The upcoming Box food truck is not the first time Dartmouth students have experimented in the food industry. Just a short walk from campus reveals another Dartmouth food legacy that also sprouted from the entrepreneurship spirit of Tuck. You might miss this gem as you rush off to CVS for supplies, but down a set of stairs beneath jewelry store Von Bargen’s is Boloco.
In 2004, Boloco Founder and former CEO, John Pepper ’91, ’97Tu, opened the location along with ’05s during their off-term. In 1996, when most of us were still learning how to wield a fork, John in his second year at Tuck opened the first location across from the Berklee College of Music in Boston.
On January 29, Tuck invited John to speak at its Entrepreneurship Initiative as part of its Entrepreneur in Residence session. John began by telling the story behind the burrito bug he caught while working in San Francisco after college. Returning to Tuck, he admitted, “I had a secret and the secret was that I was still obsessing over burritos.” He developed the first business plan for Boloco during his second year at Tuck. Boloco, previously known as The Wrap, was just a side project but he couldn’t shake off that itch. He resigned from his job and focused on Boloco. “I took a fork in the road in my life,” John said.
According to John, creating something new is always difficult and he had believed that the brilliant idea of burritos would carry the business. However, John admitted that you could not just trust the product to ensure success; you needed to also find the purpose behind it.
One late night, while mopping at the first restaurant location, John began to wonder why people would work at a fast food restaurant. He questioned how he could make this work more meaningful. “How do we improve the lives and futures of people who work in fast food and build a different type of business model?” John asked himself. In 1999, he brought in English lessons for Spanish-speaking employees. In 2010, Boloco University was started to teach team members career and life skills. Boloco has been paying rates higher than those of other fast food restaurants. In August 2013, John was invited to Fox Business to speak on behalf of Boloco’s model of payment starting at $9 an hour whilst thousands of fast food workers protested for an increase of the federal minimum wage from $7.25.
The next time you walk into Boloco or order online, remember that the burrito started at Dartmouth, made its way around Boston and even to Washington, D.C. and returned back to the Big Green.
As John says, “A burrito can aspire. A burrito can be more.”
Location: 35 S Main St, Hanover, NH 03755
Hours: Mon-Sun: 11am-10pm