. Someone just opened another one and it's not doing well. People in this town love Thai food but unfortunately we are limited .Isabela only has one . We also live central north Puerto Rico and none was found.
Also doing a business in a food truck or bus .Seems to get most business with a lower overhead cost. 
I wish you the best

Thank you so much for the advice!

If you goe with a thai flavor you can PM me as I have a farm in Pr and am specializing in Asian ingredients like Kafir Lime, Lemon grass, fresh curry leaf, etc. I mat eventually  create a paste that will only need the coconut milk  to be added.

Yes - Thai would be wonderful.  I need to check out the local thai offerings - my wife likes curry, I'm a fool for pad thai.

Since some of you sugested a food truck, does anyone know how one secures a spot?
It would seem to me that locating a spot and being able to use it daily maybe difficult since somebody else may take your spot
I think it is illegal to force the other truck to move at gun point :D

You have to ask around bro find out who owns the area / location you are interested in.  I have a friend that he a gyro shack .She was paying $300 a month for her location with water and electric .We have another friend that sells smoked food and his spot is $250 with out electric and water. He uses a solar panel for power .  So you have to buy / make your shack.
But the rest is pretty easy after you get your license . Also a liquid license is only $250 in our town .It's probably the same throughout the island .

Thanks Sandra

You can always gontonthe town and find out who owns the piece of property

Hi there Shoebaker,

       I see that you are planning a move down here soon, either to Isabela or Aguadilla. We live in Quebradilla, which is the town east of Isabela and there is a house for rent next to us. If interested, pm me and I will put you in contact with the owner.

       Take care and will hopefully meet you soon.


There are two brick and mortar BBQ restaurants in Rincon (south of Aguadilla by 30 mins): Lucky 13 BBQ and Cowboys BBQ Cantina And Grill. There is also a BBQ stand and It's rumored that there will be a Cajun restaurant (but who knows).

If I were you I'd go to northwest Puerto Rico (Rincon, Aguadilla, Isabella) and do a BBQ tasting tour to compare your food with the competition.

In Rincon new food carts and stands must be on private property as the town has ceased new leases on town properties due, I think, to the growing numbers of such businesses. During your tasting tour another task might be looking at the locations of existing carts/stands as examples, noticing any locations that appeal to you and checking with the owners. In Rincon the growth of these businesses has increased significantly during the last 2 or 3 years.

Mimi is the woman in Rincon that has captured the niche of facilitating the paperwork of setting up businesses. I don't have her info but I'm sure you will find her on the Internet. From what I've heard it is worth the money while having her set things up for you as it will save lots of time and frustration.

Tax-wise changes in the Puerto Rico tax laws are a burden on any business. They will effectively be using a VAT system where each business in the supply-wholesale-retail chain will collect and pay taxes, and the taxes are very high. This can affect your business.

Another issue food businesses have is establishing and maintaining a source of (quality) supplies (meat, vegetables, etc). This is worked out over time but it is that should be on your getting-your-ducks-in-a-row list.

Good luck, if you have a great product people will come.

Thank you for the additional information! Very helpful!

Ok, finally found the info, here is her FB page: … 379877706/

Cheers, Karen

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