Caroline and Alfonso’s recipe for success

WHAT started off as “an adventure” dreamt up while travelling the world has developed into one of the county’s most popular family run businesses.
Alfonso and Caroline Flores are the husband and wife team behind Fermanagh’s first Mexican restaurant, Taco Loco. The eatery is the perfect marriage between Alfonso’s love of cooking, inherited from his late mother, and local charm, with Caroline (nee McPhillips) hailing from Lisbellaw.
First opened in December 2013 in Enniskillen, the couple said they came up with the idea as “an adventure”, while they were travelling some years back.
Realising much of what was on offer as Mexican here was actually Tex Mex, Alfonso said they decided to “just go for it.”
Having begun with a van selling ‘street food’ at concerts, shows and other events, the couple’s first big challenge when they opened the doors on Belmore Street, then located at the other end of the street from its current location, was winning over local taste buds.
For example, people here wrongly assumed Mexican food was “too spicy.”
“People are so used to their spuds and Sunday dinner,” joked Mexican native Alfonso.
It was a challenge the couple comfortably met, though, and aside from occasional requests for mayonnaise or people confusing avocado with mushy peas, the people of Fermanagh have welcomed the Mexican addition to the local pallet.
The age group of their customer base has also evolved, and while Taco Loco’s healthy, fresh fare is still popular with a ‘younger’ group, the eatery also counts groups of friends in their 70s and 80s among their regulars.
Although, there hasn’t been much socialising lately, given the turbulent year Taco Loco and all businesses have endure over the past year of the pandemic.
Having closed at the start of the fist lockdown, reopened last summer, closed to all but takeaway in the run up to Christmas, and then closing again for the first three months of the year, it’s been what Caroline called “a roller coaster” of a year.
“In the long run, we’ve probably been open for six months out of the last year, of the past 12,” said Alfonso.
“Most recently, we were closed from Christmas Eve all the way to Easter Monday.”
However, the couple they were very grateful for the government support they had received, such as with the furlough scheme, which they said had been a big help in coping.
Also, Caroline pointed out the couple were aware it could be worse, comparing the support here to that given to businesses in Mexico.
“When you compare and you see businesses over there compared to what we have, we’re really lucky as they have no support over there at all,” she said.

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