Boloco is more than just a restaurant to order globally inspired burritos or to slurp their Nutella milkshake. Beneath all that, Boloco founder John Pepper D’91, Tu’97 had another purpose. On April 23, John shared his experience at Boloco with the Rockefeller Business and Entrepreneurial Leaders (RBEL). Besides serving delicious food, John believed they “should be big on taking care of people.” And that did not just mean the customers, but also the workers. While mopping a Boloco location, he had a revelation: “It’s not fun. It’s not fulfilling. And you’re exhausted. And you’re not getting paid squat.”
At Boloco, his passion ran beyond creating a globally inspired burrito. Fast food workers are not being treated well and he believed that to improve their lives and future, it started with their wages. John said that he was “trying to help them do what they wanted to do as a kid,” which probably was not rolling burritos. If the workers were treated well, then the spillover effects would result in them treating the customer better. Since stepping down as the Boloco CEO, John finds himself involved in the politics of minimum wage by speaking with senators from Massachusetts. He will also be speaking to the Secretary of Labor Thomas E. Perez about the minimum wage.
That night at RBEL, John said, “I truly believe that we will look back in 30, 40 years and will really look down upon ourselves when we asked people to work full time, two jobs and more, but even our hardest team members still couldn’t make ends meet for years on end. Today, they’re being subsidized by the government but that isn’t right either. Companies that can’t or won’t pay livable wages to its adult, full-timers shouldn’t be in business. And like anything that’s so obviously wrong, this situation will inevitably be corrected despite the corporate whining that today too often prevails. First movers who do right by their employees before being forced to do so will be the winners.”