The restaurant industry is a tough one in even the very best of times, but anyone navigating 2020 can attest that this year has created even more challenges and hurdles for today’s hospitality business owners. It wasn’t something my brother and I, who are Phoenix natives, expected to face so soon after launching our first Mr. Mesquite Taqueria in Old Town Scottsdale in 2015 — but it’s the reality we now have. So, rather than worry about the things we can’t control, we’ve chosen to focus on those that we can — and so far, it’s served us pretty well.
When we opened our first walk-up counter in 2015, we did so with a relatively simple plan: Prepare fresh, authentic, mesquite-grilled Mexican street food that comforts, fulfills and satisfies. With our “build your own”-style menu, guests can choose tacos, a burrito, quesadilla or protein bowl, and from there add their choice of mesquite-grilled meat, veggies or add-ons.
The simplest plans are often the easiest to execute, and, while our small stand rapidly grew into seven brick-and-mortar locations (with two more on the way in Gilbert and on Happy Valley Road), leading us to update our business model accordingly, we never lost focus on what we set out to do in the first place.
Perhaps that’s why we’ve managed to navigate the twists and turns that 2020 has thrown at us with relative ease, and it may, too, be why we’ve managed to adapt to the new changes brought about by social-distancing mandates, to-go-only regulations and similar hurdles.
We’re not naïve to the fact that we can’t conduct business as usual — but we’re also not giving up when we can modify our existing business model to better accommodate changing times.
How? For starters, we’ve taken every possible precaution to protect both our staff and our patrons. In addition to having all staff members wear masks, we’ve taken extra social-distancing precautions, implemented extensive new cleaning procedures and otherwise set new standards that instill confidence in staff and guests alike.
We’ve also ramped up our efforts with regard to making our offerings extra to-go friendly. We offer party platters, buffet-style catering opportunities, bulk-and-freeze items and our full menu available in a to-go format. And while it undeniably takes time to implement new procedures and set new standards of operation and cleanliness, our hard work appears to be paying off, as we are opening a total of four Mr. Mesquite eateries in 2020.
So, we welcome back with open arms those who are ready and eager to get back to in-person dining as well as those who prefer to enjoy our smoky, wood-grilled street food in the comfort of their own home or office — and extend our applause for helping keep small businesses, and our dreams, afloat.
Brothers Ahmad and Naser Alatrash are co-founders, with Will Abdallah, of Mr. Mesquite Taqueria.