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Wednesday, February 1, 2023

Activities & Organizations

Alumnus simply fit to advise HRM students


Alumnus Paul Ortiz, co-founder of Simply Fit Meals, spoke Feb. 5 as a part of Dean John Bowen’s Leadership Series.

Ortiz spoke to a room of over 60 students, most of whom were hotel and restaurant management majors. As a former HRM student himself, Ortiz seized the opportunity to share his experiences in entrepreneurship.

Having graduated in 2005, Ortiz has been exposed to plenty of disciplines within the hospitality industry. His first job outside of college was working for Pinnacle Entertainment, a gaming company.

“I started dealing blackjack, and it was an eye-opening experience,” Ortiz said. “I did that for about nine months, and I quickly realized that there’s a disconnect between this corporate ideal … I just kind of floated around for nine months. I realized I was never going to own my own casino.”

While living in Lake Charles, Ortiz began writing business plans and designing restaurant concepts. Soon after, he decided to take the plunge and move to Austin in an effort to gain a foothold in the city’s restaurant scene.

It was there that Ortiz had a chance encounter with Chris Sanchez, an old friend and former Cougar. Soon, the pair co-founded Simply Fit Meals, a concept company that caters to the health-conscious and time-deprived.

The restaurant offers pre-made, ready-to-go meals, smoothies, salads and more. Their cuisine isn’t what most would expect when they hear the words “pre-made,” though — in fact, the menu boasts meals like sesame teriyaki salmon, lemon caper tilapia and banana walnut pancakes.

“Our concept changes lives — whether it’s weight loss, giving them time to spend time with their families or friends; it improves their sex lives, it affects them personally. It’s very motivating to me,” Ortiz said.

“It’s not creating another burger joint or Tex-Mex restaurant — those things are a dime a dozen. This is evaluating that there’s a demand for convenience and a demand for health, and this is us catering to that demand.”

Before starting Simply Fit Meals, Ortiz didn’t possess any experience in the restaurant industry, citing only the books and courses he took at UH as his primary source of knowledge.

“What you read in books is just theories,” Ortiz said. “But you don’t know if what you read will translate out into the market, into the real world. That’s learning.

“Be like Velcro. Let the lessons stick with you.”

Today, the company has four locations in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. The company plans to franchise, Ortiz said, with the hopes of expanding Simply Fit Meals into eight or nine more locations within the state.

The Leadership Series, which can be taken as a one-hour credit course, meets every Wednesday in Hilton College Room S125 from 1 to 2 p.m. The series is open to any UH student and focuses on “leadership styles, philosophies and how they attribute to success in the hospitality industry,” according to UH.edu.

Bowen’s weekly Leadership Series always includes a guest speaker, whether they are an alumnus now gaining a foothold in the industry or a prominent leader from a major hospitality corporation.

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