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Striving to Serve: El Patio

A series spotlighting locally-owned restaurants adjusting to the pandemic

The Garza family misses the community atmosphere of their dine-in establishment.

Dining out hasn’t been a possibility during the Coronavirus pandemic, but many restaurants and chains have begun to offer curbside pickups and to-go orders. While fast food drive-thru lines have gotten longer and longer, locally-owned eateries are worried about what is to come from COVID-19.

Marco and Ninfa Garza, the owners of El Patio. Courtesy photo.

Several Mission establishments are still offering food options to the public – in the form of to-go and carryout orders. Some have even opted into delivery options, so everyone still has access to their favorite local restaurant.

Carlo Garza, the son of El Patio owners Marco and Ninfa Garza, has seen his parents start to miss their patrons. Marco said it has been hard.

“It’s a difficult situation, we’re so used to seeing a lot of people and greeting them on a one-to-one basis,” Marco Garza said. “Everyone is experiencing something we have never experienced before, and it’s terrible. We’re taking every precaution we can.”

The Garzas, being people of a certain age, are in the risk category for COVID-19, so they’ve had to adjust to their newfound limits in order to stay safe.

“They have to stay away for safety reasons,” Carlo Garza said. “That’s been a big adjustment for them, as it has been for all of us.”

El Patio has been using a skeleton crew to ensure Valley residents still have access to the well-known community staple. Carlo noted they have been working daily to let the public know they are still open and ready to serve, but people should avoid trying to dine in.

Closing the dining area has been a difficult change to make for El Patio.

“It’s been quite an adjustment,” Carlo Garza said. “What’s hurt the most is we’ve had to go to a skeleton crew, and obviously the sales are lower. Our carryout and curbside orders are keeping us busy during the lunch and dinner hours.”

There are other patrons who enjoy dining outside of the lunch and dinner rushes that are missing the usual atmosphere of El Patio.

“It’s just not the same without seeing the foot traffic come in and out,” Carlo Garza said. “We’re trying our best for all the safety of our employees and our customers in our community.”

The restrictions made on establishments in order to slow and stop the spread of the coronavirus have shocked the local populace.

“Never in my lifetime or my parents’ lifetime have we seen something like this,” Carlo Garza said. “We’ve been in business for twenty years, and we never imagined that an illness would slow us down – it’s been crazy.”

“It’s been a little difficult for us, but we’ll adjust as needed,” Carlo Garza added. “Obviously we don’t know what the future holds.”

Supporting local business is incredibly important to El Patio, and Carlo said they are all a vital part of the economy and community in the RGV.

“We all help each other out – I support all local businesses here,” Carlo Garza said, noting he is friends with several business owners in the area. “I support them 110 percent – I wish I could go help them, and I’m sure they feel the same way about wanting to help us.”

Local restaurant owners rely on their business to support their livelihood, and often face heavier difficulties as compared to corporate chains who have support from larger, wealthier national businesses.

“We have each others’ back because this is all we have: we have each other,” Carlo Garza said. “We’re a small but growing community, and this has really humbled us. All we have is our family, and this is who we depend on.”

Marco Garza added that they are doing all they can to help their employees at this time.

“We miss the community,” Marco Garza said. “We’re just one of the many local businesses in the surrounding area of Mission, and many of us are really hurting because of this virus. Hopefully we see the end of it soon, so we can see the community come together again and see our customers.”

Carlo stressed that keeping unified while maintaining social distancing measures will allow local businesses to continue even after the pandemic curve is leveled.

“At the end we’ll see where all this leads – if we can make it through or we cannot, we don’t know, but we are trying daily to make it work, that’s the best we can do,” Carlo Garza said. “Stay strong, and this too shall pass. We are One Mission, we have to stick together and help each other out as much as we can.”

El Patio has incorporated some new bundles and family packs into their menu. The most popular item people have been ordering in the midst of COVID-19 are the botanas – El Patio offers botana platters for two, three, four, five and six people, and when a customer orders a mix for four, five or six, it comes with a gallon of their famous sweet tea.

“[The botana platters are] moving right now like crazy,” Carlo Garza said. “Our tea right now is also going out like crazy – I’ve had people say it’s their liquid gold. As long as we get our product out there, I’m happy.”

Carlo appreciates when people order carryout and post on social media. El Patio is currently working to set up with Bite Squad, an online delivery service, so patrons can have their favorite meals delivered to their homes.

“That’s coming into play pretty quick,” Carlo Garza said, adding that it should be set up by this week. “We’re using that option also, and get some other carryout options as well.”

This will be the first story in our “Striving to Serve” series, in which we spotlight locally-owned restaurants who are working daily to offer people a familiar dine-in experience at home. See next week’s issue for the next establishment “Striving to Serve.”

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