Lorena Cantarovici personally apologized in an email to her Maria Empanada customers this week for some empanadas that she was not proud of, and for higher prices that had begun to spiral out of control.
The email, which Cantarovici sent on Tuesday, detailed how the 12-year-old business has struggled since the pandemic. “Our costs went through the roof and because our empanadas are made by hand and extremely labor intensive,” she wrote. As a result, “we were forced to raise our prices … Way higher than we ever wanted.”
To minimize those labor costs, the restaurant purchased equipment to help seal the empanadas, which had always been done by hand. But because Maria Empanada’s dough was too light for the equipment, she was forced to change the recipe for a thicker consistency.
The result: “Instead of a soft, pillowy bite, it ate more like a cracker,” she said. “Perhaps you visited us during this short timeframe where our empanada and its price did not reflect the experience that you were accustomed to. This episode did not show our Buena Onda that we speak about so much and aim to live by. I want to personally give you my apology.”
In an interview this week with The Denver Post, Cantarovici said, “Even if it’s a day, week, month or a year, if a product we’re serving for any period of time doesn’t live up to my standards, I need to ask for an apology from whoever ate that product.
“You can make mistakes as a business owner, and it’s important to communicate that to your customers. We’re all human, and sometimes you just don’t hear businesses saying sorry enough,” she added.
Once Cantarovici realized she had made a mistake — in part, because of customer comments — she removed the new equipment and changed the recipe back to the original.
But that required a new solution that Cantarovici is hoping will work instead. Her empanada-making process was so labor intensive because each flavor of empanada had a different shape, something that helped tell them apart. Now, they will all have the same shape: a rising sun, the same as the restaurant’s logo. To keep things straight, she is using edible ink to write the name of each flavor on the empanadas, so customers can differentiate them in a takeout box.
She also eliminated the surcharges that had been added on certain flavors and reduced prices from $6 back down to $4.95 each. Empanadas “should be an easy and affordable” meal, she said.
Cantarovici, a native of Argentina, opened her first Maria Empanada, at 1298 S. Broadway, in 2011. She now has additional locations at 1700 Platte St. in Denver and in the Stanley Marketplace in Aurora.
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