A Texas restaurant, Nuevo Leon Mex Mex, adjusts to the sharp challenges of keeping customers safe.
Enduring and even thriving as a restaurateur in the midst of a pandemic is the kind of challenge that has driven many businesses to the brink. Not so for Maggie Escobar, whose Nuevo Leon Mex Mex eatery in Farmers Branch, a business district in North Dallas, has held on and is expanding its options.
For Escobar, who founded her old-world Mexican-style restaurant in 1994, the journey has been exhausting, educational and rewarding. She credits the training and support she received through the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program for giving her the skills to survive.
“For the first six months I wanted to cry every day,” she said. “I was losing money and staff and I was just freaked out. So while I feel very blessed by the financial support, it’s the emotional support — the hand holding and hours of mentorship and coaching — that was truly amazing.”
Nuevo Leon Mex Mex’s food-quality rating on Yelp, out of a maximum of five stars, since 2008, based on 99 online reviews.
A focus on every detail.
Each morning, even before she concentrates on cleaning and opening her kitchen and preparing to serve meals in a responsible way, Escobar spends a good hour attending online marketing clinics and checking in with her ICIC advisors. She looks over Facebook and Instagram, examines online analytics, then adjusts the content of her website, nuevoleonmexicanrestaurant.com, to best reflect the desires of her customers.
Some of her decisions have been technical. She was unhappy with her internet service provider, whose low speeds gummed up her online ordering system, so she found a competing company that improved connectivity at a lower price.
Other moves involved improving the floor plan of her restaurant, like moving the bar to a bigger, more spread-out area at the back, allowing the serving of drinks with proper social distancing in mind.
“I think I have been creative with the patio and the bar,” she said, “and they are already helping my revenues by about 40 percent.”
The revenue increase Maggie Escobar’s Nuevo Leon Mex Mex restaurant realized after Escobar received guidance from the Goldman Sachs 10,000 Small Businesses (10KSB) program and expanded her patio.
Tapping into Covid aid.
With assistance from her Goldman Sachs mentors, Escobar also gathered the paperwork needed to obtain Paycheck Protection Plan funding. She had a good rapport with Texas Capital Bank, she added, and received the money in April.
Nonetheless, she said, revenue is still down 50 percent. Part of the problem is that she needs Home Depot and other big box businesses to reopen “so we can get back to work out front with our food trucks,” she added.
On the plus side, the city of Dallas has rewritten ordinances to allow for restaurants like hers to create larger outdoor patio spaces where customers can be served while seated at least six feet apart behind clear plastic anti-viral sheeting.
Escobar says her priority will always be finding ways to keep long-term loyal employees on the payroll. She says that is her responsibility as a minority business owner whose goal is to provide good livelihoods for urban workers.
“I have tried very hard to take care of my employees,” she said. “Our hope now is that the Congress will approve another round of paycheck funding so we can continue in business and plan for the future.”