Overwhelming demand causes chaos at Toronto restaurant on Cinco de Mayo
Tita's Mexican Food owner Istra Avila knew her Toronto restaurant would be a little extra busy on Cinco de Mayo, but she never anticipated that the level of demand this year would lead to complete and utter chaos.
Avila, who grew up in Mexico City, tells blogTO that the annual celebration isn't that big of a deal in Mexico, and is actually more popular outside the country, so she's used to seeing orders increase somewhat when May 5 rolls around each year.
"We are used to seeing our orders increase during this festivity, but we couldn't forecast what happened this year," she says.
Avila says they did prepare for the event by ensuring they were fully stocked up on the most popular item of the moment: the Corona de Tacos (a ring of from-the-grill tacos). They also introduced several promotions as well as a special traditional dish for the occasion called the Pozole Rojo (a spicy corn soup).
And yet, on the day of the holiday, Avila and her team found themselves understaffed, understocked and straight up overwhelmed.
"We didn't expect the amount of clients we had, so we didn't have enough staff for the amount of orders we received," she says.
"The food we prepare is fresh and handmade from scratch. We are not a fast food restaurant, so it takes time to prepare the meals. Because of the huge demand, at a certain point we ran out of some of the top items, so we had to cook from scratch to satisfy the demand."
This lead to some lengthy wait times for customers, some of whom gave up and left after getting frustrated, which resulted in there being leftover prepared meals at the end of the night.
Some clients were predictably angry as a result, going home to leave negative reviews online. Many also demanded refunds.
Avila says this is understandable, and she's agreed to issue refunds to every customer who left without their order — even if the restaurant did end up preparing it.
But for all those customers who left in a huff, Avila says far more were supportive and understanding, with one customer even posting on Instagram that they waited two hours for their food but that it was totally worth it once it arrived.
And at one point in the night, amid the chaos, Avila says she asked one of the staff to run to the store and pick up more rice after they ran out. But just as the employee was on her way out, someone stopped her and asked where she was going. When she told the person she was from Tita's, the kind stranger insisted on going to run the errand themself.
Five minutes later, the Good Samaritan returned and dropped off a massive bag of rice.
"Unfortunately I could only thank [the person] from the inside of the kitchen and couldn't see exactly who this person was," Avila says.
"I would love to know who he was and really say thank you. Me and most of the people that work at the Titas are immigrants, and actions like this really make us feel welcome and supported, really touch our hearts! One of our staff mentioned this was our angel sent to help us."
Later that night, after closing up shop, Avila and her team paid it forward by handing out the unclaimed orders to some individuals experiencing homelessness.
"Next year we will be more prepared for sure," Avila says of how they plan to avoid Wednesday's chaos going forward.
"Extra staff, extra food reserves and we will need to figure out a way to coordinate orders so they don't overlap and everyone can receive their food in time. We are a small family business that is growing and learning along the road, and this for sure is something that will help us get better."
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