The Big Idea 2014: BYO burrito concept


Jason Morse
Executive Chef
Douglas County School District, Castle Rock, Colo.

Earlier this year we piloted a build-your-own-burrito concept called Chef Doug’s Burrito. Doug is for Douglas County. We launched it at Thunder Ridge High School and then moved it onto another school. I would say at each school we’re selling 110 a day, and that’s with a soft opening. We haven’t done a lot of marketing because we wanted to make sure the program was solid and everything operated well. We now have plans to roll it out in nine more sites.

It’s been great. The kids are enjoying it. We modified the high school lunch program a bit. They were on a block schedule and some schools opted out of that. That means for us, instead of potentially students having off period, lunch, off period, they are going to have less of that with only 30 minutes for lunch, so grab and go is going to become even more crucial for us.

It’s your typical built-to-order burrito concept. We have chicken, pork carnitas, turkey chipotle and then vegetarian (a bean mix), on a 12-inch flour tortilla with a brown rice that has a taco seasoning added to it. Then they have queso. The students go through the line and pick their meat and fillings and then can add tomatoes, lettuce, salsa, sour cream and guacamole for an upcharge.

Pricewise, we wanted to keep it cheaper than Chipotle, so we’ve been doing $5.50 for a meal, and that includes a beverage. We’ve done bowls and salads. We give them a lot of variety.

They can preorder, too. They can come down in the morning and fill out a form and drop it in the window. If lunch is at 11 a.m., we build them at 10:50 a.m. and wrap them and put them in a heated slide. The students skip the lines. We’re probably doing 20 to 30 prebuilds a day. We’re also starting our rewards program, a buy-five-get-one-free program.

Our free and reduced percentage is about 7%. We do this as an à la carte option. It meets all the competitive food regs. Our turkey, rice and pork are low sodium. The kids say this is so much better than school lunch, and I just stand there like, “This is exactly what we serve.” The only difference is they get to make it.

It’s nice to see the students accept it and then the parents go, “You opened a burrito restaurant?” It’s nice to get that support. We haven’t seen a decline in our other service areas. I think we’re seeing people who were walking out the door to the grocery store to grab something quick are going here.

We’ve got two ladies at Thunder Ridge who run the program. We call the head person, Linda, our burrito barista. All the other schools come to train with her. They work a week at Thunder Ridge with her and then they go back to their school and implement the program. We initially thought we would add three or four people. We added one and then we have our kitchen manager float when there’s need for another person to help.

We have a logo, too. We’re going to do more of these restaurant concepts and each will be branded with Chef Doug. We might do Doug’s Burger, Doug’s Pizzeria. Everybody was using paper bags and so we put the burrito in foil and put it in a brown paper bag. We’re looking into a rubber stamp so we can stamp the bags with our Chef Doug’s logo.

We have a really nice food cost out of the burrito concept; it’s about 33%.

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