Boloco

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Boloco
Websitewww.boloco.com

Boloco (from Boston Local Company) is an American chain of fast casual restaurants in the northeastern United States. Based in Hanover, New Hampshire, the chain—known for its wraps, smoothies, and burritos—has three locations as of 2024.

The chain was founded in 1996 as Under Wraps by Adam Liebman, Gregg Harris, John Pepper and Jason Hutchinson. It shortly thereafter rebranded as The Wrap before expanding in the Boston area through its purchase of Jera's Juice and Wrap Culture. After being acquired, the chain rebranded as Boloco in 2005. Franchised locations were then divested in 2007 and renamed Currito. The local founders took back control of the company in 2014, a time when there were 22 owned locations throughout the northeast and DC area. Since 2014, the company has been downsizing.

Over its history, Boloco has been known as a socially responsible company, notably paying employees higher than the minimum wage and pursuing environmental accreditations such as being certified as a

.

History

Origins and The Wrap

Boloco's former "flagship" Berklee location, Boylston Street at Massachusetts Avenue, is around the corner from the original location. This location closed in 2023.

The company was started in 1996 under the name Under Wraps by cofounders Adam Liebman, Gregg Harris, John Pepper and Jason Hutchinson.

Back Bay neighborhood on Massachusetts Avenue at Boylston Street.[3] In 1998, the company acquired the competing restaurant Wrap Culture with locations in Harvard Square and Cleveland Circle. All three locations were rebranded under the new name, "The Wrap and Smoothie Bar". In 2000, they merged with a four-unit juice company called "Jera's Juice", forming Stellar Restaurant Group.[4][5] Over the next few years, the company added restaurants at Northeastern University, on Newbury Street, at Boston Children's Hospital, on Pearl Street, and on Federal Street bringing the total to eight locations.[6] A ninth location in Hanover, New Hampshire, at Dartmouth College came in February 2004 and was the first in the chain to be located outside of the Boston area.[7]

Boloco and Currito

In late 2004, the founders sold The Wrap brand and assets to Joe Lanni and his sons, who intended to expand the format nationally through franchising.[8] Following the sale, the new owners sought to rebrand the chain to revamp its identity. Signs of the Times's Anya Rao observed that "The restaurant's original name, The Wrap, connotes cold food. You'd expect tuna salad or deli turkey rolled in a flour tortilla. But, instead, the restaurant features more elaborate, eclectic, hot burritos". The rebranding was handled by design firm FRCH Design Worldwide, which ultimately helped select the name Boloco, from "Boston local company", to honor the chain's roots. Design firm member Santiago Crespo stated that the new name would not "[limit] it to wraps or burritos" and that its accompanying tagline "'Inspired Burritos,' identifies the variety of creative food served there."[9] Also problematic of the original name was that The Wrap was deemed to be too generic to be legally protected, an issue that Pepper noted would affect their expansion plans. The consulting firm had presented six name options, from which Boloco placed highest on surveys.[10]

New CEO Mike Harder formerly of Chipotle Mexican Grill was hired to run the company and oversee the plan to rebrand as Boloco in 2005.[11] At the time, the chain consisted of ten restaurants.[1] Between 2005 and 2007, the company opened six Boloco stores in the Boston area as well as Concord, New Hampshire, and Burlington, Vermont.[12] This included the Davis Square location in Somerville, which opened in December 2006.[13] Elsewhere, 14 franchised Boloco locations were in operation by May 2016 through five franchisees, with ten additional locations scheduled to open that year, and 15 to 25 more in 2007. Included in that were 25 locations on college campuses by means of a deal with food service provider Sodexo.[8]

In 2007, the Boston-based founders repurchased all of the sold assets and the franchised locations were rebranded as Currito.[4] A year later, a controlling stake in the company was sold to Winona Capital Management. In 2013, Pepper, who had remained an investor at Boloco following the sale, gave the company an ultimatum to approve a $15 million investment deal or he would leave the company; the deal was ultimately not approved and he stepped down.[1][14] The peak number of locations was 22, in 2014, but the company was losing about $3 million per year.[15] The locations in Washington, D.C., and Bethesda, Maryland, closed in December 2014.[16][17]

Local ownership and closures

Founder John Pepper and other Boloco cofounders returned to lead the company in 2015 after repurchasing the chain from Winona. Speaking to The Boston Globe, Pepper stated that it "was the right thing to do" and that "the company was slow to rein in costs and focus on profitability. Sales fell and the company lost money in 2014." He added that "If anyone can help Boloco survive and thrive, I'm the person to do it."[14][18]

With Pepper back leading the chain as interim CEO, Boloco closed several underperforming locations in an attempt to return to profitability. The Newbury Street location closed in June 2015,[1] followed by two Downtown Boston locations on School Street and Pearl Street, which were announced to have closed in October 2015,[19] and May 2016 saw the closure of the Cleveland Circle location.[20] Autumn of 2016 then saw major changes, with five locations sold to B. Good, another local restaurant chain, which was founded by a former Boloco employee. These locations included Northeastern University, Natick, Wellesley, Burlington, Vermont, and Concord, New Hampshire.[21][22] Additional closings came in 2017 when the Harvard Square and Warwick, Rhode Island, locations closed in July to become the first U.S. locations of Australia-based Zambrero.[23] Alongside the closure, Pepper tweeted "Here's part of the general reason. Warwick lost money every day for 4 yrs. Time to let go."[24] Nine locations remained following the 2017 closures—eight in Massachusetts and one in New Hampshire—and the company had reportedly returned to profitability by 2018.[15]

The former Boloco in Boston's Copley Square (2011)

Confusion regarding the closing of the Boylston Street restaurant in Copley Square began in late 2018 after Chick-fil-A announced that it was opening its first Boston location in the space Boloco occupied. Pepper tweeted in response that "there is not yet any agreement for Boloco to leave. We have a lease thru 2020 and a decade of options after. We are working with landlord to find a solution based on what we've read."[25][26] The location eventually did close,[27] with Boloco's website noting an alleged large rent increase as the reason.[4]

Boloco restaurants were affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, with four locations closing by late March 2020. The Berklee, Children's Hospital, and Lynnfield restaurants remained open for a time offering a "Feeding the Front Line" menu with items for $5 or less.[28] By October 2020, the chain was working through renegotiating leases for existing stores and shopping for potential buyers; only the Children's Hospital and Lynnfield locations remained open. Pepper said in an October 9 letter to shareholders that he was pursuing a sale of the company to other small businesses at a "discounted price that would offer no value to shareholders," however, the sale did not materialize. He also hoped to reopen the Boston Common and Berklee locations within a few weeks.[29] Both the Lynnfield and Atlantic Wharf restaurants were unable to stay open following the lease negotiations and permanently closed.[30]

Boloco's Boston Common location, which closed in late 2023.

On August 25, 2023, Boloco announced the closure of its "flagship" Berklee (Massachusetts Avenue at Boylston Street) location effective that day. Two other locations in Downtown Boston—50 Congress Street and 176 Boylston Street (Boston Common)— were announced to be closing before the end of 2023; all three would close following the expiration of their leases. The closures would leave the chain with two outposts: Boston Children's Hospital and Hanover, New Hampshire. Pepper stated that he had "exhausted all efforts" to keep the chain open despite sales at all remaining locations except Berklee returning to 2019 levels.[30]

In late 2023, it was announced that the Congress Street location would remain open after negotiations with the landlord succeeded.[31] In February 2024, with three locations remaining in operation, Pepper announced that the Hanover store had been sold to new owners who intended to keep it as a Boloco, with Pepper staying on as a minority shareholder in the location for the time being.[32]

Corporate identity

In 2007, the

B Corp in 2016, a designation that "recognizes businesses that balance social responsibility with the pursuit of profits".[15] The chain later experimented with plant-based minced chicken in 2022 at the Congress Street location.[36]

Thomas E. Perez
holding a #RAISETHEWAGE sign at a Maryland Boloco (2014).

The chain was recognized in 2014 for its commitment to paying higher-than-minimum wages. At a press event at the Congress Street restaurant in February 2014, U.S. Senators

Thomas E. Perez to call for an increase in the federal minimum wage and to promote the governor's proposed increase to that state's minimum wage.[38] In a 2014 article, The New York Times reported that Boloco was "one of the handful of restaurant chains that deliberately pay well above the federal minimum wage,"[39] and in 2015, The Boston Globe's Taryn Luna wrote that Boloco was a "rare champion for low-wage workers in a fast-food industry notorious for paying the bare minimum and relying on part-time employees".[14] In 2002 when the minimum wage was $5.15, the chain paid its workers no less than $8 per hour.[39] By 2018, the average hourly wage for employees was $14.50 while comparable industries paid workers only $9.54 per hour according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics.[15]

References

  1. ^ a b c d Luna, Taryn (June 10, 2015). "Boloco cofounder is anxious to revive business". The Boston Globe. p. C3. Retrieved August 29, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  2. ^ Levitt, Jonathan (April 8, 2008). "Folding pattern". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on May 24, 2011. Retrieved April 10, 2008.
  3. ^ McCloy, Andrew P. (June 23, 1997). "Wrapping up Boston". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  4. ^ a b c "Our Story". Boloco. 2020. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  5. ^ "Boston's all wrapped up in food". The Daily Free Press. December 1, 2000. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  6. ^ "Wraps, Smoothies, and The Boston Globe". February 7, 2003. Retrieved August 30, 2023 – via newspapers.com.
  7. ^ Darby, Marta (February 19, 2004). "The Wrap finds a home on Main St". The Dartmouth. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  8. ^ a b Fasik, Lisa Biank (May 18, 2006). "Under Wraps unveils plans for franchises". Boston Business Journal. Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  9. ^ Rao, Anya (March 31, 2006). "Burrito Makeover". Signs of the Times. Retrieved August 29, 2023.
  10. ^ Sheehan, Carolyn A. (November 15, 2005). "The Name Game: The Wrap Goes Boloco". The Harvard Crimson. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  11. ^ Abelson, Jenn (September 30, 2005). "Taco Bell, you've got competition". The Boston Globe. pp. C1, C4. Retrieved August 28, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  12. Boston. Archived from the original
    on May 14, 2008. Retrieved April 10, 2008.
  13. ^ Pfeiffer, Sacha (December 7, 2006). "Bucking the odds in Davis Sq". The Boston Globe. p. 9. Retrieved August 28, 2023 – via Newspapers.com.
  14. ^ a b c Luna, Taryn (June 9, 2015). "Boloco cofounder John Pepper eager to revive business". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  15. ^ a b c d Lippman, John (August 19, 2018). "A Burrito Built to Last". Valley News. Archived from the original on August 19, 2018. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  16. ^ Spiegel, Anna (December 4, 2014). "Boloco DC Closes, Admits 'Tough' Washington Market". Washingtonian. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  17. ^ Metcalf, Andrew (January 5, 2015). "Boloco Closes in Bethesda". Bethesda Magazine. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  18. ^ Baskin, Kara (June 9, 2015). "John Pepper re-purchases Boloco after a hiatus". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  19. ^ Hatic, Dana (October 28, 2015). "Boloco Closes School Street and Pearl Street Restaurants". Eater. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  20. ^ Hatic, Dana (May 2, 2016). "Boloco Closes Its Longtime Cleveland Circle Location". Eater. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  21. ^ Hatic, Dana (October 17, 2016). "B.Good to Take Over Some Boloco Locations". Eater. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  22. ^ "Church Street Boloco closing after 9 years". The Burlington Free Press. October 14, 2016. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  23. ^ Hatic, Dana (June 29, 2017). "Another Boloco Departs Greater Boston, Replaced by an Australia-Based Burrito Chain". Eater. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  24. ^ Miller, G. Wayne (July 30, 2017). "Burrito restaurant Boloco closes in Warwick". The Providence Journal. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  25. ^ Hatic, Dana (November 9, 2018). "Chick-fil-A Could Win Long-Fought Battle to Open First Restaurant in Boston Proper [Updated]". Eater. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  26. ^ Graham, Jordan (November 16, 2018). "Boloco takes bite out of Chick-fil-A bid". Boston Herald. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  27. ^ Bowker, Brittany (December 14, 2021). "Chick-fil-A will open its first Boston restaurant in Copley Square". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 28, 2023.
  28. ^ Kuschner, Erin (March 25, 2020). "Boloco co-founder John Pepper makes a plea to keep the local burrito chain open". Boston.com. Boston Globe Media Partners. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  29. ^ Gardizy, Anissa (October 15, 2020). "Boloco is seeking to renegotiate leases, talking to potential buyers: 'We are just looking for a clear path'". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  30. ^ a b Gerber, Dana (August 25, 2023). "Boston burrito chain Boloco is closing most of its stores by year's end". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 27, 2023.
  31. ^ "Still here 😄 (50 Congress, Boston)... for most of 2024! At 11th hour in December with incredible support from our landlord Jumbo Capital, Cecy and her amazing team will be doling out bowls and burritos for the better part of a year. Grateful. We've made some upgrades to mark the occasion. Happy New Year!". Boloco. January 3, 2024. Retrieved January 6, 2024 – via Facebook.
  32. ^ Adrian, Patrick (February 16, 2024). "New owners step up to keep Hanover's Boloco going". Valley News. Retrieved February 26, 2024.
  33. ^ Reidy, Chris (October 16, 2007). "Boloco goes 'cage-free'". The Boston Globe. Archived from the original on March 23, 2010. Retrieved April 10, 2008.
  34. ^ DeMartini, Alicia (August 1, 2011). "Boloco Earns Another 'Green' Star". PMG Public Relations. Retrieved August 30, 2023 – via 24-7pressrelease.com.
  35. ^ Reidy, Chris (February 1, 2015). "Canton firm is a game changer on supplies". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  36. ^ Green, Hannah (August 2, 2022). "Techstars startup brings plant-based chicken to Boloco". BostInno. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  37. ^ Miller, Joshua (February 10, 2014). "Warren pushes minimum wage hike in Boston visit". The Boston Globe. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  38. ^ Dresser, Michael (August 7, 2014). "O'Malley joins U.S. labor secretary to call for higher wages". The Baltimore Sun. Retrieved August 30, 2023.
  39. ^ a b Greenhouse, Steven and Stephanie Strom (July 4, 2014). "Boloco and Shake Shack Offer Above-Average Pay". The New York Times. Retrieved December 10, 2014.

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