El Paso concepts works magic with “to-go” pivot
Three different Texas concepts, from high-end to casual, survived lockdown by pulling their oars in unison in the lifeboat of “to-go” dining.
All meals, whether they were crafted at the high-end Cafe Central in El Paso or were produced in the kitchens of Famous Dave’s BBQ or the West Texas Chop House, were instantly transitioned.
“The first thing we did was to improve our websites at all three of our restaurants to accommodate all-night ordering,” says Maricarmen Ramos, comptroller, Triple A Restaurants of Texas. “Then we looked at our dishes and had to determine which items made the best presentation in to-go packaging, and which traveled the best.”
From about March 20, when Texas was locked down for the virus, the three successful concepts operated by Triple A got fully behind the to-go concept. And it saved their bacon. To-go orders were up 50 percent over the same time last year, and Ramos notes the uptick was enough to balance out the drop in sit-down dining.
In this week’s Boxerbrand blog Recipe for Success, Ramos gives us a glimpse into the changes that worked for the El Paso restaurants.
BB: What was the hardest part about transitioning to a take-out/to-go model?
MR: The hardest thing was rebuilding our website and making sure it was ready for online ordering. We wanted to make it as simple as possible for our clients, and then we needed to advertise it. Another major focus was packaging. We needed to double our order for packaging, making sure we had the right sizes, and we also needed to create paper menus and reheating instructions to include with every to-go order.
BB: You had a bit of an edge in going to-go though.
MR: Our popular concept Famous Dave’s was already set up for to-go. Our burgers, ribs and chicken were already proven in this market. Our West Texas Chop House had a popular burger menu that was perfect for to-go. But, the steak house and fine-dining Cafe Central were off 45 percent compared to the same time in 2019.
BB: What menu items transitioned best to to-go?
MR: At Cafe Central, our super green chili, our sea bass, and our Puntas de Filete, which is a tenderloin served over mashed potato, chili poblano and vegetables, was very popular. And Our Cobb salad was a big seller. At. Famous Dave’s, our ribs, brisket sandwiches, roasted chicken and pulled pork barbecue were big. And at West Texas Chop House, it was our hamburgers and butchery that were most popular.
BB: What gives you optimism?
MR: The community gave us the biggest boost in optimism. We learned that our clients would adjust as long as we gave them the right product. But they responded to us differently. They looked at the business in a new way, and noticed the names and faces of people in the kitchen, and we felt incredibly grateful that our clients were so loyal. Our staff was also great. Our employees have been with us for a long time, many for over 10 years. When we temporarily stopped indoor dining, we had to cut our staff. But they’ve been great, working when we need them, and remaining so loyal. — Cafe Central and West Texas Chop House are customers of Boxerbrand. Thank you!