DC Stories: Peruvian Brothers
The food industry was certainly one of the hardest hit by the pandemic, but Peruvian Brothers managed to turn challenges into opportunity.
Founded by brothers Giuseppe and Mario Lanzone, Peruvian Brothers is an ode to their heritage and a way to share the foods they missed most from Lima with the District. Peruvian Brothers operates out of multiple food trucks, as well as two newly opened brick and mortar locations at La Cosecha Latin Market in Union Market and The Stand Water Park at National Landing.
Washington DC Economic Partnership (WDCEP): How has the pandemic shifted or impacted your operations?
Peruvian Brothers (PB): When the pandemic hit, our number one priority was the health and safety of our employees and their families. Peruvian Brothers would not be what it is without them⎯so we took time to figure out how to keep our team strong and give back to their families by sending them groceries, supplies, and whatever else we could. After several weeks of deliberation, we realized that the constraints of the pandemic gave us an opportunity to succeed in something different.
We asked ourselves: how can we ensure that our customers are still enjoying our food without having to dine-in with us? Next, we thought about what would make it possible for our customers to continue gathering and sharing our food in a (safe) way that evokes the community we aim to cultivate through Peruvian Brothers? With this in mind, we developed DIY Peruvian meal kits with virtual cooking classes, Peruvian style picnics, and Peruvian cocktail packs (think: Pisco Sour slushies- that people could order and easily enjoy either in their homes or responsibly outdoors. This was all in addition to our usual (and quite popular) empanada trays and sandwiches that we do—we’re quite excited about this new direction of curating experiences through food!
WDCEP: How has the District’s sense of community inspired you?
PB: The catering leg of Peruvian Brothers revealed itself to be a quick way to pivot and scale our pandemic operations, especially as in-person events were cancelled. With the production groundwork and a strong team already in place, we began asking ourselves: what can we do to help? That’s when all the pieces came together. We saw a chance to help feed and fuel our city’s first responders as they worked tirelessly around the clock.
We started our GoFundMe campaign (“Peruvian Brothers Feeds First Responders”) at the beginning of April, and we were blown away with the generosity and support of people eager to pitch in. Each $10 raised allowed us to prepare and deliver a meal to a healthcare worker on the frontlines of the pandemic. As the campaign grew, we partnered with local organizations to coordinate production and delivery like World Central Kitchen, Eden, and Twenty Tables. Over the course of the past several months, we’ve provided over 2,000 meals to hospital workers across the city. This initiative allowed us to keep on our entire team, as well as hire four additional staff from the industry who were laid-off—so we see it as a success!
WDCEP: Are there any new projects unfolding for Peruvian Brothers?
PB: With the stay at home order in effect, we saw a shift in food truck demand. With the downtown corridor becoming less active, we changed our food truck route. We began circulating around high density residential neighborhoods across the river, like Rosslyn and Alexandria. We noticed people spending more time outdoors on trails along the river to change up their environment. Having spent time outdoors in this area ourselves, we thought, “hm… wouldn’t it be great to have food options nearby?”
So, we began talks with JBG Smith about occupying a particular stand that they own in Crystal City. They were very accommodating and helpful in us opening our new stand. The location is perfect. It’s right near the water, where many people go for walks. Now, they easily grab a quick bite from our simple but satisfying menu. Opening another location during the pandemic was something we never thought we’d do, but it worked out seamlessly.
We also recently helped donate 40,000 pounds of Avocados from Peru with Giant to the Capital Area Food Bank and Maryland Food Bank. As brand ambassadors for Avocados from Peru, we’re just getting started when it comes to promoting these delicious super foods!
WDCEP: What has been a guiding light that’s helping you and your team to keep moving forward?
PB: Honestly, with the 80 plus hour work weeks this pandemic has felt like a marathon. Basically, we have just been grinding without rest—it’s just like when you’re swimming! We’ve been swimming hard, only pulling our heads up occasionally to evaluate our direction and where we’re going… to take stock of what’s been working or where we need to redirect our energy and resources. Honestly, to succeed in the restaurant and service industry, you really must love it… and we really mean all of it because it’s not always going to be fair weather.
Mario Lanzone Co-Founder & Executive Chef, Peruvian Brothers
Giuseppe Lanzone Co-Founder & CEO, Peruvian Brothers