Known for their longevity, background, good food and service, the local Mexican restaurants of Nicky’s and Trejo’s, have now had to adapt to the new style of restaurant food sales, forced by the Covid-19 pandemic.
El Independiente interviewed the local businessmen Mr. Elias Sifuentes of Nicky’s, and Mr. Francisco Trejo of Trejo’s. Putting commercial competition aside and concerns about the current situation they share their experience with the community.
El Independiente; How are you dealing with the economic situation at this critical moment in the community and the world?
Mr. Elias, with a vast history in the restaurant business (41 years), answered immediately by saying, “We are living by the day, we are dealing with the adversity that we have in our hands, day by day, we hope it is temporary, we are all affected, employees and owners, I see the economic recovery being difficult.
Francisco Trejo with 36 years in business, for his part, stated that “we are indeed experiencing a sudden critical situation, for some of our employees who live on the generosity of clients (most) were left without income and some had to go to the office unemployment.”
Both agree that payments for properties, rent, gas services, electricity, telephone, water, internet, insurance, (not counting the products for the preparation of food or payroll for the staff), continue to accumulate and there is not sufficient revenue coming in to pay for everything. It is a real problem.
El Independiente; Have you ever closed the doors of your businesses due to a similar situation?
Francisco Trejo; “In the history of my 36 years as a restaurant owner, I never had the need to close down for anything, never, ever, or have ever imagined that a pandemic would happen.”
Elias Sifuentes; “The pandemic … until now the word pandemic was not very clear to me, what I’m clear about, is the common use of the word virus or Coronavirus, I associate it with a disease, but just as Pancho (Trejo) said, we had never lived it and we never thought about it… who was prepared? Not me, we are working as we can but that does not give us the revenue to pay the commitments such utilities, much less previous commitments with the banks…and they do not wait.”
El Independiente; What have you done with the staff?
Elias Sifuentes; “Fortunately most of the staff understood, but the concern is for those who have no way to resort to unemployment. Those who can, it is a little relief and can solve something to survive, the problem is those who do not and live day by day like us.”
Francisco Trejo; “Some people were able to go under the unemployment program, others benefited from the economic stimulus from the government, and that came in handy, the problem is the people who could not claim either of them, some are working as they can and in any case they are surviving just like all of us.”
El Independiente; How are you both preparing for the possible reopening and how would you manage employees?
Elias Sifuentes; “Very good question, … we at Nicky’s right now are doing everything possible, anticipating adversity, planning to open at least a third of the total space on our establishments, so far we do not know what the authorities have decided.”
“But we are preparing for that, obviously, all the staff will not be able to return, (or they will no longer want to return, interrupts Pancho Trejo), if indeed, we have already heard from some of the employees who applied for unemployment who prefer not to return, and keep what the government gives them (but they are not all), of course those who have not benefited and those who have shown that they are actually productive will have more opportunity.”
“Of the 130 employees that we had previously in the payroll, I calculate that according to the numbers that would be anticipated, they would be proportional to what was presented, if we talk, for example, of opening a third of the restaurant’s floor space, we would also think about a third of the staff, one would like to think that all the staff would return immediately, but I think it will be gradual.”
“For our part we are already prepared, we already have gloves, masks, disinfectants and everything necessary to serve and protect all our clients and employees. The staff were informed that we must abide by all health recommendations above all.”
“Some employees (some waiters) when told about the use of the mask said that they were going to look ridiculous, we are being very clear, this is not for fashion, if they do not comply with the recommendations they will stay out, otherwise we are prepared, and we hope that we are allowed to open on May 1st.”
Francisco Trejo; “The percentages for us (Trejo’s) are almost the same, there is a certain expectation and fear for the employees and we think that some of them will not be able to return or will not want to return! We expect to open the restaurants at fifty percent to start, and I’m preparing for that, as well as working with the staff that is able and to work.”
“We didn’t really have any experience when it came to wearing masks and gloves, disinfecting pens, telephones, computers, washing our hands after every touch, etc., etc., we were asking and seeing posters in the media and the news, and we are already getting used to it. It is another method that was actually there but nobody except for the hospitals did it, for us it is new and from now on it will give us another way of working.
El Independiente; Have you received complaints from your staff or clients during this crisis?
Elias Sifuentes; “We have not really… feel very blessed in that regard, the majority… at least 99 percent of the employees have been very conscious and even cooperative, because in a way they have come to work, they are engaged in general cleaning, practicing healthy protection, social distancing, the use of masks.”
“In each location, we have at least 4 permanent employees attend to the public that arrives to pickup their curb-side orders. The employees of both the kitchen and the front are rotating as much as we can, and with their work they are bringing some income to their families.”
“On the part of the clients, we have not had any complaints either, there was confusion at the beginning but it was solved immediately, for our part we are very grateful to our clients who have supported us and helped our waiters who serve them.”
Francisco Trejo; “Our employees have understood the situation, they have been somewhat satisfied, those who have wanted to stay we let them stay, those who have wanted to leave we let them go and to a certain extent in general well. On the part of the clientele we have had a very good response, I’ve observed, because in my case, right now, I do not have as much direct contact with the clients, but the staff who attend them tell us that people wish them good luck, give them encouragement, well-being, health and some leave them excellent tips (others do not but it is understood by the situation they are experiencing), and that makes them feel very good and motivated.”
Francisco Trejo and Don Elias Sifuentes agree that things are going to change in the way of operating… something that is not going to change is the way of cooking and preparing their respective dishes.
They also think that in the near future they will open a permanent window service (drive-tru), since the possible recovery is just beginning.
In addition to implementing social distancing within the restaurants, regulating the service of no more than 4 people per table. (no more parties of more than 4 people). There will be more specific regulations in the area of bars.
The possible use of disposable menus. The possible use of disposable silverware on the tables, using an entrance door and an exit door, and some other things that will be innovated.
The thing is to cooperate, so that everyone’s health, the employees and customers are not in danger!
Remember that success belongs to those who prepare!