What is the Cambridge Food Lab (CFL) and Taco Nation?
The Cambridge Food Lab and Taco Nation are a hybrid non-profit / for-profit organization. Both entities will be under the 501c3 status of the Cambridge Food Lab, meaning the Cambridge Food Lab owns Taco Nation. Taco Nation reason of existence is to develop revenue for the non-profit operations of the Cambridge Food Lab while developing jobs for Cambridge residents. The Cambridge Food Lab is a restaurant incubator that helps entrepreneurs to develop their food ventures and introduce new technologies to the kitchen. Other non-profit organizations follow this aggressive financial Self-sufficiency model, e.g.  Homeboy Industries: a bakery located in L.A. that reinvest its revenue in providing job training to former gang members and ex-inmates, Goodwill Industries: sales used donated items to support job training programs for the youth or most foundations that reinvest their endowment's profits in the non-profits they fund.

Our Approach on Financial Sustainability
Financial Sustainability is the backbone of any healthy non-profit organization. At CFL, we start our venture with a restaurant intended to generate revenue so we can focus on executing our mission instead of fundraising. With a tool such as Taco Nation, CFL could count every year with 250K-400K for its non-profit operations.

Supporting Non-Traditional Entrepreneurship
In Cambridge, whether it’s biotech, robotics, or R&D, there is no shortage of capital for investments in these industries. However, it is extremely difficult to raise support and capital investment for food entrepreneurs. The Cambridge Food Lab helps non-traditional Massachusetts entrepreneurs bringing an option for support outside their own limited resources and communities.

Taco Nation; CFL Unique Financial Self-Sufficiency Tool
The CFL makes a point on its own financial self-sufficiency as a way to set a model for stakeholders and the community. For this CFL owns a restaurant, Taco Nation, that had been conceived to develop revenue for the Cambridge Food Lab and jobs for Cambridge’s low-income community. Taco Nation follows a restaurant business model that has proven very successful in college markets: Mexican / Burrito QSRs (quick service restaurant). This model, at the local level, emulates the successful chain Anna’s Taqueria restaurant that sells large amounts of fresh, fast, healthy, and affordable food to young professionals and college students.

Our Survey
Cambridge Young Professionals and Millenials spend about $15K - $30K of disposable income per year in entertainment: clubs, alcohol, and food. And even though food is considered 'entertainment' it becomes a basic need added to their budget because of the lack of survival cooking skill. Our survey showed that their preference when it comes to fast, fresh, healthy, tasty and affordable restaurants; their choice is Mexican QSRs, the leading eating trend with Millennials.

In November 2015 the Cambridge Food Lab team developed a feasibility and a market identification studies that identified young professionals (under 40), millennials and college students as the majority of the populations of Cambridge and Somerville. Our survey, with a sample of over 600 subjects was executed outside the following Red Line T stops / Squares: Kendall, Central, Harvard, Porter, and Davis identified 'Burrito Places' as their first choice. The outcome of our survey is the result of Taco Nation, a Mexican Quick Service Restaurant. About 87% of the subjects identified Chipotle, Anna's Taqueria, Boca Grande and Qdoba as their places of choice when it comes to a 'quick bite'. Meaning food consumed not as a ‘pleasure option’ but as a need due to lack of cooking skills and while on the go.

Creating Jobs in Cambridge
According to the K2C2 study produced by the City of Cambridge (2015) about 20% of the Cambridge population lives under poverty standards; this conflicting with the well-known reputation of Cambridge prosperity. Taco Nation will hire only Cambridge residents. We are aiming to develop 10-15 local jobs, that pay 30% more than the industry standard between our first and second years of operations. The restaurant will run for the first three years with part-time workers until it develops enough revenue to higher full-time staff with full benefits. Taco Nation will pay $15 / hour entry level to its employees. The average entry-level wage in QSRs in Cambridge is $11 / hour (5/2017). This proposal has a 30% increase vs. the regular industry standard.

Jose Barriga, Executive Director / Founder
Margo Scheffler and Josh Campbell, Development
Carlos Manuel Ponze, Chef/Manager. GM of Boca Grande 
Carlos Gutierrez, Webmaster
Josh Morris, Graphic Designer
Bill Whitlock, Architect
Edward McCabe, Contractor, Cafco Construction.

Advisory Board
Carlos Mendez, Jose’s Restaurant Group & NE Association of Mexican Restaurants
Sallie Portuondo, GM at Squeaky Beaker Café and at the Cambridge Commons Restaurant.
Carlos Saavedra, Chef Consultant. Former kitchen manager of Boca Grande and head cook at Chez Henry restaurant.
Jeffrey Glass, ‎CEO StartingFive, General Catalyst Partners (Cambridge)
Andrew McLeod, McLeod Consulting Specializing in strategic planning, organizational development, and political consulting
Caleb Zigas, Executive Director, La Cocina