National City market uses social media, delivery services to survive the pandemic

Family business improvises to keep its catering income coming in

Rodeos Meat Market and Catering

When the coronavirus pandemic started, Rodeo’s Meat Market on Highland Avenue in National City had to move its taco truck business inside the store as they could no longer provide catering services. Rodeo’s now offers tacos, burritos, tortas and other Mexican dishes from behind a counter. Photo by Vicky Pineda/City Times Media


To read this story in Spanish, click here.

Rodeo’s Meat Market and Catering stands out on Highland Avenue between an empty parking lot and a smog center. The business originally focused specifically on catering tacos and other Mexican cuisine.

When the pandemic hit and the state went into lockdown, family and group gatherings were prohibited. Catering had to be paused, according to assistant manager Alex Linares.

The small family-owned business started losing income. Rodeo’s Meat Market had to find other ways to keep the business going. Classified as a grocery store, it was able to remain open but had to shift from a taco truck to a restaurant inside the market.

The menu is now featured on one of the market’s blackboards on top of the counter, with “comida del dia” cleanly written next to the prices. Burritos, tortas and tacos are featured with asada, adobada and birria.

A single cook manned the grill side, dishing out the meat into rolls called bolillos or corn tortillas behind glass. She placed the food on a styrofoam tray and ladled a generous portion of green salsa on top of the meat.

“We just keep putting in work,” said Linares, chatting on a quiet Monday afternoon in the store. “We mostly improvised. We do taco trucks out here,” he added, pointing to a handful of small tables set up near the store’s register, “instead of going to people’s houses.”

The market also focused on making sure that people knew about the business. The owners signed up for Doordash and UberEats and used social media to promote the business.

“And so we’ve been getting a lot of people coming back and back because they love the food,” Linares said. “And they come back because they found out about this place through all the advertising that we’ve done.” 

When asked about what has been their biggest concern other than the finances, Linares said that the biggest challenge aside from not losing all of the income was making sure that none of the employees got infected with COVID-19. And it’s been especially hard since the business is family-owned and all the employees work in close contact with each other. 

This story is part of The Highland Avenue Project and the Democracy and the Informed Citizen Emerging Journalist Fellowship program.