Lori Reich Rowe President/Owner – Little Onion Mexican Restaurants

Lori Reich Rowe President/Owner – Little Onion Mexican RestaurantsNow the owner/operator of one of Orange County’s most popular Mexican eateries, Lori Reich Rowe grew up in the restaurant business. In 1963 her late father, Lorin Reich, purchased a Red Onion location in Hawthorne, renaming and transforming it into the hugely popular “Little Onion Mexican Restaurant” brand. The original restaurant closed in the mid-1970s, but Reich opened a second Little Onion Mexican Restaurant in Santa Ana in 1972, which remains open today.

More than 45 years later, Rowe, who recalls the Santa Ana location as “a home I grew up in” now owns and operates this perennially popular Mexican mainstay and is poised to open a second Little Onion location in Irvine’s Walnut Village Center.

Born and raised in Orange County, the restaurant industry is in Reich’s DNA. “I grew up in the business and remember refilling water glasses at the age of 10 and hostessing at the age of 12. In the summers, I worked at the Little Onion Mexican Restaurant as a hostess/cashier and server until I was 18.”

And while she remains true to her father’s original vision of serving authentic Mexican fare in a homey ambiance, she is also focused on modernizing and upgrading the Little Onion — via interior and menu upgrades — both at the original Santa Ana location and at its new Irvine counterpart. Her biggest challenge? Maintaining a consistent menu, which features both enduring classics as well as innovative new items.

Armed with a whole lot of determination as well as 17 years of corporate experience within the purchasing and inventory management, marketing management and customer service sectors, Rowe is passionate about the entire dining experience paying painstaking attention to detail and a keen focus on quality and integrity. She also keeps a close eye on the bottom line. Since she took over ownership and operations of The Little Onion Mexican Restaurant in 2010, the restaurant has increased its annual revenues from $546,000 to $1.5 million.

In her current role, she hopes to continue her father’s legacy. “The restaurant is part of my heritage and an important part of who I am,” she says. “And although he passed away in 2014, I still care about my dad being proud of me.”

While she pours a majority of her energy into running the Santa Ana location and launching the new Irvine eatery, Rowe works hard to maintain a work/life balance. A former single mom for 15 years, today she is married and her two sons are now 16 and 23.

Rowe is a member of the LA/OC chapter of Les Dames d’Escoffier.