Boston University students now have a new fast food option to try: the Taco Bell Cantina on Commonwealth Avenue opened its doors Wednesday.
District Manager Jackie Boisvert said the decision to open the restaurant near a college campus was inspired by previous success operating a Taco Bell Cantina location near Yale University.
“We know that our biggest consumer is college students, so why not put a Taco Bell in the Boston University area?” Boisvert said. “We’ve noticed in our franchise specifically that our Taco Bells built around college-based areas do better than other Taco Bells.”
Boisvert said the fast-food chain was hoping to open a cantina when it was vetting the area near BU and found the Commonwealth Avenue space a viable option.
Taco Bell views its cantina locations as a “step up from the normal fast food,” Boisvert said, and the concept involves more of a sit-down restaurant atmosphere. The cantina features additions to the typical Taco Bell menu, including shareable appetizers and alcohol, paired with a more urban design than seen at the traditional fast-food locations.
The chain faces some competition around the location — other Mexican-style eateries such as Sunset Cantina and Chipotle are popular on Commonwealth Avenue — but Boisvert said she believes Taco Bell distinguishes itself.
“I think that, honestly, we’re just giving people more variety. I don’t think our menus are as similar,” Boisvert said. “But I mean, friendly competition is good.”
BU spokesperson Colin Riley wrote in an email the Taco Bell location has no relationship with the University. It is not part of the BU Dining program, so it will not appear on Grubhub Campus Dining nor accept students’ dining or convenience points.
Anthony Aguirre, a senior in the College of Arts and Sciences, said he loves the fast-food chain and had planned to visit the cantina Wednesday for a “nice treat” in case Tuesday night ended in distressing election results.
Aguirre said he is confident the location will be popular with BU students, and that he will likely return for regular visits every other week. It makes sense, he said, for the location to remain unaffiliated with BU Dining.
“It might get complicated with allowing dining points to be used with alcohol,” Aguirre said. “They’ll have to make it like you can buy certain things with dining points and not other things.”
Gabrielle Gionet, a first-year student in the School of Public Health, visited the new Taco Bell on its opening day. While she said she doesn’t often eat from the chain herself, she went because her friend was “really excited” about the cantina.
Gionet said she likes the location’s decor and atmosphere.
“In comparison to other Taco Bells,” Gionet said, “there seems like more space to sit down and relax with more people.”
While the cantina is conveniently close to campus, Gionet said, she thinks the lack of outdoor seating may restrict foot traffic in the context of the pandemic.
Xan Denker, a sophomore in the College of Fine Arts and CAS, said they have awaited the opening for a “very long” time.
“Taco Bell is very special to me,” Denker said. “I go to Taco Bell a lot, so I was just really excited.”
Denker said they feel the cantina version of Taco Bell is “really nice” compared to the Taco Bell in their hometown. Denker said their residence is directly across the street from the new location, which they think may tempt them to visit often.
“College students love Taco Bell,” Denker said, “and the fact that they opened it on campus was probably a really smart move.”
Boisvert said the restaurant is taking recommended COVID-19 safety precautions. Employees and vendors are temperature-screened before entering, and seating is socially distanced. Food is given out in sealed bags, and there is presently no self-serve section for sauces or utensils.
CORRECTION: A previous version of this story used the wrong pronouns for Xan Denker. The article has been updated with the correct pronouns.