Through its latest promotion, Jamaican-Mexican fusion restaurant Chilitos joins a growing number of companies incentivising citizens to get vaccinated against the coronavirus (COVID-19).
Chilitos, as of Wednesday, October 6, has introduced free items and/or discounted meals for ‘vaxxed’ Jamaicans.
Natalie Nash, the chief brand officer at Chilitos JaMexican, responding to questions from Our Today on Friday (October 8), explained that the incentive is the perfect way to close out the last quarter of 2021 and will run until the end of the year.
“Every Wednesday, starting October 6th and running until the end of 2021, we will offer a special discount or free item, redeemable by presenting your vaccine card and ID. For our first special, we gave away one free lime margarita with the purchase of an entree. You may only redeem once per Wednesday, however, you can redeem every single Wednesday,” she told Our Today.
The promotional deal applies to only fully vaccinated persons, locally or internationally, she explained. It does not apply to delivered meals from Chilitos, however, plans to develop a system to expedite the promotion’s incorporation remotely are being considered.
“It is open to fully vaccinated people, first and second dose, or single jab, depending on the vaccine. We accept your vaccine card in the form of a photo or certified photocopy, as we know some people are concerned about travelling with the card. We also accept international vaccine cards, we only ask that our customers give us a few minutes to run checks to identify it. We are currently only redeemable for FULL vaccination, but this is why we are running it until the end of the year. Vaccination can be a journey, and we want as many people to benefit as possible,” Nash said.
“We need you to come in to verify your vaccination card and ID, [but] we are hoping that we may be able to develop a system to facilitate delivery down the road,” she added.
In the flyer posted to Twitter, the company spoke about needing to play its part to help “everyone get vaccinated and get back to life”.
Asked what that meant for the popular Hope Road eatery, Nash elaborated: “Part of what makes Chilitos, Chilitos, is the vibe. Built into our brand values is the idea that we will always be a safe space for all different people to gather. Chilitos hasn’t been Chilitos in a very long time. For us, getting back to life is getting back to a Chilitos of gathered friends and family sharing laughter and food.”
Though expressing gratitude that Chilitos has managed to stay afloat amid the crushing impact of the COVID-19 pandemic in Jamaica, Nash admitted that the current business climate has been tough.
“While we are VERY grateful to have the opportunity to remain open it has been extremely challenging on the business and team members. The constant changes have impacted every aspect of the business ranging from cash flow and supply chain management to team members struggling to keep up with the changing needs of the business,” Nash told Our Today.
“The mental fatigue related to the constant fight to adapt your business and fight for survival cannot be overstated. Ultimately we all want the same thing, the end of the pandemic. However, as that still may be some time off, I hope we can find more balance between just surviving and moving more to thriving,” she contended further.
Even while celebrating the vaccination status of its customers, Chilitos is not placing itself on a pedestal. The restaurant acknowledged that the reality being faced across Jamaica is a reality impacting its own operations.
While the country has only vaccinated 10 per cent of its people up to now, Chilitos’ staff vaccination rate is marginally better at 20 per cent, and the company is doing all it can to get levels higher.
Unlike other Jamaican entities, Chilitos disclosed, however, that it will not be looking to impose a vaccine mandate.
“We think Chilitos is very representative of the reality of Jamaica, about 20 per cent of our staff is vaccinated. After the initial uptake, the pace of vaccination slowed. We have introduced a staff vaccine incentive program, giving the team two paid days off after being vaccinated, in addition to the planning and execution of town hall-style discussions, as an opportunity to air concerns and share information. To this end, we are seeing a slow but steady increase in vaccine uptake amongst our staff,” she said.
“No, we have no plans to make it mandatory at this time. We have followed along so far with the government’s regulations and we will continue to do so,” the Chilitos chief brand officer told Our Today.
With that in mind, Nash had one final message to the nation, which spoke specifically to the seemingly rampant apprehension towards getting vaccinated.
“Hesitancy of any kind in a time of unprecedented change is to be expected. This is a complex problem and the conversations around how to solve it are difficult. Difficult conversations, however, do not have to be adversarial,” she asserted.
“Solutions are found in shared understanding and shared spaces and we have always been proud of creating the kind of environment that brings people from many different perspectives together to share a space. For us, our message is our lived reality,” Nash added.