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Taco teens return to Richmond Night Market

The owners of Poncho's Tacos are building a customer base one birria taco at a time.

"We might as well take these risks now," was what five Richmond teens thought when they decided to open up a birria taco stand at Richmond Night Market in 2023.

Now in their second year of business, the owners of Poncho's Tacos are determined to aim for new heights.

"Last year was pretty good. It turned out way better than we expected," said co-owner Mikito May.

"And we thought, if we want to scale this to a real restaurant or something, we need people who like our food."

This year, the teens are hoping to build upon their existing customer base for an eventual expansion into a ghost kitchen - operating only on delivery-apps - or a food truck.

Poncho's began as an idea among five high school graduates who wanted to fill a gap in Richmond's food offerings, May told the Richmond News.

"We're all foodies. So we noticed Richmond lacks a Mexican food scene," he explained.

"And we were like, 'You know, before we dive into anything, let's try this.' ... So we opened Poncho's and then the rest is history."

When the News visited Poncho's on Friday, the teens had just paused orders to control the dinner rush.

Looking at the snaking line of hungry customers, May said there has been a "huge difference" in the number of customers compared to last year.

He attributes the boost in popularity to the "trendy" new menu items — the birria grilled cheese and the "walking taco Doritos," which stands for a bag of Doritos served with birria, nacho cheese, onions and jalapenos.

"We look at food through the lens of a consumer, as a person who consumes a lot of food media and whatnot. 'What intrigues me? What do I want to see? What looks tasty?'" May explained.

"And we saw these items quite a bit. We did our little twist on them. That's kind of it. You just got to look at it from the outside."

Lessons in business

One of the main lessons from last year, said May, is to "differentiate the friend dynamic with the business partner dynamic."

"We're all friends, and we all have a good time, but there's rules that have to be set and we have to act a certain way in a business manner."

Poncho's social media manager Brandon Silcoff, the team's latest member, told the News social media has also been "really important" for the business.

"I was asking people 'Oh, how'd you guys find out about us?' And a majority of them said TikTok, which is good," he explained, adding that he tries to stay on top of the latest trends on TikTok and Instagram.

"You got to find a way to pull people in here."

Poncho's Tacos currently has more than 6,000 followers on TikTok and about a thousand on Instagram. Their most popular TikTok video, posted last year, garnered 1.1 million views and almost 265,000 likes.


A post shared by Ponchos (@ponchos.tacos)

But popularity also brings other challenges.

"Our biggest challenge is controlling the (traffic) of the area around us," said Silcoff. 

Not only do they have to make sure neighbouring booths aren't affected by the large crowds, but they also have to make sure customers get what they paid for.

"There's been times we've had to pause on order... just so we don't get so backed up."

With a year of experience under his belt, May's advice to fellow young entrepreneurs is to "just get the ball rolling."

"Even if it's just getting a name or a logo... You can pick up momentum really quickly. You gotta start though," he said.

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