Edgar Brambila warmly welcomes customers as they arrive at his new restaurant, Rio Bravo, on the corner of Kings Highway and Commerce Drive. "I want to make them our customers for life," he said.

Brambila lists customer service as the top reason restaurants succeed. It's also important for a thriving restaurant to take time to make the food with care, to offer good value and fair prices, and to operate a clean premises, he added.

Brambila should know; He's no amateur. Rio Bravo is his eighth restaurant, with a ninth opening soon in Massachusetts. Besides Massachusetts, he also has restaurants in North Carolina, where he and his family live. But his restaurants are not a chain -- each is different, and each has a local manager who has invested in its success, he said.

Rio Bravo is a Mexican restaurant that specializes in gourmet tacos and tequila, as its outside sign and menu note, and there are many kinds of both to choose from, as well as many other offerings on the menu.

His gourmet dishes include a tempura fish taco, and the Marco Polo: a hand-stretched corn tortilla covered with melted cheese, caramelized onions, purple and green cabbage and bacon-wrapped shrimp drizzled with roasted poblano crema.

The guacamole is made tableside and Rio Bravo offers a variety of other dishes such as chicken and steak fajitas and shrimp enchiladas, all served with style.

The menu also includes many kinds of margaritas like the "celebrate margarita" and the skinny margarita. All dishes are served with fresh salsas.

The décor of the building -- previously home to several other eateries -- is fresh, too, with the walls and furniture done in vibrant colors. Most every customer that walked in on a recent week night commented on the lively décor, and the changes to the interior since the Fairfield Café closed at that location earlier this year.

It took Brambila about six months to take his new restaurant from the planning stages to reality, and it opened Nov. 6. He said he likes to select a site where another restaurant has recently closed. Occupying space previously used by another restaurant is the best deal, he said, with restaurant equipment, electrical service and other necessities already in place. It's still necessary to invest money -- and his business did -- Brambila said, extensively renovating and redecorating the space to transform it into a Mexican restaurant.

What he has created is inviting, and customers both in the dining area and at the bar were clearly enjoying the results of his labor recently.

A chef himself, Brambila, has been in the restaurant business since he was 15.

"I was a high school dropout," he said. "When I was about 25 I realized that I would be working for the rest of my life, so I might as well do something I love."

Opening and operating restaurants is hard work, but very satisfying, Brambila added.

"We've only been here one week and we've had a very warm welcome in Fairfield," he said. "We want to be here for generations to come."

Rio Bravo, 770 Commerce Drive, is open from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m. Sunday through Thursday, and 11 a.m. to 11 p.m. Fridays and Saturdays. Lunch prices range from $7-$10 and dinner entrees from about $11 to $16. For more information, call 475-282-4316.