Ahmad Alatrash Has the Mesquite Touch

Expanding Mesquite Fresh Street Mex to a broader brand

by Kaylin Dunnett

Ahmad Alatrash’s entrepreneurial journey with his most trusted business partner, his brother Nas, began when he was 18 years old. Nas, who is five years older, was familiar with Old Town Scottsdale and its potential for an investment opportunity. He recognized a need for the area: quality food venues that were open late for partiers, students, shift workers and first responders. On a whim, they purchased an empty office space: a 500-square-foot building scarcely big enough for a kitchen and little else. 

This was the birth of Mesquite Fresh Street Mex (known as Mr. Mesquite at the time), a one-stop street taco, burrito and quesadilla stand, open late to customers of all lifestyles and occupations. To separate Mesquite from the plethora of Mexican restaurants across Arizona, the brothers chose to grill the menu’s protein items over wood chips of mesquite, a tree native to the Sonoran Desert.

The small taco stand investment has since bloomed into AR Concepts, a creative concept group that oversees not just the Mesquite brand, but Scottsdale chicken sandwich and coffee shops Chickadees Chicken and Fries and Grindhouse Espresso Bar. The method behind managing multiple successful business concepts is simple, according to Ahmad: By delegating tasks between each brother, they reduce conflict and maximize productivity. Ahmad spearheads leadership efforts at AR Concepts, handling everything related to employee culture, engagement, operations and marketing. Nas focuses on the financial and partnership-building side of the business, managing AR Concepts’ funds and exploring investment opportunities. 

“Separating tasks in any partnership is the most productive way to get results,” says Alatrash, leader of task delegation at AR Concepts. “Too many brains focused on the same task often results in disagreements and delay.” However, for financial or creative decisions, Alatrash says, “If Nas and I do not come to an agreement, we will usually bring in some of our partners and operations management to have that majority rule.”

Designating Idols, Shaping Culture 

As Mesquite expanded beyond the confines of cramped food stand kitchens and into Phoenix neighborhoods, the company culture did, too, with its embrace of employees having a say in management decisions. “Employees who are allowed to provide feedback are usually employees with seniority — at least two years with the company,” says Alatrash, explaining his takeaway from observing other brands was the desire to center the perspective of managers and their lower-level employees, designating role models to shape the culture of his business. 

“I’m a leader, not a boss,” offers Alatrash. “It’s important that people feel taken care of and listened to. If you take care of your people, they will take care of you.” 

Alatrash aims to allow a platform for frustrations to be addressed and consumer trends to be acknowledged. Employee wins are publicly acknowledged with celebrations (especially over slices of cake). General managers at Mesquite Fresh Street Mex are regularly involved in operations and marketing meetings with the brothers, sharing feedback and advice on behalf of their employees. Meetings are bi-weekly and in-person to encourage active participation and collegial chatter over food. In fact, he seeks stories from the “front lines” when deciding everything from new menu items to future location sites — that is, from those people who work in customer service and directly interact with patrons at Mesquite Fresh Street Mex; general managers of Mesquite locations are encouraged to share on-the-job testimonials from cashiers and employees who prepare orders in the kitchen or at the counter. 

Alatrash owes the success of his business model to the mutual love, respect and keen interest in entrepreneurism he and his brother share. “We’re always texting, calling each other, even before bed, with interesting ideas we have for our restaurants,” said Alatrash. “But at the end of the day, it’s just money. He’s my brother, and we cherish that bond over all else.”   

Mesquite Fresh Branches Out

  • Mesquite became an official sponsor of Grand Canyon University in October 2022. The brand currently offers students and faculty 10% off meals with presentation of school ID.
  • Three new Mesquite Fresh Street Mex locations are slated to open in 2023. The brand is also looking to expand into the West Valley. 
  • AR Concepts frequently partners with like-minded charitable organizations. Its annual Toys for Tacos holiday toy drive benefits different charities for children each year.

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