Perspectives is a short-form Q&A with culinary and hospitality professionals navigating the new landscape. Each week we’ll hear from different members of various communities about their experiences in the COVID era and how they are helping their business, guests and community move forward. If you work in hospitality and would like to be featured in Perspectives, please email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Randy Mutz is a manager/supervisor of Mex 1 Coastal Cantina in three South Carolina locations: Charleston, Sullivan’s Island and Mount Pleasant. Like virtually everyone in the industry, he and his team have had to make significant adjustments over the last few months.
In his role he naturally wears lots of hats. From bartender to server to dishwasher, he fills in wherever is needed. After emigrating from Guatemala in 2010, he “fell in love” with the food and beverage industry. He also fell in love – which is what brought him to the states in the first place.
But the last few months have been the most challenging of his career as he balances what’s best for his staff and customers.
Chef Works: What were some of the challenges you and the team faced when the pandemic hit in March and what went into your decision to stay open?
Randy Mutz: The other general managers, the owner and the beverage director all got together and we developed a plan and came to the agreement that staying open would be the best course of action. Overnight we went from full service to curbside service.
The biggest challenge right off the bat was staff reduction. It was not an easy task, but we knew it would be for the greater good of the crew because many were able to apply for unemployment benefits. Plus, suppliers had also made staff reductions so we had to trim our menu to work with what was available.
Closing was never an option. It would have impacted the livelihoods of our staff even further and we wanted to remain active for our customers and the community.
CW: What was the feedback like from the community and employees when you opted to stay open?
RM: The feedback was great. We basically reinvented ourselves and the employees adapted quite fast to the new system and our customers were very appreciative of us staying open.
The support and generosity of our customers and community by ordering take out kept us really busy. We were able to recall staff to work within a couple of weeks. That was a great feeling.
CW: How have you and your team adjusted to the “new normal” since re-opening?
RM: Quite well. We’ve faced challenges with the “new normal,” just as I’m sure everyone else has. One of them being summer in South Carolina is quite hot and humid. So when you’ve got face coverings on all of the time – especially in the kitchen – that can be tricky.
But the crew is happy to do it because they know that is a crucial part of keeping everyone safe.
CW: What have you seen over the last few months that makes you feel good about your team and the community?
RM: I’m the kind of person that looks at the glass half full. There have been a lot of limitations, and it’s been great to see our team push through and do the best they can. I can’t thank them enough for how hard they are working
As for the community, we have regulars who come to see us and out of the goodness of their heart purchase meals for healthcare workers. Others purchase gift cards and give them away to friends and family. It’s a nice, warm feeling to witness people looking out for each other.
Even with the current challenges you still can really experience the “Southern Hospitality” here in the Lowcountry. We have a great, hardworking crew and we are very happy to keep doing what we love. Which is ultimately making tacos and mixing margaritas.