Dos Amigos, a local taco truck serving authentic Mexican food to the Ithaca community, is giving back to those working to keep that community safe by providing free burritos to medical personnel and emergency medical service providers.
Soon after the truck opened on Wednesday, April 15, Dos Amigos started the promotion Burritos for Heroes, according to Account Manager Grant Thompson, one of a team of Ithaca College students working with Dos Amigos for their senior capstone.
“One day, we were just talking about different ways that we could stay busy as a marketing team and also just keep our mind sharp,” Thompson said. “We just thought of a way to kind of give back to the community, and we just thought, what better way than to feed the essential workers in Tompkins County?”
The taco truck matched the first 50 orders above $10 with a burrito to donate to essential workers around Ithaca. Dos Amigos donated the first and second batch of burritos to Cayuga Medical Center. The most recent batch on May 2 went to the crew at Bangs Ambulance, who were more than happy to share their thoughts on the food.
“Ten out of 10 burrito, would eat again, for sure,” EMT Jasmine Myrick said. “[I’m] very thankful that people appreciate us but also very appreciative of those people as well.”
Jorge Bouras, owner of Dos Amigos, founded the taco truck about three years ago with his friend, and since then, he said he’s seen considerable success. Bouras had been working to transition his food truck to a brick-and-mortar restaurant when COVID-19 hit.
“We got very, very close,” he said. “Unfortunately, we were about seven to 10 days away from finishing construction and getting our CO and being able to open, and right around there, Cuomo declared all non-essential businesses to close operations, which includes construction companies, so our construction had to be put on pause.”
In the meantime, Dos Amigos is working out of its food truck at 536 Thurston Ave. from 5 to 10 p.m. Wednesday through Sunday, but business has gone down thanks to the pandemic.
“We have a small team as it is,” Bouras said. “We’ve been able to keep a lot of the hours that we regularly do, but it’s definitely not the same, and there is a burn rate where we are losing money on a weekly basis. And now, it’s just a matter of how long we can sustain that until we have to make more adjustments or receive help from the government, which we have.”
Thompson, who has been helping Bouras adjust to the challenges caused by COVID-19, explained that Dos Amigos typically serves college students, but the sudden school closures aren’t much different from the summer breaks Bouras is used to.
“Figuring out ways to hit different target audiences, for permanent residents in Ithaca, has been tricky,” Thompson said. “Dos Amigos is doing well just because they’re so used to this kind of halt because they’re busy all year round, and then during the summertime when all the students leave, they kind of have to do this. So, like Jorge said to me, they’re kind of prepared for this sort of thing anyway.”
Despite his uncertain financial situation, Bouras said that when Thompson proposed the Burritos for Heroes promotion, he loved the idea and wanted to do what he could for his community.
“There’s a lot of need within Ithaca, and a lot of needs in our community, that’s maybe not being addressed,” he said. “If you don’t make social impact a priority now, it’s naive to assume that once you’re stable, you’ll be able to do it. I want to build that into the business model, especially now when the chips are so low, so that when we do hit scale, we are running at full force, that it’s second nature for us to be able to be involved and provide for our community.”
And helping out those who help others seemed like a no-brainer.
“Those are going to be the people that need help the most,” Bouras said. “We’re in a position right now where, no, it doesn’t make economic sense to be donating food on a weekly basis, but if we don’t do it now, I’m afraid that we won’t be investing in our community later.”
Thompson shared that sentiment, adding that the promotion helps on two fronts.
“This is an important program just because it’s really important to support local businesses and I think it’s also very important to help essential workers as well – give back to them, give them something to look forward to, some good food,” Thompson said. “So, it’s kind of just killing two birds with one stone by keeping those essential businesses fed and also helping out small businesses like Dos Amigos.”
Bouras saw that benefit as well.
“[People are] just not aware that we exist and that we do what we do,” he said. “We see that as a huge opportunity right now to get more invested in our community in order to get the word out there that we exist. This is what we do. This is what we stand for, and come down to us two months down the line when things blow over.”
Thompson will be graduating soon, but he said he was glad to assist Bouras for as long as he could.
“I just hope they take these marketing tools that we’ve given them and run with them and use them and utilize that,” Thompson said. “I wish them nothing but success.”
For now, people like Bangs’ Dan Leonard will be receiving more burrito batches to keep them full while addressing COVID-19 needs.
“It’s wonderful food,” Leonard said. “Thank you, Dos Amigos!”
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