Taco Truck Generates Competition for Mexican Joints in Harvard Square

Taco Truck
Sarah E Orlando

In the space that used to be the skating rink outside of the Science Center, customers look at the menu of Plaza Tacos, a new food truck run by Harvard University Dining Services.

With the new taco truck outside the Science Center, Mexican restaurant owners in Harvard Square now face more competition than ever before.

When Felipe’s Taqueria opened eight years ago, it was the only taqueria in Cambridge. Today, there are four burrito restaurants within a few blocks of the Square.

“We think competition is good. It keeps you sharp and keeps you honest,” said Thomas J. Brush, co-owner of Felipe’s Taqueria.

Similarly, Allison M. Doyle, Boloco’s strategic project manager, said, “It’s great to have an additional restaurant in the neighborhood.”

Nevertheless, Brush noted that restaurants must adapt to the intense competition in the Square to survive.

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Taco Truck

Taco Truck

Some other Mexican restaurants have resorted to new marketing strategies to attract Harvard students to their restaurants.

Boloco has worked to develop an online presence on Facebook and Twitter, and uses a website that allows patrons to order online.

For example, Boloco used new media to popularize events like “free burrito day,” which celebrated the company’s fifteenth birthday two weeks ago.

According to Doyle, the restaurant served exactly 1,200 free burritos at their Harvard Square location.

Events like this hopefully introduce students to a menu that features “globally inspired” burritos with Indian, Thai, and BBQ themes, as well as a classic Mexican option, Doyle said.

She said that she hopes that their diverse range of options will differentiate Boloco’s food from that of its competitors.

Restaurants like Mexican grill Qdoba have pushed paper-marketing campaigns, including coupons that offered Harvard students a free entrée with any other purchase a few weeks ago.

But marketing strategies are “all just smoke and mirrors,” said Brush, who relies on word of mouth to attract customers.

According to Brush, his restaurant has enjoyed immense popularity since it opened despite the emergence of countless competing eateries. He attributes his success to the restaurant’s traditional Mexican fare, fresh ingredients, and satisfied customers.

“Whoever delivers the best food, they’ll survive,” Brush said.

When informed that the taco truck would accept both BoardPlus and Crimson Cash, Brush jokingly said, “Oh my god, I better start taking Crimson Cash.”

However, he immediately added that his restaurant draws customers with low prices for the best quality—something he can provide if only by avoiding the five percent charge paid by restaurants that accept Crimson Cash.

—Staff writer Laura K. Reston can be reached at laurareston@college.harvard.edu.

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