H-E-B selling meals from McAllen eateries amid COVID-19 pandemic

Pilot program also offered at stores in San Antonio, Houston, Austin

Courtesy photo Restaurateurs the Delgados from McAllen are among several partnering with H-E-B to sell their meals to grocery store customers.

H-E-B selling meals from McAllen eateries amid COVID-19 pandemic

Like many other restaurateurs, Larry and Jessica Delgado of McAllen were hit hard by the COVID-19 pandemic. The Delgados own House Wine, Salt-New American Table and Salomé restaurants, and they say the business closure measures aimed at curbing the spread of COVID-19 had pushed their bistros to the brink.

“We were almost at our end,” said ‘Chef Larry,’ as he’s known to customers and friends. “We were discussing how we were going to remain open, and we even talked about the possibility of consolidating all three of our restaurants into one.”

Enter H-E-B. The San Antonio-based grocer recently launched a pilot program to help restaurants in select Texas cities by selling their meals in select stores. Under the program, H-E-B is carrying ready-made, heat-and-serve meals from 19 restaurants at nearly 100 H-E-B supermarkets in San Antonio, Houston, Austin and Hidalgo County.

“We have deep-rooted relationships with many of our local chefs and restaurants within our communities,” said Linda Tovar, H-E-B senior manager for public affairs. “We are delighted to welcome Chef Larry Delgado to our H-E-B Family. This is our way to help and support our foodie friends that we care deeply for during these uncertain times.”

Two meals from each of the Delgados’ three restaurants are featured at three H-E-B locations: Edinburg at Freddy Gonzalez, McAllen at Trenton Road, and Mission at Shary Road. A sauce and a soup are also available. The entrée offerings are as follows:

>> House Wine — Chicken Parmesan with Pasta Marinara, and Lasagna (with Akaushi beef)

>> Salt New American Table — Macaroni and Cheese with Pork Belly, and Fried Chicken with Jalapeño Roasted Potatoes

>> Salomé — Chicken en Mole Verde with Rice and Vegetables, and Cochinita Pibil with Atole de Maíz.

“We were able to do it in just six days,” Chef Larry said. “We never imagined that we’d even get the opportunity, and be able to turn it around as quickly as we did.”

“It’s been a much bigger success than we could have imagined,” Jessica added. “Our first day, the goals that H-E-B set for us, we were able to meet in the first two hours. More importantly, we have been able to rehire 10 employees and our kitchens are back to full schedules. We plan on bringing back 10 more workers by next week.”

The Delgados say they wanted to do more than just have their meals available in the stores. They wanted to replicate in a small way the total dining experience they strive to present for their customers in their restaurants.

“I went into each H-E-B where our food is available, and studied their wine program,” Jessica said. “I have paired a bottle of wine for each menu item. There’s a list of six wines at each of the three H-E-B locations featuring our meals, so people will at least have the notion of what our diners love about our restaurants.”

H-E-B is not charging any of the restaurants to participate in the pilot program in order to ensure all the profits go to help keep the restaurants from shuddering their doors. The Delgados said the program, which is expected to be only temporary, is not only helping them stay afloat, but also all the businesses up and down their supply chain.

“This is invaluable not just for us, but for our suppliers and purveyors,” Chef Larry said. “Our curbside and delivery services were just band aids to keep us floating. There was no way that we were going to make it another month or two months. The opportunity was just so timely. It’s like H-E-B throwing us a parachute in the middle of our free fall.”

btrevino@themonitor.com