Puerto Rican restaurant El Cilantrillo will open 3rd location in ’21 despite pandemic
Orlando, FL — Challenges like the COVID-19 pandemic has not prevented the expansion plans of El Cilantrillo restaurant, with a third location expected to open early in February in Orlando, this media outlet confirmed.
Hiram Turull, owner and founder of El Cilantrillo Restaurant Inc., with two locations in Kissimmee and Orlando, announced his plans to open the third eatery in Central Florida in response to the increase in clientele looking for Puerto Rican fare and the growing population in the region.
“We’re working around the clock. This opening was in our plans, but the pandemic has affected us and accelerated our plans as well and we will open in February 2021,” said Turull.
The new restaurant is close to The Florida Mall in Orlando and entailed an investment of $250,000. It is expected to create 80 new jobs in the area, including managers, servers, and kitchen staff, he said.
The strategic location is vital in its expansion plans due to the great demand of tourists and residents who come to the area to shop in Orlando, said Turull, a Puerto Rican banker, who for 28 years climbed management positions, including a period as vice president at Banco Popular.
The 6,000+ square foot venue will have about 250-275 chairs. And the site will be decorated with a mural by Puerto Rican artist Tito Aguayo with landscapes typical of the Island of Enchantment. The ambiance will also feature the typical sound of the Puerto Rican coquí and live music on select days to liven up the family-friendly eatery.
Turull founded El Cilantrillo with his wife Dianne Turull, who carries the gastronomy gene in her blood since her father owns a restaurant in the mountains of Ciales, which he described as a family business, where their five children work.
“We want people to feel like being at home,” is part of the message of these two Puerto Ricans entrepreneurs who work at the restaurants, taking care of the details, and welcoming guests.
“We distinguish ourselves for being a family business, it is a healthy and safe environment and above all for the quality of the food,” said Turull.
It all started in 2017
El Cilantrillo opened its first restaurant in Kissimmee in 2017 and it’s well known for its typical Puerto Rican food in big portions to share. Each restaurant has 30 employees.
The Puerto Rican cuisine food in big portions includes dishes like: “El Afrentao;” “El Dos Varas;” “El Parrandón;” stuffed mofongos; sorullitos de maíz; carne frita; chicharrón de pollo; fried plantains; “arroz cilantro;” and others.
In February 2020, the entrepreneurs opened their second location in Orlando, close to the Orlando International Airport, with a big grand opening but Turull never imagined the challenges to confront with the pandemic in March, he said.
As a result, Turull had to close the restaurant for nearly a month, but then worked on a strategy to serve customers and offer curbside pick-up and partner with food delivery services to adapt to the new reality, he said.
“As a banker, I know a business must have a solid foundation and good teamwork, it’s the key to stay in business despite the crisis that’s in the way. In this case, the pandemic was an economic crisis for small business,” said the business owner, adding that the recovery assistance for business due to COVID-19 also helped them move forward.
“Let your instincts and your entrepreneurial skills lead you, obstacles are a mental challenge,” he said.
Aside from his tenure at Banco Popular in Orlando, he also worked as a vice president for TD Bank in Kissimmee. Turull was chairman of the Hispanic Council of Kissimmee/Osceola County Chamber of Commerce, and director of the Board of the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce Metro Orlando.
“We have done a good job and now we’re doing delivery orders and managing the new normal, adapting the protocols in restaurants to social distancing, and we’ve been able to handle the pandemic,” he said.
Each restaurant has been designed to have a Puerto Rican style with the flag, portraits of legends, artists, painted mural, and more to feel the essence and taste of the island in Florida.
“People are looking for [un cantito de la isla] to have a moment of that experience of enjoying a good meal, their beer, in this case, we have a sangria, Medalla, the atmosphere, the music to share with their family and friends. This is a meeting point that helps them feel as if they were on the island,” he said, noting that the restaurants welcome tourists and residents from around the world.
“People from all nationalities come here. We indeed have a large Puerto Rican clientele that heads the list, but we get visitors from Canada, Venezuela, Colombia, and many countries,” Turull said, adding his staff is also diverse, with people from Puerto Rico, Venezuelan, Cuban, and the Dominican Republic on the payroll.