GRAND RAPIDS, Mich. (WOOD) — A Grand Rapids restaurant that closed three days after its grand opening hopes to be serving tacos again, as soon as Saturday.
Taco Borracho owner Angel Gonzalez tells News 8 that his staff had to turn away about 900 people on Cinco de Mayo, which was the restaurant’s first day of business. The next two days “we got swamped again,” he says.
“Really I just didn’t know we were going to be that busy,” he told News 8 Thursday. “We didn’t know if it would be 10 or 1,000 people that would walk in.”
Taco Borracho opened at 11 a.m. on Cinco de Mayo. Gonzalez says by 3 p.m., the restaurant on the corner of Michigan St. and Eastern Ave. NE had food orders from 350 tables. A half hour later, they shut down the kitchen and notified incoming customers only drinks would be available, but even those would take time since the restaurant had about 600 drink orders, according to Gonzalez.
Gonzalez started with 17 employees and lost a server and bartender during the first three days of business. He shut down Taco Borracho on Sunday to streamline operations and hire more staff to meet the unexpected demand, which he calls “a good problem” to have.
“I don’t look at it as stumble, I look at it as a positive thing,” he said. “I woke up so motivated from this. I’m not sitting here with my head down. We got more from those three days than we could’ve any other way. It’s an opportunity… it’s such a good opportunity to gain so much information from so many people in such a short time.”
Based on the experience and feedback, Gonalez says he’s “made some changes behind the bar and in the kitchen,” including tweaks to the food ordering system. He says he’s hired eight more bartenders, three additional cooks and four more servers to keep up with demand, and he’s looking to add a few more cooks and servers as backup. Instead of made-to-order margaritas, Taco Borracho will shift to making magarita batches in the morning to speed up the process. Gonzalez says he’s also ordered 15 more drink towers, which proved to be more popular than he expected during the restaurant’s opening days.
Gonzalez says the most common complaint from customers was timing. With the improvements, his goal is have food out in 20 minutes and drinks out in less than 10 minutes.
“I’m determined to get this figured out. And when we come back and we open, it’s because we will be 100% ready to give the experience we want to give,” Gonzalez said.
Gonzalez says people from as far away as Wayland came to Grand Rapids for Taco Borracho’s opening.
“There was so much love, especially from the Hispanic community. I mean, there was love from everybody, but a sense of pride from the Hispanic community- the Cubans, the Mexicans, the Puerto Ricans,” he said.
His goal now is to keep that momentum going when the restaurant reopens.
“This is a really, really special thing and we’ve got to get it right,” he said.
Right now, Gonzalez hopes to reopen Saturday after training new staff. However, he says he’ll evaluate that reopening date on a day-to-day basis.
“We are not going to open again until I know we have this place the way we need to have it,” he said.
While Taco Borracho is Gonzalez’s first commercial restaurant, it isn’t the first Grand Rapids restaurant forced to shut down to adjust operations. A day after its December grand opening, Social Misfits closed its doors for half a day to “recoup and restock.” Social Misfits also readjusted its hours, temporarily limited capacity and had to hire more staff to handle the overwhelming demand.
Gonzalez said he also talked to an experienced restauranteur who operates more than a dozen restaurants, and that owner told him it’s happened to him, too.
“We’re just thankful, we’re so thankful to everyone who’s showed their support. We jumped in head-first because that’s kind of the way I do things, but we’re going to fix things,” Gonzalez said.