The owner of Pupuseria Sabor Latino remains dedicated to her staff, even if that means taking a huge pay cut
The staff that helped Elisseth Amaya open her first restaurant has so far weathered the many storms of COVID-19.
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Elisseth Amaya has owned her own business for only five years, and COVID-19 has put her in the toughest spot of her early business career.
“We are in a terrible condition right now, I am scared because my staff needs money [and] sometimes we make only $200 a day,” she said.
Amaya is the owner and chef at Pupuseria Sabor Latino, which first started as a food truck.
She was determined from the get-go, and eventually saved up enough money to open a restaurant of her own four years ago on the corner of Castor and Hunting Park Ave.
She runs it alongside her husband.
“It took a little while, but we opened up our own spot and we were very proud of that,” Amaya said.
At the beginning of last year, things were looking even more up as she opened a second location along Cottman Ave.
But as the pandemic took hold of the city and world, she’s found herself stuck between a rock and a hard place. The staff that helped her open her own restaurant have been in jeopardy of losing their jobs, but Amaya wasn’t letting them go that easy.
“I wanted to keep my staff because it wasn’t fair to them. They have a family, they have children to feed,” Amaya explained.
On top of that, she knew in her heart that her staff comes first. Without worrying about herself, she kept their hours the same.
“They have the same hours, they don’t lose money and they don’t have to file for unemployment. I did not want them to be stressed out,” she said.
Amaya, who was born and raised in El Salvador, is devoted to keeping her restaurant simple, with only Salvadoran meals, which include pupusas, the national dish of her country. They are a thick pocket of dough made with cornmeal or rice flour, usually stuffed with cheese, refried beans, or ground pork.
“I like to keep the menu small, our menu is mostly Salvadoran, with some Honduran influences, like Pollo con tajadas,” she said.
Since the pandemic occurred in March, Amaya has been hesitant to apply for grants or loans such as PPP loans that the state had to offer.
“I didn’t trust what they were giving to small businesses, I was told that they will take the money out of our taxes, so I didn’t apply, I just pay everything out of my own pocket,” she said.
Amaya has instead relied on take-out and hope for when the city allows her to reopen.
Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney announced on Jan. 12, that Philadelphia restaurants will be able to open indoor dining up to 25% capacity on Jan.16.
Amaya said she was excited to open her doors, but doesn’t think it is enough.
“25% is nothing, I am excited to see my old customers, but I don’t think that business will go up,” she said.
When it comes to take-out, Amaya and her husband have had to pay fees from UberEats, and GrubHub, which make up 30% of their online purchases.
“These corporations don’t do anything, we cook the food and package it, but they charge us a lot. That’s not good, all they do is collect our money,” Amaya said.
Despite the rough year, Amaya is looking forward to the new one with hope of what it has to offer, with her devoted staff in tow.
Be sure to check out Pupuseria Sabor Latino’s menu and order their delicious food to keep them busy!