Ones to Watch | By Sabrina Davis
They’re giving what some might say is an overdone product—the burrito—a novel twist. The team preparing the Cincinnati-based Boloco concept for aggressive growth might be new to the burrito category, but their ability to grow a national quick-service brand already is well-known. CEO Nick Lanni—dad to his two partners Joe and John Lanni—grew Great Steak & Potato Company to 270 locations before selling it in 2004 and beginning work on what was to become Boloco.
The Lannis purchased a 10-store Boston restaurant chain, The Wrap, from Stellar Restaurant Group, and made Stellar its first franchisee and operator of the original 10 stores. “It was an intriguing small brand,” says Joe Lanni, vice president of development. “It had a loyal customer base in Boston and a unique menu mix that we thought would compete well against the traditional burrito brands and with a few modifications.”
The modifications began with the hiring of FRCH Design to rebrand the concept. “We wanted to take an independent regional chain and bring it to the level it needed to be to grow on a national scale,” Joe Lanni says.
They ended up with what they call urban café with a contemporary modern look. There’s free Wi-Fi, comfortable seating, rich cherry and blond maple furniture, a warm color palette, and a scheme of focal panels seen both in the restaurants and on the web site. With a unified look, the search began for a new name.
“‘The Wrap’ led people to assume the wrong thing—there were no deli meats, cold tortillas, sprouts, or anything like that on the menu,” Lanni says.
After numerous focus groups and meetings, the team winnowed a list of 100 suggested names to Boloco, which is derived from Boston Local Company to pay homage to the brand’s roots. The tagline “Inspired Burritos” helps clarify the unusual name.
“When someone said ‘inspired burritos’ for the first time, everyone in the room said, ‘That’s it,’” Lanni recalls. “It’s meant to convey that these are more than the typical Mexican burrito; they are inspired by the flavors of the world.”