When one door closes…open a drive thru window. That’s what Los Sombreros owner Kurt Riske and his partners did.
When Riske realized the seriousness of COVID-19, he felt that being open to serve customers was not safe even though there were not federal orders to close dining rooms yet. So, on March 16, Los Sombreros closed its Scottsdale and Phoenix locations to regroup and strategize. As Riske lay awake that night, he scribbled down ideas for how he and his partners could help employees, serve loyal customers and stay in the game as consumer behaviors began to change.
One necessary tactic was opening a drive-thru. But Kurt and his team didn’t open a traditional drive thru. They instead repurposed an existing restaurant window, passed food through on a borrowed pizza board (to avoid contact, helping customers feel safe) and sold margaritas to go.
The resulting scene had the energetic vibe of a neighborhood carwash with the partners holding poster board signs reading “Owners on duty. Drive thru open.” and kids holding up “My dad is the owner.”
Re-opening their Scottsdale location first, Riske and his team were thrilled with the response and soon re-opened the Uptown Phoenix location. Los Sombreros regulars and newcomers alike have been extremely supportive and appreciate of the familiar taste of their favorite dishes and drinks during the quarantine.
Riske also credits Shamrock Foods for standing by him and his team. He admits getting choked up just thinking about his Shamrock Foods Sales Representative Matt Balzer’s willingness to pitch in and help wherever and whenever he can.
“He’s the best rep I’ve ever had. This guy is unbelievable. Everyone I touch with Shamrock is so great,” said Riske.
Los Sombreros’ is building on its successful creativity with a non-traditional Easter family meal offer, Mercado grocery boxes and social media engagement that includes accepting nominations for a person impacted by COVID-19 to receive a free Mercado box.
Riske’s advice to others during this time is to think outside the box and to do whatever you can to keep the doors open. He admits it’s easy to say and scary to try, but he and his team’s ultimate goal is showing Los Sombreros staff that they are trying to keep as many people as possible and continually strengthening their business by finding new efficiencies and new products to test.
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