Neighborhood Heroes: Rob Arellano, Descanso Restaurant

To overcome the catastrophic coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at hand, it’s important to recognize the positives.

To overcome the catastrophic coronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic at hand, it’s important to recognize the positives. One beacon is selfless service. Countless acts by organizations and individuals alike are minimizing the lasting damage. This hard work isn’t only done by the ER doctors, nurses, and first responders constituting our last line of defense. It’s also the good Samaritans doing thankless work next door. We raise our glasses to all the local heroes on the front lines—from all the hospital workers to the grocery stockers, postal workers, small business owners, plus those delivering goods to the elderly and at-risk, #weoweyoudrink.

In this installment, we connected with the owner of Descanso Restaurant in Orange County, CA, Rob Arellano. Having its doors open for 2 years now, the restaurant has quickly become a popular staple in the community as its own local “Modern Taqueria.” However, with the global pandemic right now, businesses have been reeling, and many restaurants have been forced to adapt to a new business model, or close their doors.

With a strong marketing background, Arellano saw this as an opportunity to do something creative: They began offering a free roll of toilet paper with every $20 spent on take out. For this clever marketing campaign, Arellano received news coverage all over the area.

Now, Descanso remains open for take-out seven days a week with a plethora of mouth-watering menu items. From their Choriqueso Verde appetizer, to their savory Al Pastor, you really can’t go wrong. (And you certainly don’t want to forget about their epic to-go 32-ounce margaritas.)

Here, Arellano gives us a bit if insight as to how he and his colleagues are handling this difficult time.

descanso
Photo: Courtesy of Rob Arellano

Name: Rob Arellano

Title: Owner, Descanso Restaurant

Location: Costa Mesa, CA

Years on the Job: 2

MJ: How has your work changed in the last two weeks?

Rob Arellano: Our restaurant has changed drastically in the last two weeks. Like all other restaurants we have had to close our doors to dine-In and shift to take-out only. Our restaurant model focuses entirely on the “guest experience,” so closing the dine-in option left us with an important question… Can we continue to operate as a take-out business?

After a short deliberation with my team, it was evident that had to continue based on two main factors: 1. We felt it was important to provide as much opportunity for our employees (our family) to have a place to work. 2. Our community, and most importantly our loyal customers, need a sense of comfort during times like these and your neighborhood restaurant provides that.

What’s the greatest challenge at hand right now?

The greatest challenge is ensuring that our staff and customers are safe as possible. After Safety, which has always been priority number one, maintaining our financial stability is also a huge challenge. We are a family owned business and do not have the resources some of the big chains have. Although we are open and operating a take-out business, it is much more difficult to sustain from a financial standpoint.

Do you feel at-risk/threatened?

I do not. I feel if you take the necessary precautions to keep your work place sanitary and free of potential hazards, the risk definitely diminishes.

Do you see any signs of hope?

I do. I see a community coming together and doing great things to combat and solve this situation. I was always taught that adversity makes you stronger. I feel, as a community, we will be stronger coming out of this.

Should people still be working?

I will speak to restaurant workers and say that I do feel they should be working and serving their community. People need to eat of course, but I also feel it is a good for the mental state of every community. People find comfort in food and they find comfort in their favorite restaurants and types of food. I feel that restaurants are providing an important service in this regard.

Take out is open Mon-Thurs 4 p.m.-8 p.m., and Fri-Sun from 2 p.m.-8 p.m. Head to their website to check out their menu, and then call or text (714) 486-3798, or email [email protected] to place your take-out order.

Do you know a Neighborhood Hero making a difference on the front lines of your community? There are three easy ways to nominate someone to be featured: 1. Nominate your Neighborhood Hero in the comments below and simply let us know why they deserve to be featured and how we can contact them. 2. Send us a Direct Message on Men’s Journal Instagram with your nomination. 3. Post their photo on Instagram using #weoweyouadrink (either on Stories or Feed). 

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