‘Why keep it to myself?’: Anchorage restaurateur shares online ordering system to struggling businesses

Published: Dec. 28, 2020 at 7:55 AM AKST|Updated: Dec. 28, 2020 at 7:56 AM AKST
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ANCHORAGE, Alaska (KTUU) - It’s a hard year to be in the restaurant industry and it’s an even harder year to be unskilled in virtual systems. Recognizing a need in his community, Alex Marqueda decided to help by sharing his online ordering systems and offering other kinds of advice.

Marqueda owns Ollin Tea and Cafe as well as Ready Made Dinners Cafe. He said he had been working with his young entrepreneur program to develop an online ordering system prior to the pandemic. Originally, he said it was going to be used to start a franchise. When COVID-19 happened, he saw that it could be used to help other struggling businesses.

One of those businesses is Pedro’s Mexican Grill, where the only employees right now are owner Manuel Ramos and his wife.

Ramos admits that he’s not tech-savvy, but he works hard to keep his business running to support his family. One day, Marqueda went in for a pick-up order and noticed their situation.

“He started talking about, ‘Manuel, you should really start the online ordering,’” Ramos said, knowing he didn’t have time to find someone to help him. “He said, ‘I’ll help you. I’ll make you a website, and help you with the online ordering.’”

They were things Ramos didn’t know how to do for himself. Now he and his wife can spend more time getting the food ready for customers rather than take time answering the phone and taking orders that way.

Pedro’s isn’t the only restaurant using it either. Marqueda said they sent out emails to many of the restaurants in town offering help.

Marqueda said it’s almost free for them. Right now, he said it’s only a small percentage of sales to cover the costs of the app. The consulting and website building help he’s offering is free.

Once the pandemic is over, he said he’s going to continue letting them use the system. They’ll readjust the percentages once the businesses get back on their feet but he said they’ll figure that part out when there’s less pressure.

It might seem odd that a business owner would do so much to help customers go to other restaurants in town. Marqueda said he’s doing what he’s doing because it’s what’s right to him.

“Even though they are competition, to me, it was more than that. It was looking at a bigger picture,” he said. “If I was in the hurt, I would like someone to help me. So I knew that a lot of fellow restaurateurs needed help, and because I’m a restaurateur, I know the difficulties to opening up a restaurant.”

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