Special Report: Social media helps restaurant owners grow, survive the pandemic


BROWNSVILLE, Texas (KVEO) — When states began to shut down because of the pandemic, social media became a tool for survival and growth for local business owners.

Rio Grande Valley resident Celia Galindo opened her catering business and bistro specializing in gourmet Mexican cuisine 13 years ago.

The start of 2020 looked promising for Gourmet Central, with a schedule booked with events through May.

“Then when the pandemic started, things started being canceled,” Galindo said. “In October, we were this close to closing down.”

Not ready to say goodbye, she continued brainstorming for ways to save the business. Then her mom had the idea to host cooking classes on Facebook and sell boxes with the ingredients for the recipe.

“Anything people would ask for we’d say, ‘we’re doing it this week, come buy it,’” she said. “What’s been really weird, which I love, people will walk up and go, ‘hey Cel, how’s your mom?’ They know us now just because of Facebook.”

Michael Minor, University of Texas Rio Grande Valley’s Marketing Chair said while traditional marketing, such as billboards and magazine ads are still important, having an online presence for your business is essential.

“You can view the net or Facebook, Instagram, whatever, on one hand, social media, but on the other hand it is a way to communicate availability of an item,” he said.

Minor said that one of the benefits of social media, is the accessibility.

“If you want a page, you can have a page in a couple of hours if you do it yourself,” he said.

He says the biggest “thing” is to get started and a mistake seen often is inconsistent or boring with text-only posts, but it’s a learning process.

By taking the leap to try something new, O’SO GUD BBQ Owner Arturo Rosales was also met with success.

“I consider myself an old guy,” he said. “I’m not real computer-literate, but I’ve had to learn how to post more, how to share it on Facebook, how to boost a post —spend a little money to make a little money.”

After 17 years of cooking for hire on top of his fulltime job, he decided to open a restaurant.

“Our opening was six days before the pandemic shutdown,” Rosales said. “I couldn’t turn back; we started up and here we are almost a year later.”

Despite having to close and move to curbside before even opening, he is grateful for how things worked out.

“We’ve had people from all over the valley…all over the state…come down and give us a try, and it was all based off social media because somebody shared it,” he said.

As restriction continue to change, Rosales or Galindo are still on edge but continue looking forward.

“We’re all in the same boat, so it’s just a matter of trying to stay active and ask our community to help us,” Galindo said. “We’re trying our best.”

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