One of West Hollywood best kept secrets, has officially taken the world by storm and become one of the world’s most famous restaurants. Meet Guillermo Zapata, the owner of SUR Restaurant and Lounge, made famous by the popular BRAVO reality TV show, Vanderpump Rules. For over a decade SUR Restaurant and Lounge has been one of the go to restaurants for celebrities like Al Pacino, Angelina Jolie-Pitt, Madonna, Sylvester Stallone and more. We got up close and personal with the founder of the trendiest eateries on the West side to find out what it really takes to become a famous restaurateur.
In 1992 Guillermo packed up and moved to Los Angeles to pursue his dream of becoming an actor. He quickly learned that the road to success was going to be a long one, so he took an opportunity as a dishwasher at a local restaurant to make some money. What he didn’t expect, was that this twist of fate would ultimately lead him into one of his greatest successes and fulfillment of a purpose for his life only God could have authored. They say the journey of success begins with just one step. Guillermo Zapata boldy took that step, even if it meant not seeing his parents for over 8 years to make his dreams come true. That’s what being an entrepreneur is all about; making personal sacrifices to go against all odds, to pursue your dreams.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is the most challenging thing about being in the restaurant business?
Guillermo Zapata: I don’t see difficulties. I always find challenges to be good things. It’s not good to think you know everything, especially in this business. We must always be thinking of the customer and how to create new experiences for them.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What have been major obstacles/stepping stones that you overcame to achieve your success?
Guillermo Zapata: Originally from Argentina, I had a major language barrier I had to overcome, plus I was broke and had to figure out how to get my green card. But I always did my best and spoke from my heart. I stayed positive and still do to this day. There is always a way, especially in the City of Angels. I was blessed to get the opportunity to stay in America, even as a dishwasher to begin my journey here. The most difficult thing for me was definitely being away from my parents and brothers. They are a piece of my heart, but my gut was telling me to stay. There was more for me here. I knew it in my heart.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Who or what have been your inspirations?
Guillermo Zapata: My father. He inspired who I am today. Though he was very poor growing up, he overcame and was able to achieve great success. By achieving fame, he was able to touch many people’s lives because of that. He taught me to work hard for what I want. He always told me, “If you want something, you have to earn it.”
Beverly Hills Magazine: What makes your business different from others of its kind?
Guillermo Zapata: We have 4 partners involved with the business. My beautiful wife, Natalie, is French, and Ken Todd and Lisa Vanderpump who are from England. Together, we each bring unique and different ideas and elements into creating the SUR experience for our customers. Our chef Jose Martinez has been with us for 20 years so our dining cuisine is trusted. Of course, now with the show, many will have an opportunity to be seen in the show depending on the filming schedule. It’s unusual and exciting for some, to have cameras on you while you are enjoying your meal. It makes it a one of a kind experience for our guests.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Where do you see your business development/growth within the next 5 years?
Guillermo Zapata: I‘m proud to say I got a chance to go back to my roots, acting. Now I’m able to start producing films and acting in TV shows and movies. What else can I ask for in the restaurant? We will be filming Season 6 so there is more to come. As always, I will continue to keep this business strong while I continue to pursue all of my dreams.
Beverly Hills Magazine: How to you balance your professional and personal life?
Guillermo Zapata: I manage great! I have a great life and business partner, my wife. We have almost 90 employees and she handles the management of the human resources. I am in the restaurant at night to make sure everything is running smoothly.
Beverly Hills Magazine: What is “success” to you? DEFINE success.
Guillermo Zapata: Success for me is when you are proud of what you have achieved and others recognize you for it. It’s also about doing good for others along the way. There are infinite steps on the journey of success. Even when you think you’ve made it, you must start again. There is a powerful energy that comes with pursuing dreams and overcoming obstacles toward them. I pass this energy on to my kids, and they can learn from that for their own futures.
Beverly Hills Magazine: If you had to give a piece of advice to aspiring entrepreneurs out there, what would it be?
Guillermo Zapata: If you want to start a business, you have to be there and give 100% of your time, energy and effort to it. Whatever you decide to pursue, you have to invest at least 5 years of your life to earn the success you seek. It’s not about money or connections, if you want it; you have to be the one to make it happen. It’s one step at a time. Nothing in life will block you, more than yourself. If you want to achieve success, you have to work hard for it.
Beverly Hills Magazine: Have you discovered a personal purpose in what you do?
Guillermo Zapata: I have two precious daughters, Lulu (11 years old) and Mia Rose (8 years old) and now in everything I do, I feel like I have their eyes on me. I want them to be proud of their father. My purpose is to keep impressing them and to make them happy.
Spoken like a true man of success. No dream is too great, no vision to grand. With the right attitude, the willingness to persevere and the determination to fight for what you want, Guillermo Zapata proves that in the City of Angels, all your dreams really can come true.
(Photography by John Russo)