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Mexican restaurants struggling to survive during pandemic

Posted at 3:38 PM, Sep 25, 2020

Alejandro Rodriguez and Edward Perea are the owners of Summit Tacos. At the restaurant, you can expect authentic Mexican street food.

“Let them see what real Mexican food is, and not just what they think Mexican food is,” Perea said.

Their recipes are tested and approved by well-traveled customers.

“I used to go to Mexico City every now and then in my younger years and just missed the food,” a customer said.

“One of the things that has been one of our really good sellers has been our Pambazo,” Rodriguez said.

The business started with humble beginnings as a food truck named Adelita, after a group of strong and independent women during the Mexican Revolution.

“We built it ourselves,” Rodriguez said. “Nothing fancy, but it’s ours.”

Then they found a place to call home.

However, similar to many other restaurants across the country, they faced financial difficulties when the pandemic struck.

“We had to shut down our dining room and patio and we relied on the community to order takeout and delivery from us,” Rodriguez said.

It’s the community that ended up keeping the restaurant alive.

“Everyone that lives here, they saw the struggles, and started coming in and purchasing gift cards," Perea said. "That was the most gift cards we sold was in the first couple weeks.”

According to the latest Economic Impact Report from Yelp, 60% of restaurants that were open in March have permanently closed. Mexican restaurants are among the types of restaurants hardest hit.

Jennifer Rodriguez is the President and CEO of the Greater Philadelphia Hispanic Chamber of Commerce. The U.S. Hispanic Chamber of Commerce is an organization dedicated to supporting the development of the growth and development of Latino-owned businesses in the nation.

She says many Mexican restaurants are family businesses owned by immigrants.

“They tend to not have ready information about relief programs that are available," Rodriguez said. "When they are available, language access or the lack of relationship with banking institutions have demonstrated obstacles for these businesses to reach the resources available and necessary.”

Rodriguez says many cities have created relief programs for small businesses – in fact, Summit Tacos benefited from a grant for businesses owned by people of color.

She recommends business owners get in contact with lawyers, certified accountants, and banking institutions who are aware of these relief programs. But when it comes down to it, the community is what will help these restaurants thrive.

“The food is great, the people are hospital, they’re very family oriented," Rodriguez said. "So whether you’re Latino or not, going and experiencing Latino hospitality is just really a fun way to do something that would be great for your economy and your community.”

“It’s important, not so much for people to support us because we’re people of color, but support us because we’re part of the community, we’re neighbors and this is home for us,” Alejandro Rodriguez said.