Jennifer & Todd’s Café Soleil: A Modern-Day Success Story!

Updated: Apr 4, 2019

By Vickie Lewis

Who would have dreamed that a sixteen-year-old girl who arrived on a Greyhound Bus from Reno, Nevada, would one day own and operate one of the busiest local restaurants and catering businesses in the Bay Area? When Jennifer Arrouzet, co-owner of Jennifer and Todd’s Café Soleil in El Sobrante. shared her story, I was amazed and inspired by her drive and determination that evolved to make Café Soleil the successful business it is today.

Soon after she arrived from Reno, Jennifer secured a job as a server at J Winfield’s in San Pablo. She had never worked as a server but took it upon herself to learn the menu to prove to the owner that she could do the job. When J Winfield’s closed, she continued as a server at Denny’s restaurant. When she was 18, one of her regular customers told her about a small restaurant space on San Pablo Avenue that had recently become available and suggested that Jennifer buy it and open her own restaurant. She decided to take a chance to make it on her own and partnered with a friend to make the required $8,000 investment to open Jennifer’s Café. The café served only breakfast and lunch, and the menu was limited to items that Jennifer knew to be popular from her previous serving jobs. She initially ran the café all by herself—she shopped, cooked, served, cleaned, and did the accounting--with no previous experience other than having been a server. One of her café customers, Todd Arrouzet, worked for Lucky’s Supermarket where Jennifer sometimes shopped for supplies. After numerous encounters, they eventually started dating. Todd told Jennifer that he’d always wanted to own his own restaurant. In 1992, he got his wish--the couple partnered and together ran Jennifer’s Café for the next 6 years.

In 1996, Jennifer and Todd learned about available commercial space at their current location in the Plaza Sobrante Shopping Center, located at 3550 San Pablo Dam Road in El Sobrante. The building was new and required significant work and far more financial investment than they’d anticipated to prepare the space for restaurant operation. The couple secured loans from family and investors and by December 1997, opened for business as Jennifer and Todd’s Café Soleil. Twenty-one years later, the business has grown far beyond the 600 square foot space once known as Jennifer’s Café, and also supports a thriving catering business for weddings, corporate, and other s