Restaurantes latinos enfrentan un futuro incierto al acercarse el invierno


DeColores |

DeColores, una heladería y cafetería latina ubicada en Archer Heights, anunció recientemente a través de Instagram que la tienda cerrará durante la temporada como resultado de las bajas ventas.

With temperatures getting colder and a possible second wave of coronavirus cases, Latino restaurants in Chicago face an uncertain future. 

Carlos Tello, owner of the Sol de México restaurant located in Belmont-Cragin, describes his restaurant as his “second wife.” Through 13 years at Sol de México, Tello has “fallen in love with the place” and seen the restaurant go through lots of ups and downs, but never anything like the coronavirus pandemic. 

“Let me put it this way, if I used to sell $ 100 a day, now I sell $ 25,” Tello said. “I’m worried about [a second wave of infections]. If that happens, I don’t know what will happen to my business. ” 

El Sol de México, like many other Latino restaurants, was closed for months during the peak of the coronavirus earlier in the year. 

“We were closed for the first two and a half or three months. The money hurt a lot. I’ve been fighting to keep my doors open, ”Tello said. 

Ricardo Flores, manager of Mi Tierra in La Villita, said that he has also had problems and that he had to make many layoffs in the first months of the pandemic. 

For many Latino restaurant owners, their restaurants are their livelihood. They have had to adapt to the reality of the pandemic. 

Under current restrictions, restaurants can only operate at 40% capacity. The new restrictions that were implemented on Friday , October 23, limit the sale of alcoholic beverages after 10 pm. According to city ​​guidelines , any outdoor structure used to host multiple parties must have at least 50% of the sides open for air flow

One way that restaurants adapted to the pandemic was the use of alfresco dining. This was an option for business in the summer, but as the temperatures dropped it became less feasible for many restaurants. 

“We had a pretty successful yard season over the summer. We turned our parking lot into an outdoor dining room, ”Flores said. 

Although the summer helped his business, he does not expect this to continue during cold weather.

“The patio lamps don’t even keep food warm in the winter,” Flores said. 

Plus, for many restaurants, curbside seating barely leaves enough room for tables and chairs, much less portable for bulky heaters. 

Restaurants have made changes to their menus and marketing to attract business during the pandemic.

Mi Tierra updated its menu to include cheaper and easier-to-go options to focus primarily on delivery. 

Meanwhile, Sol de México tried to expand with orders to carry out through applications such as Doordash and Postmates, but was not very successful. Tello said the food they serve doesn’t go well with travel and that customers ordered food relatively far away. 

“We are [encouraging customers to be] innovative with the menu to attract people from social media, ” said Alex Rueda, marketer and owner of Alex Rueda Marketing & Innovation. 

Rueda directs public relations, marketing, sales and business development for many Latino restaurants and food outlets in Chicago. 

“Right now, TikTok and Instagram are the way to go for restaurants and bars. Influencer marketing is really what is helping right now. “ 

One of Rueda’s clients, El Berrinches restaurant in Pilsen, opened right at the start of the pandemic in February, and has had its best sales so far in recent days. Rueda attributes this to his use of social media. 

“It’s about innovation and adaptation to the atmosphere of social media,” Rueda said. “If people are going to go out, they are going to put themselves at risk, up to a point, it better be good… and they will base it a lot on what they see in the reviews. If it’s trending on TikTok, people are going to think it’s good. “ 

But Rueda said it’s a different audience. 

“We don’t have older people coming out. We have younger demographics, ages 21 to 45, ”he added. 

To tackle the winter season, Rueda said he encourages customers to take preventive action, rather than corrective action. 

“We are telling you not to wait for what the mayor says next, but to act. You have to go with the flow, but be organized, “Rueda said. 

So far, the business has not been relatively affected by the weather. Young people continue to go to restaurants and take home orders, but with increasingly limited capacity and almost no cookouts, a drop in customers is expected. 

Mi Tierra is still booking socially estranged catering events, and Sol de México has seen a slight increase in customers lately. Flores said she wanted to stay positive and focus on new dishes so customers kept coming. 

“Restaurants, bars, nightclubs, they’re all in the same boat,” Tello said. “All we can do is be calm, relaxed and happy, and take one day at a time.”