If you’ve ever wandered into the Place d’Armes, chances are you’ve seen QoSQo, a Latin American and Mexican restaurant. We sat down with Pierre Scholer, the co-founder, to learn more about his story and QoSQo’s.
Scholer was born and raised in Luxembourg, but briefly moved to the US for college. He attended Miami University because of its connections to Luxembourg and studied marketing and organizational behavior. While there, he met his future wife and briefly worked at Chi-Chi’s, a popular Mexican chain restaurant.
Back in Luxembourg, his father operated two Chi-Chi’s—one in the Place d’Armes and one in Kirchberg. Scholer and his brother took over the business when their father passed away.
However, a few years ago, Scholer and his team realized they weren’t entirely satisfied with Chi-Chi’s. “When you’re part of a franchise and want to do something new,” Scholer said, “you have to ask if you can do it, but then all the restaurants need to change.” Because of this, these types of requests were often denied. Scholer and his team wanted the ability to “be flexible and change things rapidly,” which would allow them to respond to customer needs and suggestions much faster. “Eventually the franchise expired, and we decided to create our own concept. So we closed Chi-Chi’s down two years ago.”
Scholer explained that because his experience lay in franchise business, and so did his team’s, he wanted to continue running a franchise. But he also wanted to start an original concept. “Since there’s very little Mexican food in town,” Scholer said, “we wanted to broaden the scopes. We wanted to keep the Chi-Chi’s customers happy, but without the negative parts of Chi-Chi’s.” Thus, QoSQo was born!
There are several differences between QoSQo and Chi-Chi’s. “We decided not to just do Mexican food, but Latin American food as well,” Scholer said. This allowed them to incorporate more fish and vegetarian options onto their menu.
But perhaps the biggest difference is the food itself—the way it’s cooked and the way it tastes, for instance. “Back in the days, at Chi-Chi’s, the way you’d cook chicken is to get a piece of chicken, put it on the grill, and cook it for 15 minutes,” Scholer said. “Then you cut it, then put it in your burrito, then put that back on the grill. It was really time-consuming. And when we launched QoSQo, I hired a real chef to help us develop the menu. When he saw the kitchen, he said, ‘Pierre, you are still making food here like in the 80s. It’s time to move to the new millennium.’ And so he taught us about different ways of cooking food better and faster.”
QoSQo’s food is also far fresher. “Before, a lot of it was prepped ahead of time. But we can still produce it fast,” Scholer said. “The first employees come in at 7 AM, since we now serve breakfast. The cooks are there to prep the food because it’s all fresh—if you go to a restaurant that opens up at 11am and the employees are arriving at 10 or 10:30, that cannot be fresh food.”
When Scholer and his team first made the decision to create their own concept, they started with the Kirchberg location because it was smaller and therefore easier to renovate; the process took about two weeks. The Place d’Armes location presented a few more challenges, mostly of the administrative kind. Scholer and his team faced restrictions regarding “the commune, the rules, the government, what you can do and what you cannot do.” They also faced the problem of renovating a fairly large building in a fairly short period of time. “We rent from the cellar all the way up to the roof,” Scholer explained. “The longer the restaurant was closed, the longer we’d be without money. To make that kind of transformation on a place as busy as this was a challenge. But we were able to do it in three months due to an awesome engineer that we had.” To put things in perspective, it took a nearby restaurant a full year to renovate its building.
Once everything was completed, both locations were able to open and operate. Unfortunately, this about a year and a half ago, which means that something very bad was about to happen. “We opened up Kirchberg in the middle of December 2019, and then Place d’Armes in January 2020. Then in March 2020, we shut down. That wasn’t cool,” Scholer said.
Scholer and his team were able to push through the challenges COVID-19 presented, but not without a lot of work. Their inability to seat customers for over a year was particularly hard on the business. “We launched take away and delivery, which we wanted to do anyway, but we had to accelerate that process,” Scholer said. “It was a challenge. It was like that for everyone, but when you have a new business, that makes it more difficult.” Fortunately, QoSQo is now able to take advantage of its large outdoor terrace, so customers can enjoy a relaxing meal outside.
Scholer is very pleased with QoSQo and the freedom that he and his team have to try new things. “We are very ‘lean, mean, and efficient’ as Americans say, so we can change things from one day to another if we have to,” he said. He added that his favorite part of the job is interacting with customers and employees at the same time. “Here, if a customer has an issue or idea or something, I can go back into the kitchen and make it happen. Then bring it back out and see the reaction. We’re quickly able to adjust things, which before as a franchise we could not do.”
While he understands that Latin cuisine isn’t everyone’s favorite, Scholer encourages everyone to at least try QoSQo’s food. “We’re the only Latin restaurant at the Place d’Armes, and we have nice furniture!” he says with a smile.
QoSQo’s burritos are their most popular item because there aren’t a lot of them in Luxembourg. But Scholer’s personal favorite items are the quesadillas and the ribs. “And the margaritas, of course,” he added.
Visit QoSQo’s website to check out their menu or make a reservation! Stop by their locations in the Place d’Armes or in Kirchberg for a delicious, fresh, Latin American meal!