The secret to 8 Burgers’s signature Latin-inspired dishes lies in the Josper. A combination charcoal grill and kiln oven, it ensures everything from smoky chorizo to succulent pulled pork tastes slow-cooked and flavorful. “We don’t have a flat grill. The only thing we fry is the french fries,” owner Jesus Daza says. “Everything else is cooked with charcoal and no electricity, like my family did it at home in Venezuela.”
But as the COVID-19 pandemic sent customers into quarantine in early 2020, Jesus and his sons struggled to keep the Josper fired up. “Business in January and February was super good, but March — it was super hard,” he says. Sales decreased by nearly 90%. Jesus had to lay off his staff, and he thought he might have to sell his Miami restaurant.
PepsiCo’s Juntos Crecemos (Together We Grow) provided a lifeline. The $50 million platform is aimed at strengthening Hispanic-owned businesses, specifically restaurants, bodegas and carnicerías (meat markets), over the next five years — one aspect of the company’s Racial Equality Journey Hispanic Initiative, a $172 million set of commitments launched in October of last year. The PepsiCo Foundation’s IMPACTO Hispanic Business Accelerator is part of the Juntos Crecemos platform, and will provide $10 million in funding, coaching and other resources to help 500 Hispanic small food and beverage business owners in 13 cities across the U.S.
“Juntos Crecemos fueled our business. We could pay employees and buy more products,” says Jesus’ son and co-owner, Gustavo, pictured above alongside his father, brother Miguel and former employee Oscar (from right to left). “The grant gave us time to breathe. Without that, we probably wouldn’t be here.”
Juntos Crecemos fueled our business.
Jesus and his sons are now able to make long-term plans for the future of their business. The investment has helped fund a food truck that hit the road in August. 8 Burger also now has café con leche and cotton candy milkshakes on the menu, after the long-awaited addition of a milkshake machine.
And business is thriving. Orders for their famous crispy-potato topped La Frita burger and Pan con Bistec come in rapid-fire, and Jesus has hired a new employee to help them keep up with demand. “We’re busy all the time, so that’s good,” Jesus says. “I feel much better. A little more relieved.”
Still, the success is bittersweet. Jesus’ younger brother, also named Jesus, who founded the restaurant alongside him in 2019, died earlier this year. The younger Daza designed the menu that combined their Venezuelan roots with the Cuban flavors of the Little Havana neighborhood, shaped the recipes and guided his brother through the restaurant start-up process. “We talked every day about how we could make this better or what changes we should make,” Jesus says. “I still think about him every day.” Jesus says keeping 8 Burger open and the Josper burning is one way to honor his brother’s memory.
Indeed, knowing 8 Burger will thrive for years to come has been one of the most meaningful parts of the Juntos Crecemos grant for Jesus and his family. Gustavo says, “PepsiCo gave us the funds to create something not only for ourselves, but something for our family to pass on from generation to generation.”
That longevity is part of the Juntos Crecemos vision. “Supporting long-term solutions that drive economic equity in the Hispanic community isn’t just right — it’s imperative,” says C.D. Glin, Vice President, The PepsiCo Foundation and Global Head of Philanthropy, PepsiCo. “The IMPACTO Hispanic Business Accelerator and Juntos Crecemos are about more than just saving businesses; they’re about investing in the people that bring life, culture and vibrancy to our communities and ensuring that they continue to grow, thrive, and prosper today, and for generations to come.”