As the COVID-19 pandemic continues, Eater checked in with Austin’s defining restaurants to see how the pandemic has affected business, service models, and more. Next up in this series: Miguel and Modesty Vidal from famed barbecue trailer Valentina’s Tex Mex BBQ (via a company representative).
Eater: How has COVID-19 pandemic affected business right now?
Miguel and Modesty Vidal: We are now closed two days a week and no longer doing full service catering. Due to this, our sales are down about 20 to 25 percent compared to pre-COVID-19. We are one of the lucky few restaurants that have been able to stay open and not have to furlough any employees at all.
What is the current service model?
We are online orders only with no-contact pick up. Our point of sale system, Toast, already had an online ordering component, so that was fairly seamless, though there were a few late nights getting all the information into the system.
When the shutdown first started, we were only offering a by-the-pound menu with some family pack options to minimize contact. Now we are back to our full menu and daily features.
Are y’all planning any future changes?
We would like to keep some form of the online ordering available. Customers really love it, and it’s been great for those who aren’t able to stand in line for hours at a time in the summer heat. It’s opened up a chance for a lot of people to try and enjoy Valentina’s who otherwise wouldn’t be able to.
What measures are you currently implementing?
No cash. Extra sanitation measures as outlined by City of Austin and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Temperature checks for all employees daily.
Our trailer is only 18-feet-long, so we have our employees washing their hands, wearing masks, and changing their masks, and we have asked them to be mindful of their time outside of work. Luckily, we have not had a single case come through.
How has business been so far?
Although we are down sales, we consider ourselves very lucky that we are able to stay open. Our food lends itself to take-out already, so that part has been fairly smooth — although Miguel really does miss plating beautiful food and sharing it with customers in person.
What really has meant the most to us is the fact that all of the customers that have kept us afloat during these crazy times are all our very own Austinites. Before COVID-19, we got a lot of tourist business, but when that all shut down, our community was here for us. The awesome people of Austin have kept our 30+ employees and their families afloat by ordering Tex-Mex barbecue to-go, and that’s not lost on us.
What are some surprises that you’ve encountered?
We had to basically overthrow our entire business model overnight, but people really love the online ordering and it’s been surprisingly easy for our staff to adjust as well.
We’ve also been given the chance to partner with Yeti on several occasions for community givebacks where we supplied free lunches to essential employees and out-of-work service industry people. To be able to give back to the community that’s supported us so much during this pandemic means the world to us. It’s such an honor and a blessing to feed people, that is truly our calling.
These responses have been lightly edited for length and clarity.