As South Florida’s hospitality sector prepares for the upcoming tourist season, the owner of Rocco’s Tacos is sharing the lessons he learned during the pandemic.
Rocco Mangel participated in a roundtable discussion Tuesday, hosted by Palm Beach State College.
He was accompanied by other top leaders of Palm Beach County’s restaurant and hotel industry.
They shared the business strategies that have been successful while navigating the pandemic.
However, Mangel also reported the recent closure of the Rocco’s Tacos location in New York City two weeks ago.
“Unfortunately we lost a restaurant in New York,” said Mangel. “We had to close our first restaurant in Brooklyn on October 15th.”
For now, Mangel is focused on the future with an eye on expanding in Florida and Georgia.
He says outdoor seating will be a major factor in the company’s decision, adding to his interest in warmer climates.
According to the Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research, Florida's tourism-sensitive economy is particularly vulnerable to the pandemic's longer-term effects.
Many panelists also offered the insight they gained while navigating the pandemic.
“If we learned anything from 2020, it’s to stay nimble,” said Matt Cox, owner and brewmaster of Copperpoint Brewing Company. “Don’t make any knee-jerk reactions.”
Cox encourages business owners to be open to change during this time of uncertainty.
“Try to keep people around that are smarter than you and bounce things off everybody so you’re not throwing the staff left and right every single day,” said Cox.
Economists project a potential 18 months recovery period for Florida’s tourism economy to return to pre-disease levels.
“We had a [company] phone call the other day and we didn’t talk about food and drink, which is interesting because we’re in the restaurant business,” said Mangel. “We talked about the future - hand sanitizer, partitions and what we have to do.”
Rocco Mangel is cautiously optimistic about the upcoming tourist season and understands the next six months will need to be met with patience.
“Everyone is adapting.”
Rocco’s Tacos is expected to reopen the restaurant at Ft. Lauderdale airport in two weeks.