Ranch House Burgers II has new and temporary hours in the era of COVID-19. Every other day, the Mission restaurant is open from midnight to 3 a.m. Its customers are primarily police officers, state troopers and first responders.
“They got tired of burritos from the convenience stores,” said Mike Barrera, the restaurant’s owner. “We’re a business, so we do charge for the meals to help keep my staff employed, but it’s still a way to give back.”
Barrera and his family own Ranch House Burgers businesses in Weslaco and Mission. They have been through adversity before. A 2014 fire of their Weslaco restaurant forced them to start over as they were making plans to open in Mission.
The closure of businesses due to COVID-19 is presenting perhaps the most pressing challenge. Barrera had become accustomed to lines of customers forming outside of his Mission restaurant. Live music and a full bar were big draws as was a robust menu of over two dozen burgers and classic dishes like chicken fried steaks.
Making It Through
The coronavirus epidemic then upended everything. Restaurants were ordered to close public eating areas. The loss of business was jarring.
“You go into military mode, adjusting and trying to survive,” said Barrera, who owns and runs the Mission restaurant with his wife Christine.
Delivery of meals through both Grubhub and Favor were ramped up.
“Those guys are literally our veins to the community,” he said.
Curbside service was established quickly. Fast pickup of burger bundles featuring packs of four burgers of different varieties were offered and heavily promoted on Ranch House’s social media platforms. Safety precautions with staff wearing masks and gloves became paramount.
“Your customers have to feel comfortable,” Barrera said.
Longstanding ties to the community and a strong local brand have also been critical in keeping the business going.
“We still have our lunch rushes,” Barrera said. “People still want their comfort food.”
Ranch House Burgers fills that need. The restaurants in Weslaco and Mission feature 27 burger selections. They include burgers with pico de gallo, jalapenos and salsa, and reflect local flavors and sensibilities.
Barrera knows it will be slow going in getting to the other side of the coronavirus crisis. He knows diners will be hesitant to return to public places.
There will need to be more space between tables of customers. Barrera plans to put some tables outside for customers who feel safer with open-air dining.
May happens to be National Hamburger Month in the United States. Barrera can attest to the fact that even in the middle of a public health crisis, Americans still want their hamburgers. It gives him hope to continue, and to work with and provide for a loyal staff of employees who continue to work hard and stay with the business.
“I’m blessed to be doing what I do,” he said. “I didn’t get to this point to give up what I’ve got.”
Customers appreciate the efforts of Barrera and his staff, noting their determination during challenging times.
“The most delicious burgers and great service through this difficult time,” Frank Hernandez said in a comment posted on the Ranch House Burger Facebook site.