This article was originally published in el Restaurante Magazine. You should go read it, they’re great!
The COVID-19 pandemic is wreaking havoc on the restaurant industry—and the Mexican/Latin segment is struggling as much as the rest. Some restaurants are shutting down completely, while others are doing all they can to keep at least some cash flowing. Here are a dozen stories about what Mexican/Latin restaurants are doing to weather the storm in this uncertain time:
1. Cutting Prices. Mexican restaurants across the country are cutting prices on takeout and delivery. Takito Kitchen in Chicago is offering all tacos for $2.95, which is $1 or $2 less than their regular price, and they’re offering $10 off any orders over $50. Multi-unit On the Border Mexican Grill & Cantina is offering $5 off orders of $15 or more, with the purchase of a Coke product. El Torito in California is giving $10 off orders of $35.
2. Adding Family-Size Take-out Options. Make it easy for the whole family to enjoy affordable meals with family-size kits. Descanso Restaurant in Costa Mesa, California created a Family Taco Meal that includes two pounds of meat, a quart of refried beans, a quart of Mexican fried rice, 15 tortillas, 3 salsas, and a pint of lime wedges. The meal, which costs $45, feeds 4 or 5 adults.
3. Creating Meals to be Eaten Later. Your home-bound customers might not want to order takeout every day, but they may want to eat your food every day (or often!). Make it easy for them to order multiple meals at once by creating some designed to be frozen or refrigerated. Guelaguetza Restaurant in Los Angeles is offering family-size meals and promoting them as “Freezer Ready” for customers who want to eat them later. They are packaged so that they can be put straight into the fridge or freezer.
4. Adding Value. Some restaurants are throwing in a few extras to entice customers. Los Arcos Mexican Restaurant in Westminster, Colorado is putting free chips and salsa in every to-go order.
5. Trimming Menu Items. Look closely at your menu and figure out which are easiest to make with a reduced staff; which result in the least waste; and which are best for carryout and delivery. Old Pueblo Restaurant in Chicago trimmed their takeout menu to 6 popular tacos, two varieties of enchilada, and a couple of appetizers—all of them easy to prep and package.
6. Promoting Gift Cards. Gift cards provide cash now for meals served later, a great exchange during this tough period. José Andrés Restaurants has taken it a step further—half of the proceeds from their special edition e-gift cards are earmarked for payroll and health benefits, and the other half is going to the company’s ThinkFamilyFund, which provides financial help to employees experiencing hardships.
7. Slashing Delivery Fees. For restaurants that can afford it, cutting out the delivery fee is a good way to encourage delivery orders. Multi-unit Torchy’s Tacos is offering free DoorDash delivery on all orders above $15. Chipotle has waived delivery fees for the month of March on orders of $10 or more.
8. Offering “Touch-free” Delivery. Customers are rightfully afraid of being near other people, so many restaurants are offering delivery that does not involve human contact, such as by leaving the food on the porch or stoop—and some are offering “tamper-resistant” packaging so customers can feel comfortable that the minimum number of people handled their food.
9. Firing Up the Food Truck. Restaurants in many cities are forbidden to open their dining rooms, but food trucks operate outdoors, so they are not affected by those rules. Do you have a food truck? Consider moving your operations there. Peruvian Brothers, a new restaurant in Alexandria, Virginia, is offering its food truck for rental for hospitals, military facilities and office buildings.
10. Making Donations. Show your compassion by offering something to the community. Diablo Burger in Tucson is delivering a free meal to an emergency room or organization helping the underserved for every meal ordered. Other restaurants are donating their excess food (because of reduced sales) to food pantries.
11. Setting up a GoFundMe account. Some of your customers might want to simply offer you cash to help your employees or to help you stay afloat. Accommodate that by creating a GoFundMe account. Carnivale Restaurant in Chicago sent an email to customers reminding them of the great times they have enjoyed in the restaurant and inviting them to help support staff by donating. As of Friday morning the Carnivale fund had raised over $500.
12. Having a Sense of Humor. Everyone could use a good laugh right about now, right? That must be the idea behind the “Emergency Taco Kit” offer from Guerrilla Tacos in Los Angeles. The kit includes all the fixings for a four-person taco feast, plus a roll of toilet paper!
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