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Chicago restaurateur prepares Savory Crust empanada concept to take flight at airports

Geri Guidote Hernandez is capitalizing on pre-pandemic shifts to takeout and delivery only


As Geri Guidote Hernandez was battling breast cancer five years ago, she would endure six-hour chemotherapy sessions with her sister by her side, talking about food.

That conversation turned into “what if we opened a restaurant?” And thinking about what type of restaurant led the two sisters to empanadas, a versatile family favorite well loved in their Filipino community but also more broadly.

Now cancer-free, Hernandez co-founded Savory Crust in 2017, offering a selection of baked pastries with savory and sweet fillings, and various sauces. Guests have the option of buying them cooked or taking unbaked empanadas to cook at home.

The menu includes the more traditional options, like Argentinian beef or chicken pot pie, but also more exotic limited-time offers, like bacon brie and fig; Philly cheesesteak; or crab cake empanadas.

In what proved to be a smart move before the pandemic hit, the sisters shifted to a takeout format with self-serve kiosks.  That allowed them to add new virtual brands for takeout and delivery, including the concept Mahal Kita, which means “I love you” in Tagalog, featuring Filipino favorites like oxtail and beef shank stews and achara (a green papaya relish).

Later Hernandez added a second location to allow more room for production. That move allowed the sisters to also add another virtual brand: a wings concept called Wingology.

Now Hernandez is working to bring their empanadas to airports. As a female- and minority-owned business, Savory Crust has also certified as an Airport Concessions Disadvantaged Business Enterprise.

Not only would the convenient hand-held pastries work well for in-flight dining, she envisions a concept that would allow travelers to order their meals online while landing, for easy to-go pickup before they leave the airport and return home.

Hernandez said she believes “good things can be born out of the darkest times and against all odds, and that the only way out is through.”

Hear Hernandez’ story.

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