Justin and Cynthia Loeb, owners of Elote Mexican Kitchen and Oliva Italian Eatery in Fort Worth, Texas, know a thing or two about getting through tough times.
Justin graduated college and headed into the telecommunications field around the turn of the millennium, just as the telecoms crash hit the stock market. He moved to New York City and opened a
wine shop instead, where he met his wife, a restaurant professional.
The pair moved to Fort Worth to be closer to Cynthia’s family and bought a local, struggling full-service restaurant – right as the financial crisis devastated Texas in 2008.
Despite the economic downturn, the Loebs built themselves a stellar reputation at Oliva Italian Eatery, and a few years later expanded their local footprint with Elote Mexican Kitchen, a fast-casual restaurant. The secret, according to Justin Loeb, is to anticipate what guests want and provide it before they demand it.
“You can’t wait for people to come to you, you have to go to them. Whether it’s social media or the email blasts, whatever you can do, it’s being proactive instead of reactive,” Loeb explained.
The Loebs themselves got into online ordering at Elote when a large fast food chain opened nearby. The couple anticipated competition for younger guests’ business, and quickly saw the need for technology solutions, which led them to launch online ordering and email marketing with Paytronix Online Ordering.
To bring guests on board, the Loebs offered discounts on their first use of the online ordering platform. They’ve since collected some 5,000 email addresses, which they use to drive orders on otherwise slow days. After each email blast, Loeb said he typically sees a “jump” of 20 to 30 new tickets come in.
These tools have allowed both businesses to keep running throughout the COVID-19 shutdown, and to avoid the worst of the shutdown: Elote and Oliva have lost a smaller portion of sales than many other businesses.
Throughout the recession of 2008, the Loebs combined an intimate connection with their local community with an intense focus on quality ingredients and hospitality to survive and thrive. Today, they are using the same techniques to great success.
“It’s knowing your clients, knowing your neighborhood,” Loeb said. “I’d rather have somebody eat at my restaurant three times a week than once a month, because then they’re a part of my family.”