Consumer protection laws were written to do one thing: to protect the rights of consumers. These are laws that give consumers the right to a refund, or protect them from fraud. Yet the most grave attack on consumers in recent years is one that isn’t protected by them. And this was the decision of Guzman Y Gomez to abolish its self-serve salsa stations.
In the late 2010s, when Guzman Y Gomezes began to flourish across the country, one of their most beloved qualities was their self-serve salsa stations, where we — the unwashed masses — were entrusted with the right to decide which salsas and condiments we would add to our meals, and the manner in which we added them.
Maybe you liked to drizzle their classic Guzman Smokey Chipotle salsa over your enchilada’s corn chips, or perhaps you preferred to pour a puddle of habanero salsa in the corner of your burrito bowl. For many — myself included — it was a special experience, one that provided a small sense of freedom in a world that’s becoming increasingly authoritarian.
In 2020, the Guzman Y Gomez self-serve salsa stations were abolished. This was ostensibly done in the name of protecting people from COVID-19 in the midst of a global pandemic. But what about protecting people from receiving inadequate servings of salsa? And if it was truly about the pandemic, why haven’t they reinstituted them in the months since restrictions have been lifted? I decided to ask Guzman Y Gomez themselves.
“GYG removed our salsa stations during covid and since then we decided not to return them in their existing form of being available in an open format as there are still some health concerns around multiple hands touching the station,” a Guzman Y Gomez spokesperson told Honi in an exclusive interview over email.
“However, the salsa station items are still available for guests to order free of charge in restaurant. We also found during covid, our app gained a LOT of new guests and the vast majority of guests have salsa station items added to their meals in their order which is a better culinary outcome.”
If you think this is a legitimate reason to do away with self-serve salsa stations, then I’ll wrap you in a tortilla and call you a spicy ground beef burrito, because quite frankly — you’re full of it.
Let me begin by stating I am opposed to and offended by the insinuation that the patrons of Guzman Y Gomez — regular people like you and me — are somehow so squalid that our shared use of a self-serve salsa station poses “some health concerns”. I believe that everyone who goes to a Guzman Y Gomez restaurant maintains proper hand hygiene and a high standard of cleanliness. I think I speak on behalf of all of us when I say that.
The argument that ordering the salsa online results in a “better culinary outcome” is about as flimsy as the eponymous bowl that features in the famed Guzman Y Gomez burrito bowl. The freedom to salsa one’s own meal is stripped from the individual and put in the hands of an unelected bureaucrat. So what happens when they don’t add my salsa just the way I like it? And even if they give me a little bowl with my chosen sauce in it, it’s not like I go back up and ask for more. I’d feel like a little piggy, going for seconds at my little trough.
So what of the quiet Australians, who aren’t assertive enough to send the meal back and ask for it to be re-salsa-ed? What of the people who don’t want to bother said bureaucrat, because said bureaucrat is probably overworked and not paid enough to accommodate every customer’s salsa related whim? These are the questions that need to be answered.
It’s clear. Australia deserves to have its self-serve salsa stations back.
After all, it is not as though Guzman Y Gomez cannot afford to reestablish self-serve salsa stations. Make no mistake — Guzmanomics is working. The franchise is projected to reach an annual revenue of $1 billion by 2025, a feat which, in part, can be attributed to their Guzflation of prices. Everyday Aussies like myself will no doubt have noticed that the minimum in-store price of a regular burrito has skyrocketed from $9.90 to $13.70. One would think that we, as loyal consumers, deserve a piece of the success that we helped propel them to. A piece that is shaped as a self-serve salsa station.
Will we be allowed the freedom to decide how to decorate our tacos, our nachos, or our quesadillas? Or will self-serve salsa stations remain a relic of the pre-pandemic world? That’ll be up to Guzman and/or Gomez to decide.