The New York Red Bulls became the first sports franchise in the United States to have an official Empanada Partner. On the surface, the announcement is trivial. A food vendor partnering with a team is nothing new. But to Chief Development Officer David Orozco, it represents something much greater.
Brisas partnership takes aim at hispanic representation in concessions
“There is a severe lack of representation of the Hispanic community in all sports.” said Orozco. “At the end of the day [hispanic inclusion efforts] come across more as a marketing initiative than it does as a way to get into the community. That’s why I really appreciate the Red Bulls partnership. The fact that Red Bull New York made the conscious decision to team up with a start-up company, that is Hispanic run, oriented, family owned and operated speaks volumes. They didn’t have to do this. They look at our partnership and they say, ‘This is just as important.'”
Indeed hispanic representation is lacking off the field. While stadiums have made strides in the past decade, the concessions in stadiums still largely cater to “American foods” like hot dogs, chicken fingers, and french fries. It feels antithetical to both the teams and fans. On the field, teams have embraced that diversity with players coming from countries all over the world. Off the field, embracing diversity seems to start and end with ticket sales.
Brisas has come a long way from their humble beginnings. Orozco’s father, Albeiro, fled Colombia in the 1980’s seeking asylum in the United States. He spent time as a server, and a manager at various restaurants, working odd jobs to make ends meet. Inspiration to open his own restaurant led him to borrow money from friends and family to open Brisas Bakery in 1998. It was a small Colombian bakery run by Albeiro’s mother, brother, and sister in-law in Elizabeth.
Albeiro’s mother’s recipes were the star of the show for Brisas. The business flourished and expanded in Elizabeth. In the following twenty years, success led to the family opening a restaurant attached to the bakery, an empanada retail store, and an empanada factory that supplies all Brisas locations.
Albeiro wanted son David to spread his wings and find his calling instead of forcing his son into the family business. After attending college at Florida State, David moved back home working corporate jobs that focused on sales and development. It wasn’t long before he found himself coming back to the family business when he saw an opportunity. Combining David’s business acumen with his father’s successful restaurant led David to a chance encounter with the Red Bulls.
David’s cousin asked him to attend the Red Bulls’ match against the Portland Timbers in March. David looked into booking a suite with a potential opportunity to make inroads at Red Bull Arena. An internet search led him to the right contacts in the Red Bull organization. RBNY brought David to Red Bull Arena to meet with the team. At halftime, David took the opportunity to sell Red Bull on the partnership after noticing the lack of hispanic representation in the arena.
While a tiny empanadas stand may not seem like a big deal, for Orozco to those hispanic fans it means a lot.
“We got a message from one of the fans that said ‘When the Brisas logo was shown in the stadium, a fan observed another fan stand up, applaud by himself, and cry.'” said Orozco. “This fan was a gentleman of Colombian descent. Just the fact that he saw a company that he only had ties with from a cultural perspective, that he felt proud that we were making history with Red Bull New York. That’s all I need to know that this was worth it. This goes beyond Brisas. This goes beyond selling empanadas and being funny on Twitter. We are starting a movement and making historical changes in the perception of my culture in society.”
So far, the fan support has been extensive.
Best way to get ready for beating Atlanta. pic.twitter.com/2RWEtRLdr8
— Thomas Hurlburt (@tomhurlburt84) October 4, 2018
When the partnership was first announced, I followed the Brisas account immediately. Being Hispanic, quality South American food has a special place in my heart. I walked from the media entrance all the way to the stand to try them out. They did not disappoint!
— Sylvana Budesheim (@WhiteZinWench) October 4, 2018
I literally forced my friend to buy one this past weekend and he thanked my so many times after he finished it lol
— James Davis (@JamesD7902) October 3, 2018
I referred to my son as “Brisas” instead of Brian and now my wife is leaving me.
— Mister Auga MetroStars (@El_B_Man) October 3, 2018
How can you not be happy at having Colombian food at a soccer game? Authentic and different from the mainstream. Keep up the good work. Still waiting on cheese
— 🇺🇸david🇨🇴 (@dbrieva) October 3, 2018
David attributes the success of the brand to his father, calling him the hardest worker he has ever known. The recent success has meant a lot to a family patriarch. Albeiro left school in the fifth grade after his father passed away, forcing Albeiro to become the primary bread-winner. He dedicated his life to hard work for his family. Seeing the success the restaurant is experiencing is a dream.
“He’s just happy to be alive to see it,” said Orozco. “For him, it’s a balance between maintaining his humility as person that is thankful to be alive. Thankful to be in America and to see his children grow up here. But to also reach new levels, that in his wildest dreams he never thought would be a reality.”
One of those dreams came true a few weeks ago. As the only food provider catering an event in Queens, David and Albeiro got to meet the President of Colombia. The President eating their food was “the ultimate achievement” for any Colombian according to David.
For now, they will enjoy the success they have acheived, but know there is more hard work ahead. Just like Albeiro taught him.
Stay tuned for Part II when we go to Brisas to take a closer look at the empanadas.
Brisas is located at 262-266 MORRIS AVE. ELIZABETH, NJ, 07208