Dollar burritos mark Panchero's 20th anniversary

BY RISHABH R. JAIN | AUGUST 29, 2012 6:30 AM

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It was 4 p.m. on what otherwise would have been a usual Tuesday afternoon in downtown Iowa City. But the line of people that extended out from the intersection of Clinton and Washington Streets was longer than the ones you see outside bars on weekends.

The occasion?

Panchero’s Mexican Grill was giving away $1 burritos on its 20th anniversary.

The $1 Burrito Day has been an Iowa City tradition for the past six years. Having first limited the giveaway to new openings, Rodney Anderson, the owner of Panchero’s Mexican Grill, decided he was going to use the model to welcome back students every fall.

“We have traveled the Midwest, we have traveled all these college towns — this downtown is fantastic for business,” Anderson said. “This vibrancy is just incredible.”

There is more reason for Anderson to extend this preferential treatment to Iowa City. It was quite literally the birthplace of Panchero’s Mexican Grill.

“About 20 years ago, and six months before we started this, we stood out on the corner and saw the for-rent sign go up,” Anderson said. “We jumped on it, paid a lot more, and didn’t really understand what we were getting into but understood that we couldn’t stay on the corner without getting bumped into.”

Today, Panchero’s has more than 50 locations in 17 states.

David Batchelder, the general manager at Panchero’s, 32 S. Clinton St., said he was excited about the tremendous foot traffic that was expected Tuesday. This was the Panchero’s way of giving back to the community that helped create the brand, he said.

Batchelder said this was his second $1 Burrito Day as general manager; last year, he oversaw the sale of more than 1,400 $1 burritos in the span of two hours at the Riverside location of Panchero’s.

Previously known to have a friendly competition to sell more $1 burritos among locations in and around Iowa City, this year’s event did not include the race to sell more burritos.

“We decided to slow it down this year,” Batchelder said. “… Give the customer a good burrito instead of flying everybody through.”

While Panchero’s was not trying break its previous year’s record, the line of people standing out in a sweltering 87 degrees was just as enthusiastic.

UI senior Caitlin Bruggeman stood in the line for about 45 minutes and had gotten only halfway to the door.

“I am a poor college student, and I really want that burrito,” she said. She said she was glad that this was an annual event exclusively for Iowa City.

UI senior Ryan McDonough said the heat was making his motivation dwindle, but he braved the queue because he believed that the $1 burrito was the best deal he could find.

Anderson said Panchero’s has become a cult favorite for UI all over the country, and he plans to open a few more restaurants this year and about 20 next year.

“You could go anywhere in this country, open a Panchero’s, and there will be Hawkeyes who will show up,” he said. “The students that come here and go other places really support us.”Description: https://mail.google.com/mail/u/0/images/cleardot.gif

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