Hotel rooms

Vinay Rama went from cleaning hotel rooms to CEO of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill

ORLANDO, Florida. – Vinay Rama – the CEO of Mandala Holdings, owner of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill – has worked his whole life in the service industry.

“Actually, frankly, I started my career when I was born in the sense that my dad owned a motel in Antioch, Tennessee,” Rama said. “It was a Best Western. Obviously, I was too young at the time. But by the time I was 5 or 6, I was making beds, putting up shower curtains, and filling the motel’s coke machines.


After years of working at his family’s motel, and even living there for a time, Rama’s parents sent him to live in India.

“I was sent to India when I was 12. They put me on a plane to Atlanta with a teddy bear and 48 hours later I was in India at this boarding school,” he said. -he declares.

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It was there that he found himself with his first paid job, again working as a housekeeper in a hotel.

“My first paid job was at (16) in India, and I think it was like 800 rupees a week, which equals 16 dollars a week. Obviously, relatively, it was pretty good,” said he declared.

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For Rama, the best part of this new work experience was working with people who didn’t share his life experiences.

“I worked with people who had never slept on a bed, or who had never had a chair at home. So arranging a chair or making a bed was a much more amplified training process than training someone in the United States who might be low income, but at least they know what a bed is,” he said. -he declares.

This helped him learn how to explain customer expectations to the people he worked with, a skill that would serve him well when training future employees.

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After leaving India, Rama returned to the United States to continue his studies.

“I went to school, trained in hotel management and real estate finance at Cornell for four years, then joined an investment bank,” Rama said. “And that’s when I got a sophisticated capital education.”

With this new education under his belt, Rama launched Mandala Holdings, a hospitality investment platform that operates hotels and motels in Florida.

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His business acumen then led a friend to approach him to purchase Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.

“A friend of mine called me in 2017. And said… ‘I’m in arts and sciences, you’re at the hotel, you better evaluate this deal than me,'” said Rama. “I’m like, ‘I don’t know, restaurants as well. I mean, I have an ecosystem of people I know who know, restaurants, but I’m into hardcore hotels.

The channel was launched in Miami and eventually purchased by Ruby Tuesdays. Lime Fresh experienced a rapid expansion and an equally rapid contraction in its business.

“I looked at it, I said, ‘That’s pretty good.’ I mean, it’s a fast, casual Mexican (restaurant). It’s small. And what piqued my interest were, frankly, the numbers,” Rama said.

He was happy for the opportunity and decided to bite. Eventually, he even bought out his partners so he could have more control over the brand.

“Again, (being) opportunistic got me to this and moving fast to today – I’m very happy we got the deal,” Rama said.

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Now he looks forward to opening two more Lime Fresh restaurants next year and continuing to grow the brand as a whole. It also focuses on the experience of its workers in its restaurants.

“Associate experience is the key to the game. You take care of your associates,” Rama said.

In Florida Foodie’s latest episode, Rama shares more of the story of how he became an “accidental restaurateur.” He also shares more information about his plans for the future of Lime Fresh Mexican Grill.

Please follow our Florida Foodie hosts on social media. You can find Candace Campos on Twitter and Facebook. Lisa Bell is also on Facebook and Twitter and you can check out his children’s book, “Norman the Watchful Gnome.”

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Florida Foodie is a bi-weekly podcast from WKMG and Graham Media that takes a closer look at what we eat, how we eat it, and the impact it has on us here in Florida and for everyone, everywhere. Find the new episodes on apple podcast, Stitcher or wherever you download your favorite podcasts.

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