Texas Border Business
By Roberto Hugo González
Chef Larry Delgado, along with his wife, Jessica, are the driving forces behind Delgado Collective, a cherished treasure comprising House Wine and Bistro, Salt New American Table, and Salome on Main. With a commitment to culinary excellence and a passion for community, they have been tireless in their pursuit to elevate the dining experience in the Rio Grande Valley.
On this significant evening of August 25, 2023, the couple hosted a prestigious event – the president’s dinner for the Texas Restaurant Association – a gathering aimed at fostering dialogue on the triumphs and tribulations of the restaurant industry.
The foodservice industry experienced a remarkable 88th Texas Legislative Session, with the TRA achieving 70 wins in 70 days. It was said that now is crucial to safeguard these victories and strive for further accomplishments at local, state, and federal levels. Achieving this is possible only through the restaurant collective growth.
Amidst the clink of glassware and the hum of conversation, the venue was overflowing with the presence of key figures – the president, CEO, executives, and Chairman of the Texas Restaurant Association and the Texas Restaurant Foundation.
The purpose of this important gathering went beyond the clinking of glasses and exchange of pleasantries. It aimed to foster dialogue, reflect on the industry’s triumphs, and address the tribulations faced by restaurant owners in the aftermath of COVID-19 and the resulting inflation.
Chef Larry passionately shared, “We wanted to bridge the disconnect between our customers and the restaurant industry. This industry is a tough one. When you see a full restaurant, it doesn’t necessarily mean we are making a lot of money. There are numerous financial challenges and overheads.”
Addressing the challenges, Larry highlighted three major areas – supply chain prices, workforce depletion, and inflation. The pandemic and subsequent market instability have led to fluctuating commodity prices, making it nearly impossible to maintain price points. “We’ve seen operating costs increase to about 38% across the board. I can’t raise my prices by 38% and expect people to keep coming,” said Larry.
Furthermore, the necessity to adhere to additional safety protocols and purchase personal protective equipment significantly impacted profitability. Larry voiced his concerns about the extensive regulations and hoped for a more balanced future, “We are one of the most highly regulated industries, second to the medical industry. We hope that in 2024 and beyond, we’ll get a little bit of relief from that.”
Larry acknowledged the immense support and advocacy from the Texas Restaurant Association during these trying times, expressing hopes of attracting more members to the association. He mentioned, “The work that the TRA did during the pandemic attracted a lot of new members. They got us things like alcohol to go, fought for property taxes, and are fighting for credit card regulation.”
The Delgados, along with other board members, extended invitations to mayors, city commissioners, senators, and congressmen, aiming to share their stories and struggles. The goal was to foster understanding and create a network of support, ensuring that the voices of restaurateurs are heard and acknowledged.
Amidst the challenges, Chef Larry Delgado and Jessica remain resilient, continuing to elevate the culinary landscape of the Rio Grande Valley. Their commitment to excellence and community engagement, coupled with their advocacy for industry support, stands firm to their passion and dedication. The gathering at Salome on Main, marked by unity and dialogue, symbolizes hope for a balanced and prosperous future for the restaurant industry.