Texas Border Business
In its eight years of business, Adolios restaurant has become a favorite among the residents of Brownsville, TX. And that’s because a traditional stop at Adolios is more than a meal, it’s an experience.
Before the coronavirus crisis, a magician regularly roamed the restaurant during the day, showcasing his magic tricks to diners. At night, local bands played music on the outdoor patio, and a DJ spun tunes inside. Those elements – along with its locally-inspired food and award-winning margaritas – earned it an award as 2018’s best nightspot and bar and grill.
“I thought it was super cool,” Adolios’ marketing manager Nelson Amaro said of his first visit to the restaurant. “A place that has a magician is out of the norm. And since we have a big patio, if you want to be outside, you can enjoy wine and tacos with live music and a little more chill ambience. If you want to do something more club-like, you can be inside.
All that came to a halt in March when Adolios – along with businesses across the country – closed its doors in the face of the coronavirus.
Uncertain about the restaurant’s future, the management team packed 40 bags of food it could no longer use – fruits, vegetables, meat and other perishables – and gave it to their employees.
“It was a little way to give some relief to them,” Amaro said.
A week later, the restaurant opened for curbside pickup only. Business during the six weeks that followed was slow. Financial uncertainty discouraged people from spending money on restaurants, and coronavirus cases surged in Brownsville and in the adjacent Mexican state of Tamaulipas.
The restaurant is currently limited to operating at a fraction of its capacity.
Nevertheless, it’s not only stayed open but kept its full staff.
“We’ve managed to get through this without losing anyone,” Amaro said. “The cool thing is, we’ve built very strong bonds with all of our regular customers. And they were the first ones to come by and order some food when we were doing curbside only, and they are the ones coming out now.”
A vital connection
What’s also helped keep the business operating smoothly is its internet – vital not only for daily operations but the online ordering that’s grown with the pandemic. Adolios switched to Viasat Business Internet about a year ago. The restaurant is attached to Brownsville’s Sunrise Mall, and the mall’s infrastructure limited Adolios’ internet options.
That’s not uncommon in Brownsville, which faces well-documented internet challenges. It’s among 185 cities cited on the National Digital Inclusion Alliance’s most recent list of Worst Connected Cities. Nearly 67 percent of households aren’t connected to a wireline service like cable, fiber or DSL.
“We had everything – tablets, registers, computers, the music – on the same network,” Amaro said. “It was so slow it was impossible to work properly. We had to decide which devices we needed to have running at a specific moment to keep the restaurant running. We had to look for alternatives.
“Now it’s completely the opposite. We have all the music and all the tablets we want running. Robert (the general manager) and I can be working on our computers simultaneously without any trouble.”
Amaro was excited when he got an email from Viasat Global Business Solutions in August about its Ready. Set. Grow small business grant program.
Amaro entered the contest, responding to several essay questions about the challenges Adolios has faced. He recently learned the business was awarded $5,000 – money it will put toward rent.
“For the first few months, (mall management) helped us with the rent. Now we are a little behind on it. So this will give us relief for the back rent. It’ll keep us up and running a couple months or until the end of the year.”
By then, Amaro hopes business will be closer to normal volume. But most of all, he’s glad he can offer the restaurant’s 19 staff members some reassurance.
“Telling the employees we’re not going to close down in the next week or month, and letting them know you have a job and are able to feed your family, is invaluable,” he said. “This grant will be a little breath of fresh air that will keep us going.”