This week I had the opportunity to speak with Alexander Levario, the owner of a growing meal prep service called Phit Phuel Gourmet Meal Preps located in El Paso, Tx. We spoke about a variety of things including how Phit Phuel came into fruition and how business has been affected by the COVID-19 virus. Open 7 days a week with over 50 meals to choose from, Phit Phuel caters to a wide variety of customers.
See the interview below:
Interviewer: Hi I’m Vernique with the International Telegraph. Tell me your first and last name and also introduce your business.
Owner: Alexander Levario and the name of the business is Phit Phuel Gourmet Meal Preps
Interviewer: So, how many years have you been in business?
Owner: A little bit over 6 years so almost six years and a half
Interviewer: How has your business been affected by the coronavirus pandemic?
Owner: Well, it did get affected…even though our meals are to go and stuff people stopped coming so our sales dropped about half since that last year so we’re just adjusting to it I guess
Interviewer: So stemming from that question, what changes and precautions have you had to put into place to abide by statewide orders?
Owner: Well aside from everybody wearing masks; having to provide the customers hand sanitizer, just limiting the amount of people that come in, 3 at a time at most, wearing gloves all the time…
Interviewer: So it’s probably not much different? Because in my experience, as a food service you have to take a lot of precautions that other businesses don’t necessarily have to take.
Owner: Yeah, so inside the kitchen it’s pretty just the face mask thing [sic] that is new. As far as the employees it’s pretty much the same just a little more precautious
Interviewer: So you kind of already touched on this one but how have your customers been responding to the necessary changes and precautions?
Owner: Most of them understand obviously, we have a good amount of loyal customers and those are the ones who kept us alive especially at the beginning when there was a shortage of vegetables and they would receive different [sic] options, they understood.
Interviewer: Oh wow, yeah, I forgot about that during the early parts during the pandemic
Owner: Yeah it was vegetables and right now beef, the prices are still really high because of it, but hopefully they go down soon
Interviewer: Alright so what do you think the local impact of this pandemic will look like in 5 years?
Owner: I think as far as my industry, I think the health department is going to be more strict on the guidelines as far as how to handle food but I don’t think it’s going to be 5 years that it’s going to be like this. I just there’s going to be more rules in place just so people can be safer
Interviewer: So what do you think the global impact of this pandemic will look like in 5 years?
Owner: I wanna say more guidelines just for everybody, I feel like people either way are gonna start not getting so close to each other and everything I feel is gonna be online. [sic] For example, Walmart doing the order pick up and ordering online. Even people that weren’t doing that before are now being forced to do it or they’re more comfortable doing it. So more online based but other than that just stricter guidelines so that we can avoid something like this from happening again.
Interviewer: How do you plan to adapt moving forward to make sure your business is pandemic proof?
Owner: So what we had to do was move our marketing standpoint to market selling online more or that people are able to order online then we had to start offering delivery services. Moving forward our goal is to start shipping nationwide, since like I said, it seems like everything is gonna be online so we wanna join that wave of just shipping our meals. Instead of us opening up a bunch of stores we want the meals to be able to make it to any household.
Interviewer: So just increasing the availibility not just locally but nationally
Owner: Yeah exactly so I’m pretty sure with that the services like UPS and all of it, their rates are gonna go lower too because they’re gonna see an increase of people doing that then it will make it easier for companies to start doing that.
Interviewer: It already seems to be moving in that direction
Owner: Yeah especially with Amazon, even with them building something here it’s gonna be big
Interviewer: Yeah business is booming. (laugh) Well that is the extent of our interview, is there anything you would like to add? Maybe tell us about how your business started?
Owner: Well I was living out of town and I was doing meal preps just for myself and then I moved back in town where people were like, “Oh, can you cook for me?” So then I just started a business. At first people were just picking up at my house then I got several gyms to let us put our meals there so that customers could pick up there and eventually we started opening one store then after that more stores and then this one, which is the Rojas store which is a full kitchen so from here we do all the meals and then distribute them to all the stores. It started little by little and kept growing as I kept investing into the business.
Interviewer: How many locations are there currently?
Owner: I have 4
Interviewer: So accidentally I’ve been to 3 of the 4 (laugh). I was only supposed to come to two but my gps had other plans. So far this one seems to be the largest.
Owner: Yeah this one is the newest and the biggest one. The other ones don’t have a kitchen or anything, they’re just like an express. This one having the full kitchen and everything is a little different.
Interviewer: How old are you? You look pretty young.
Owner: I just turned 30 so I started when I was 23.
Interviewer: Nice! That’s pretty inspirational for a younger audience to know that they can do it too. Well that’s all I’ve got for today! Thank you
Phit Phuel has 4 locations in El Paso Texas:
Far Eastside: 2301 North Zaragoza Road, El Paso, Texas 79938, United States
Eastside: 1320 North Zaragoza Road, El Paso, Texas 79936, United States
Westside: 5380 North Mesa Street, El Paso, Texas 79912, United States
Northeast: 9840 Dyer Street, El Paso, Texas 79924, United States
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