Hit hard financially by the Coronavirus pandemic and devastated by the unexpected loss of their founder and father, El Cantarito, a family owned restaurant in Placentia, is matching donations and delivering food to front line workers.

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Less than a week before businesses were shut down in Orange County, Javier Miranda the owner of El Cantarito passed away of a heart attack leaving the business he started from the ground up in 2002 to his sons after immigrating from Mexico and working his way up in the restaurant business.

“At that point, as a family, as a team, we were going through a lot of things personally,” said Francisco Miranda, Javier’s son and part owner of the restaurant with his brother Eric. “Our whole dynamic of doing business completely changed at that point where there were some people that I had to let them know that we didn’t have work at the time.”

Francisco said that because of the pandemic they were unable to hold a church ceremony for their father and with no dine in customers, sales plummeted in the first few days. He said in the first two weeks they lost 70 percent of their sales.

To rustle up more business the family took to social media and began offering free delivery. That’s when the first call came in to make a donation. 

Customers called in to order meals and have them delivered to first responders. Even though the business was struggling financially Francisco and his family began to match those donations.

“People are calling to make donations and we’re over here, we have somewhere to stay, we have something to eat and we can still donate in a time like this. We can still help other people.

That’s kind of where it started to stem from is that people in our community were calling buying food for other people,” Francisco said.

The restaurant delivered their first meals to the Placentia Police Department and posted about it online. That’s when even more people began to phone in to donate meals.

Andre Morillon, a long time patron of El Cantarito and close friend of Francisco and the family, made several meal donations with the restaurant.

“I saw on social media, from the El Cantarito social media, as well as his personal social media that he had posted that they were going to be matching whatever donation anyone wanted to do,” Morillon said. “I  reached out to have some food delivered to my parents house because we were having dinner there and then he came by and we kind of talked and then he explained everything. I did my first donation at that moment.”

The restaurant has donated over $6,000 worth of food to hospitals, police departments, fire departments and other locations, according to the owners. El Cantarito has since reopened their doors for dine in sitting but they plan on continuing the donations. Those who wish to donate can do so by calling the restaurant during business hours at (714) 528-6090.

For Francisco, the motivation to give back to the community is his father.

“Even with all this going on we’re still very lucky to be where we are. We’ve dealt through a lot of hardships throughout the years and we’re still here and it’s something that my dad left with us. He taught us that there is always more that can be done,” he said.

Morillon said Francisco’s father would be super happy and proud that the restaurant is giving back and helping out the community.

“I know that he used to do something similar to that. At high school in Anaheim, I remember a couple times that he would help us in terms of providing some meals to donate to be able to get some money for the sports,” Morillon said. 

Francisco said it is times like these that people need their community more than ever.

“People need to come together and help others if they can and sometimes even if you feel like you’re in a spot where you’ve been dealt with a lot or you’re going through a lot of things, sometimes even in those moments, you can still be of help to someone else.”

Hosam Elattar is a Voice of OC Reporting Fellow. Contact him @helattar@voiceofoc.org or on Twitter @ElattarHosam. 

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