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Joel Luis and a bottle of sauce made by El Típico in Ixtepec. Joel Luis and a bottle of sauce made by El Típico in Ixtepec.

Oaxaca family restaurant finds market for traditional fare

El Típico sells its sauces to homesick Oaxacans elsewhere in the country

The Covid-19 pandemic has dealt a death blow to thousands of restaurants across Mexico, but a family operation in Oaxaca has found an innovative way to adapt — and deliver its products to Oaxacans nationwide who are nostalgic for a taste of home.

El Típico, a modest restaurant specializing in traditional cuisine in the Isthmus of Tehuantepec city of Ixtepec, was facing the same devastating economic losses as many in Mexico’s restaurant industry.

It had to close for several months, and the family faced the unenviable prospect of laying off its eight employees — that is until one young, tech-savvy member of the family, twentysomething son Joel Luis, found a way to keep his family’s business alive by bottling and delivering 20 of the menu’s sauces to anywhere in Mexico, allowing clients to recreate the restaurant’s meals at home.

The family also now sells the sauces in stores locally, in the city of Oaxaca, and even as far away as Veracruz, a Oaxacan enclave.

But the mail-order strategy has allowed El Típico to flourish, finding a niche market in out-of-state Oaxacans who were stuck at home across the country and homesick for the state’s traditional cuisine.

Sauces made and sold by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec restaurant.
Sauces made and sold by the Isthmus of Tehuantepec restaurant.

Its success is likely helped by the fact that Joel Luis took advantage of the restaurant’s closure period to post video tutorials to El Típico’s Facebook page — complete with traditional music playing in the background — on how to cook the restaurant’s dishes using the sauces.

The customer supplies everything but the sauce, and the restaurant’s staff provide the step-by-step explanations for recreating the restaurant’s recipe within 10 minutes.

“For 40 pesos, the client can bring traditional flavors to their dish,” Joel Luis explains. “Without being experts, they can prepare a tasty broth using Oaxacan spices or a plate of shrimp with traditional sauce. They don’t have to do more than open a bottle and add it to the meat or the shrimp.”

The innovative strategy has paid dividends for both the restaurant and the young entrepreneur. Not only did the restaurant manage to keep its employees by refocusing them on producing items for the mail-order business during its closure, Joel Luis has recently brought on board seven new apprentices he is training to cook items for mail order.

“The truth is, the crisis has brought us to this point,” leading us to come up with an alternative.

Source: El Universal (sp)

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