Whoever came up with it for the first time, back in the sixteenth century, mixing flour, water, salt, frying the result and throwing sugar at it, had no idea what it had just created. The recipe is simple, the form that is given to the dough before frying depends on each craftsman and the result is one of the star products of our gastronomy: the churro or, rather, the churros because they rarely go alone. The traditional churrerías proliferated as responsible for preparing, processing and selling this mixture.
It is a business model with great travel and consolidation in our country, whether with street vendors – in markets and fairs – or with its own premises. The churrerías are present in a large part of the national geography. It is also a business model in which the self-employed are the majority. This is the case, for example, in Catalonia. Jorge Argiles, general secretary of Gremio Artesanos Churreros of Catalonia, affirms that based on the data of the "unionized percentage" that his autonomous association has "the majority are self-employed workers".
In addition, Argiles stresses that "unfortunately they are self-employed workers with an advanced age, who have been leading the churrería for more than 50 years.". This average age has become a real problem for the sector, as one of its biggest handicaps is "the lack of generational change in the activity". In the churrerías you have to work on weekends and "Today, children, new generations do not want to work those days. It is a problem that some bars and restaurants also live"
A complication that has led to the closure of many businesses. According to Argiles "in recent years they have been able to close many churreries due to a lack of continuity, not because of the lack of profitability of the business.
This is aggravated in the case of Barcelona because an ordinance of 1990 prevented the transfer of the business to a third party and could only be passed on to their children. Fortunately, for the sector in Barcelona this has changed with the ordinance of 2018 that allows the transfer of "the barrack" to third parties, without having to be a child, says the general secretary Gremio Artesanos Churreros de Cataluña. "We are in a period of transition in which, on the one hand, there are many churreros that should be retired and, on the other, new points of sale appear in the hands of companies."
Are the churrerías profitable?
Regarding the profitability of this type of business, Jorge Argiles, has recognized that it is a very ambiguous aspect since it depends a lot on the capacity of professional and of the place in which it is located. "It can not be quantified. It is not the same to have the van in a small town, as a place in Plaza Cataluña. But he recognizes that "as in all artisan sectors, families live. In addition, it is a sector that does not have many peaks, for example I am selling the same as last year. "
According to Argiles, churrerías are profitable for two main reasons: the cost of churro and the minimum investment required. "The kilo of flour is 0.70 or 0.80 cents, and the kilo of churros is sold at 10, 12 and 15 euros per kilo. And the professional does not need to make an excessive investment, just rent a place or a van, the machine to make churros and place a couple of shelves and four tables. "
Time is also a key factor in the activity of the churrerías becausen winter they can increase their consumption by 50% compared to summer. In winter, in major parties and at night-time of collection-the churro becomes the flagship product.
Which works best: the van or the local?
The smell of churros so characteristic is an element that is always repeated in the churrerías. Those that on the other hand do vary in one aspect: their form. There are different types, there are ambulant and there are in physical location. As for which of the two formats works best, the general secretary of Gremio Artesanos Churreros de Cataluña bets on the itinerant: "I think traditionally the churrería works better in a trailer, rather than in a store. "
Likewise, different types are distinguished in each category. In tow, on the one hand, you can find 'churrerías puras' or 'churrerías granja'. In the first one it is sold mainly churros, truncheons, donuts, etc., and in the second ones there is also another kind of pastries like Croissants. In the physical premises the same thing happens, there are those that sell churros and related products. And then there are the coffee shops and restaurants where churros are also sold.
Despite the fact that the churrería "defends itself better on the public highway because it has that romantic and artisan point", this churrero artisan recognizes that this model has had in recent years a series of disadvantages because "it has been very torpedoed by the policies of the Administration, they wanted to desert the public road so that this type of business would go to the premises and be more regularized"
The churro, international and digitized
The digitization is coming to the sector, but the thing is going little by little. "It is a very artisan sector and we are adapting at a lower speed than other activities to digitalization. However, here in Barcelona, that is what is happening with the orders on-line and home delivery. You can also see the digitalization in the improvement of the machines ".
What has worked, and very well in the sector, is internalization. The churro is international and in recent years shops have opened in different countries such as Germany, Italy, China, etc. But it is also that many churros are being exported. Also, Argiles emphasizes, this success is also seen in the streets because in the tourist areas "the churrerías sell a lot".