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Boloco Mystery Solved! Pepper Speaks...

 
Our good friendron_newman” wrote a post yesterday entitled:  “Boloco for sale?  Anyone know more?” 
 
Ron.  I do.  And you knew I’d eventually get on here when I had a few minutes to spare.
 
First, let’s clear the air: Boloco at Davis is for sale.  But before we call CNN, let’s have some fun with this, if we can (go get a cup of coffee at Diesel before you read further… it’s long, but only because i had 95 posts to respond to)
 
First, as you all know, this Boloco restaurant that opened last February to great fanfare (not) never did behave like Sea Biscuit or the Little Engine that Could as we had hoped. From the moment we first announced we were taking over O’Naturals, there was an “aw shucks” attitude about the fact that it was Boloco and not something else. Since we were the kids growing up who always got picked on but somehow made it through in the end, we thought this Boloco of ours could do the same. Not so, it seems, at least not yet. 
 
Depending on who you are, however, the good news is that unlike when we put homes up for sale, putting a restaurant up for sale doesn’t necessarily mean we’re leaving.  It simply means that we have to explore options – in the event that things don’t improve and the real ugliness begins (which thankfully we’ve never endured in our 11 years).
 
In fact, we’d love to change our mind.  But for us to change our mind, it means that the Davis Square community (that’s you!) needs to also change its mind about Boloco.  And from what we’ve read and heard, too many residents simply don’t think that Boloco is worth the extra few hundred yards required to get there versus the other options.  Being one myself who scoffs at walking an extra block for nearly anything, I understand that sentiment all too well. 
 
All that said, I thought I’d do something a little different today.  Given the time you’ve all spent commenting, hypothesizing, praising, jabbing, and questioning, the least I can do is take a little time out of my day to respond to each of you.  There are many things we know we’ve done poorly at the Davis Boloco and for the most part those are stated quite accurately throughout this and other blogs… and of course there are other things claimed in various blogs, including this one, that aren’t accurate.  I’ll try to set the record straight (from my humble perspective, of course) on a number of the comments you all made:
 
 
 “lakelare” (and others in similar words) wrote: “I almost never go to Boloco because their real problem (as people have said) is that they're in a bad location”.
 
The location is admittedly tough… too far from either Porter or Davis to win the convenience game.  We thought we could overcome it, of course.  So far, we’ve been proven wrong.
 
sea_aye_vee” wrote: “The one most awesome thing that Boloco does that Anna's does not is their burrito card.” 
 
Sea-aye-vee is right… don’t stall… go get a Boloco card immed.
 
an_art_worker” wrote: “It's the acoustics, stupid... “
 
Of all of the things written, Art Worker may have hit the nail closest to the head. The acoustics suck. And all of his/her suggestions are right on. Only issue is the $$ it takes to get that done… the minute we think we can make it in Davis for the long haul, we’ll call the sound gurus (again!)…
 
beezy515” wrote: “That space is way too large for any kind of fast food business, especially with a full-size basement below.” 
 
Tons of fast-food businesses do well in a space this size, us included.  The problem is how we designed the space… it’s far too sparse and needs to be warmed up so it doesn’t feel quite so big.  If we earn the right to stay, you can bet we’ll work on that.
 
chaiya” wrote: “Boloco is head & shoulders above any Qdoba or Chipotle or other such chain.“. 
 
THANK YOU!  Send me your Boloco Card # and i'll pop a freebie on there!  Flattery will get you everywhere (especially in this crowd!)
 
tut21” wrote: “Maybe a monorail from Davis to Porter would help.”
 
I LOVE that idea! In fact, I was inspired only a few weeks ago when I went to Beijing to meet with (hold your breath) Matt Carberry who still owns our building and is our landlord and whose help would go a long way in allowing us to stay. I had never met Matt (who many of you likely know) but he and I met for nearly 2 hours in his new adopted hometown and while the Boloco in Davis Square ended up only being a fraction of our conversation, he was very supportive and agreed to consider a proposal from us. How is this related to Monorails? Well… in the cab from the airport to downtown Beijing they were just completing a monorail that paralleled the highway and frankly it was beautiful. I wish we could combine modern public transportation with beautiful architecture as well here in the US.
 
 
We’ve never had more people jamming our Boloco restaurants than the 2 years since we changed to Boloco.  Even Northeastern which had a Qdoba open across the street continues to grow quickly and consistently.  In Harvard where we have Felipe’s and Qdoba and soon-to-open Chipotle flanking us again in superior locations with more seats and the like, we do extremely well and enjoy the company of hundreds of daily customers who choose to visit us despite other options.  Yes… Davis is a headscratcher when put in this light.
 
mamajoan described ours as “yuppie burritos”. 
 
Another calls them “courageous burritos.” We happened to choose “inspired burritos”.  Either way, they are “irregular burritos”… meaning, they are just different!  In some parts, trying to be different is looked at as a good thing! 
 
clevernonsense” wrote: “it's too bad Anna's can't hold a candle to Anna's from 5+ years ago.” 
 
As a customer of Anna’s since ’96, I assure you Anna's hasn't changed.  I find that the older I get, the more variety I want, and on that need Anna's does not deliver.  I still visit Anna’s, but not nearly as often.
 
Icecreamexpress” wrote: “There are maybe six parking spots in the back.” 
 
I think we have 8 parking spaces out back.  Please use them.  Though it seems the metered spots are open most of the time, and i can't remember the last time i saw a meter maid give a ticket in front of Boloco Davis.
 
0uroborus” wrote: “I wasn't aware of Bolocco having a finished basement with a cafeteria style thing going on in the basement.”
 
We do have a basement the same size as the restaurant… we use it for storage, nothing else.  It’s very uninspiring (unless you like big spaces that are even emptier than upstairs!)
 
Pearlythebunny” wrote “Boloco is open 8 A.M. to 10 P.M., seven days a week”. 
 
True, those are our hours. 
 
But then “teko” wrote: “closing at 6 on a Sunday is odd”
 
Last Sunday, we did close all 13 restaurants at 6pm to celebrate the New Year with our teams and their families… a VERY big bowling tournament at King’s in Boston between all of the teams. (There should have been a sign on both doors explaining this… if there wasn’t that was a mistake on our part.). 
 
And then “teko” added: “The food's always been worth the price, the Boloco card works well (except when my free burritos disappear, that's always confusing), and the staff is decently friendly and consistent.” 
 
Some of our promotions on the Boloco Card are for limited time only… move quickly, and you win.  Other events don’t “expire” (in fact, send me your Boloco Card # and I’ll load on a freeobie that won’t disappear… just for fun)
 
sea_aye_vee”  wrote “Chipotle just opened. Its hardly to blame.”
 
True - Chipotle’s opening did not affect us.  In fact, we’ve seen an uptick in daily customers since mid October.  For the record, I like Chipotle for many reasons, but I like the taste of Anna’s more.  And for those of you concerned about Anna’s welfare now that Chipotle has arrived, you have nothing to worry about.  Often while there are 3 people in Chipotle, you’ll see 30+ in Anna’s.  (If Chipotle didn't have nearly 700 other locations and a few hundred mill in the bank, i'd worry about Chipotle) 
 
 “cityofbeige” wrote: "Plus they're quite small for $5."
We wrap our burritos tight.  No joke – real tight.  If you tried to carry a Chipotle burrito and eat as you walked (or drove), well, good luck.  Anna’s, you’re a little better off, but not much.  At Boloco, you could toss it to Randy Moss and it would be intact.  We pack 20oz plus (same as the others believe it or not) into the same size tortilla and you can stuff it in your backpack if you’re careful.  The regular size is smaller (about 14-16oz), and for dietary and budget reasons most people actually order that size, but for $6 you get the jam-packed bundle with high quality ingredients, naturally-raised meats, and flavors that please thousands.
 
“alphacygni” wrote:  “They (Boloco) just came to the conclusion that the term wrap had developed a bad reputation. Using the term burrito seems like a mistake to me. It's about as useful as calling them helicopters.”
 
I’ll have to figure out the helicopter thing over the weekend, but in the meantime, I’ll give you my insight on the whole wraps vs. burritos debate.  We simply found that our menu was far more similar to burritos than wraps in the eyes of the hundreds of people we spoke to over which helped us make the decision to re-position ourselves.  Wraps were often thought of as “sandwiches” (as “cityofbeige” mentioned), “deli meats and mayo mustard”, “sprouts”, “cold cuts”, and in general, a slight twist on a standard sandwich.  While some people clearly still think of anything other than Mexican ingredients in a tortilla as wraps, many more understand that hot, fresh grilled meats and vegetables wrapped in a tortilla can also be considered a burrito of sorts without violating too many sacred rules of food categorization.  While I respect all of you for your opinions (as I hope you by now know), there is one thing that anyone who knows me personally will vouch for… and that is that I probably like Traditional Mexican Burritos more than any other person in the world, and with that passion means that I may have eaten at more taquerias, wrap joints, and everything in between than any other person on the planet.  While I may be one of the Boloco guys, I love my traditional burritos as much as or more than the next guy.  Just keep that in mind…
 
alphacygni wrote: “I am a regular at one of their financial district locations for lunch. I hope that bad goings on at Davis will not cause a problem for my Boloco.” 
 
You have no worries about any of the other Bolocos - in fact, we've never seen longer lines (that move fast as I hope you will agree!)... and I thank you for being a regular downtown.
 
 
mamajoan wrote: “hope that bad luck for the Davis Boloco won't mean bad things for "my" Boloco in Harvard Square.”
 
Ditto.
 
Let’s get serious… this may be the only one where I push back a bit...Anna’s and Boloco aren’t even in the same league when it comes to quality of ingredients. That doesn’t mean you can’t like one burrito more than the other, but taste preference does not necessarily indicate the quality of ingredients being used.
 
If someone values a Boloco burrito more than an Anna’s burrito, AND they use the Card as it is supposed to be used, they’ll end up, in all likelihood, paying no more than they do at Anna’s. But even if they paid more for truly better food, that’s nothing new in this world, right?
 
teko” wrote: “I'm kinda baffled at people who go to Boloco for the "original" wrap when they can get a Super Burrito at Anna's for less, just a block away.”
 
No need to be baffled. There is no “original” wrap and even if there was, they certainly aren’t walking the extra block for it - that's the reason we're having this conversation - because they aren't walking to Boloco! The few that do are likely doing it for the obvious reasons: they think it is superior to other options, they care about the kinds of ingredients that go into their burritos, they like the people, they like wi-fi, they have bad hearing, and they are willing to pay a fair price for all of those things.
 
nomacmac” wrote: “I ate there a few times, and was always disappointed.”
 
I’m sincerely sorry about that. If you’ll send me your mailing address we’ll refund you for those visits.
 
 
In response toicecreamexpress”’s note: “MaybeSteve Herrell will make a triumphant return to his old stomping grounds... “, “ron_newman” wrote : “I suggested that months ago to John Pepper of Boloco -- team up with Steve Herrell so that this location would sell both its current menu and Herrell's Ice Cream. John says he talked to Steve, but I don't know what ever came of the idea after that.”
 
I actually spoke to Steve a few days after you suggested it and then in mid-November stopped into the Northampton Herrell’s where Steve was busy behind a glass office that overlooks the restaurant. When I asked the cashier to give him my business card, he did not emerge. Eventually I left. I have not heard from him since, but I’m also not convinced that this is necessarily going to make the difference for the future of this location… do any of you have any thoughts on this?
 
In closing, I quote our long-time friend “mattmattdm_org: “Everyone reading this should go eat there right now.” 
 
Matt wasn’t speaking of Boloco, but I’m hoping he'll now say the same for us... there is a  good chance we’ll be able to stay if more people visit us.  It really is that simple.   So... please do come visit us… today, tomorrow, the next day… and if you do, we’ll be there to welcome you for a long time to come.

THANK YOU FOR READING  (is anyone still there? hello??)

John Pepper
CEO and Co-Founder
Boloco
buzz@boloco.com
Tags: burritos, closed businesses
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