Merits, which he understands as a “consequence and not as an end in itself”. It was never anything planned or thought out… But I would have signed on to be where I am.” He speaks quickly and powerfully, as if the time is passing from each word. A time that he uses optimally in a job that, in his words, “occupies him about 12 to 14 hours a day, 7 days a week”. He defines himself as an entrepreneur and chef, so we wanted him to tell us how, in such a short time, he managed to sweep such a mature market as the gastronomic one, to the point where the Michelin guide himself made a real difference: “The smack on the table that DiverXO gave was that the guide himself broke his rules to give us the third star”.
ENTREPRENEUR: How did you break your rules?
David Munoz: Historically, the world’s three Michelin stars are restaurants based on the flashy luxury that money can buy, they have a high-school service, very canonical, almost dogmatic… And DiverXo is a place that decorated with pigs with wings, very humble inside, with very little infrastructure, with a completely different room service… Everything at DiverXO is different, the way they treat the customer, the way the food is served… For example, a three star hotel in a big city has valet parking and DiverXO doesn’t have it and it’s not expected… All these things mean that everyone was very surprised when they awarded us the third Michelin star. DiverXO didn’t come to say “this is the way to get what you want” but “there is another alternative way to get it”. In short, we have opened a new path to achieve the excellence of the three Michelin stars.
ENTREPRENEURS: It’s a good lesson for entrepreneurs: look for alternatives in mature markets.
DM: No matter how mature the markets are, there is always a choice. Doing something unique does not have to involve very large investments: it can be a very small investment in a very small project, but based on a very ingenious and innovative idea.
ENTREPRENEUR: How did you reach the top in such a short time?
DM: It comes down to personality and that unique stamp. When we lived in London, it was clear to me that I wanted to start a restaurant and how I wanted it to be. I knew if we could do something unique that had a lot of personality, and well, because it’s not worth doing things differently if you don’t give quality, then we would make it.
ENTREPRENEUR: But the public and the critics were there almost from the beginning…
DM: It’s true that from the first moment, almost from minute zero, we had a lot of impact. Until the Michelin star boom, we didn’t pay a penny for a promotion, nor did we have an agency. The response came through word of mouth. If you do something good, different and unique in a big city like Madrid, you are guaranteed to have an impact, not only in the media but also in public. But it is not easy to do something good and unique, it depends on talent and not on tangible things.
ENTREPRENEUR: And how does this talent develop?
DM: Talent is a muscle that needs constant training. Living in London forced me to not only learn what was being done at the restaurant I was at, but to constantly think about how I would do it, what I would change and how my still fictional ones would be kitchen would look like. I’ve been worried about working on talent because the bigger that muscle is, the greater the chances of getting your achievements.
ENTREPRENEUR: What was the hardest part of starting DiverXO?
DM: Everything is difficult in DiverXO. DiverXO’s life, parallel to mine, is full of great sacrifices. Now Angela and I have been married for five years and together for eleven years. When we started the restaurant we had lived together in London for five years. We arrived in Madrid and to start DiverXO I sell my car and my house, I put all my savings in the restaurant and I convince my parents and my parents-in-law to guarantee me from the banks. For eight months we slept on an air mattress in the restaurant. That sounds like an American story: A little boy with everything hanging by a thread and who ends up being very good, but who told me then that it would be good? For example, when the weekend came, my wife would go to her parents’ house and I would go to mine. In short, dreams are achievable and DiverXO is proof that with few resources and the sum of many young talents, any goal can be achieved, but there is also an unhealthy persistence and a huge sacrifice list, because the bigger the biggest dream is sacrifice.
Key to success
“I am very Taliban in seeking constant improvement at all levels. The recurring question since winning my third Michelin star has been: isn’t that a lot of pressure? And I always answer the same: I am sure that DiverXO is getting better every day. The attitude of the team is that maybe tomorrow will be a little better than today. I consider perfection obsessive and will use any means to achieve it”.
“Any money that is there and that is not is used to improve the restaurant. DiverXO is a cash dispenser, but that’s why we’ve achieved what we’ve achieved because it’s constantly improving. It wants to be avant-garde, and the avant-garde is damn expensive.”
When a guy comes along and tells you we’re doing TV and I’m going to pay you $300,000 and I’m going to pay you some royalties too… that’s very tempting. But when you’re clear about your priorities, it’s easier to choose. I’ve never been in a hurry: after seven years of hard work for a more than modest salary, I and my team have reinvested everything, we are now able to be much more free, continue to pursue our dreams, and now we are closing deals make”.
Know what to delegate
“I know how to delegate, but there are things I don’t want to and can’t delegate. I haven’t missed a single DiverXO service, but associating the brand with your name comes at a price and a risk.”
A company with… more than one employee per customer!
The first restaurant was opened in the Tetuán district of Madrid. In 2009 they bought the property on Calle Pensamiento and that was the start of their Michelin starred idyll. Now, in July, a new stage begins at NH Eurobuilding in Madrid. In 2010 they awarded him the first star; The second followed in 2012 and the third in November 2013. DiverXO has a team that continues to grow, from 11 in 2007 to 32 now, with whom Muñoz is “obsessively demanding, but also generous.”
This number means more than one worker per customer, as the maximum number of guests in each of the two daily services offered is 30 (so far). A ratio that explains how unprofitable the restaurant is. Two details speak in favor of this: In order to set up the StreetXO in Madrid a year ago, they had to finance the investment, “because after six years we hadn’t even saved the 100,000 euros”. Second, his parents and in-laws still can’t breathe a sigh of relief “because DiverXO hasn’t made enough money to pay off loans.”