Just before noon on Valentine’s Day, Ren Nakamura, a 17 year-old senior at New York’s Beacon high school, posted a photo on Instagram of himself eating at a location of Dos Toros. Five hours later, to Nakamura’s surprise, the chain responded. He thought it was “cool,” so he asked Dos Toros how many likes he’d need to earn free burritos for a year. “I thought it was very achievable,” he says, “so I just went for it.”
The next afternoon, at 3:12 p.m., he posted a picture of himself standing outside of the Dos Toros closest to his house in Flatiron and also posted a picture of his DM chat with the chain. The caption: “@dostoros promised me free burritos for a year if this post gets 10,000 likes. U KNO THE F***ING DRILL🤝🤝like and share!🌯🌯”
Thirty minutes later, @newyorknico shared it, via Instagram Stories, with his 305,000 followers, writing “Help him out.” At 4:34 p.m., he reposted it with the caption: “I don’t know why but I wanna see this kid win real bad. Maybe I identify because I was once a high schooler who loved burritos. Please like his post so he can get free burritos for a year.”
“I figured Dos Toros was betting against him hitting 10k likes, so I felt obligated to help him out,” says Nicolas Heller, who runs the @newyorknico account. “I also love the idea of community coming together to help a kid beat the odds and win a free year of burritos. If that’s not what social media is for, I don’t know what it is.”
Nakamura’s post ended up garnering 10,700 likes in just 29 hours — more than enough for the burritos. “I was checking the story shares,” he says, “and there were people in Germany and the Phillipines sharing it.”
Grub Street jumped on the phone with him to talk about his newfound fame, why brands continue to cozy up to teenagers on social media, and how he plans to eat all those burritos.
How often would you say you went to Dos Toros before this?
I started going frequently in December probably, and then like after or during winter break I went a lot because that was when I really started liking them a lot.
How do you think it compares to other burrito chains in New York?
I’m very vocal about Dos being better than Chipotle, for sure. But I don’t know. I don’t really eat enough of that. I used to go to Chipotle a lot, but now I’m going to Dos Toros.
What was that day like when you found out you reached 10K? How were your friends reacting in person?
I actually didn’t have school that day. The Friday that they responded to me was the day before February break, and then the day that I posted it was Saturday, the first day of break. So I didn’t really get to have that experience of being at school, which I was kinda glad about ’cause a lot of kids that I just don’t even really know were like asking me when they were gonna get their free burrito, and I didn’t want to go to school and have to deal with that.
So are people at school asking you for free burritos now?
When we first got back to school, that was like a real thing. People were asking me for them, asking me for a free burrito here and there — people that I knew but wasn’t really super-close with. I never said no to anyone, but I kinda just laughed it off.
So you can just get free burritos anytime you walk into Dos Toros?
They didn’t really give me an unlimited supply of burritos. They gave me a black card, which is starting out with enough value for one steak burrito with guac — which is the most expensive menu item they have. With the card I could’ve got one a week for 52 weeks.
How’d they give it to you?
After I hit the 10,000 likes, I DMed them and I was like, “Yo, what’s up, guys? I just got it, what are we doing now?” They saw the message and they didn’t even respond, so I was a little worried that they weren’t gonna come through. But like, you know, that would’ve been pretty foul, I thought. Then a day later, I got an email from this guy Marcus who’s the director of marketing for Dos Toros. He explained the whole black-card system and was like, “Yeah, we can meet at a store and just give it to you.” So I was like, “Okay, cool.” I had break that week, so I was pretty much free the whole week.
Do you anticipate getting sick of it?
I mean, yeah, it’s kind of already happened. I had a playoff basketball game yesterday and we won, and like some of my friends after the game were like, “Yo, are you gonna go to Dos Toros to celebrate?” And I was like, “No.” I had been the last three days in a row.
It almost becomes an obligation then.
Right, ’cause like if you’re hungry, you always have that option in your back pocket. Literally in your back pocket to go eat at Dos Toros. It’s kinda hard.
How does it feel walking into Dos Toros now?
At the two Dos Toros that I go to most frequently, they know the whole story of the likes. The first time I paid with the black card, the cashier was like, “Oh man, we never see these. How do you use this to pay?” Then the manager had to come out, and she was asking me like, “How did you get this?” They thought I was the son of one of the owners or something. She was like, “Only a couple people get this.”
Do you think that people think you’re spoiled or something if they don’t know the story?
Yeah, I mean, definitely that’s what it comes across as. The card started with $800 or something on it, so when you pay, they’re just like, Damn.
On a more macro level, versions of this have happened before. There was a teen in 2017 who asked Wendy’s how many retweets he’d need to get free chicken nuggets, and he got like 18 million. I think Dos Toros is worth around $50 million as a company — they could probably afford to give you more. Does it bother you to be used as a cool New York teen for their marketing efforts? Or does it feel like a symbiotic situation where you both win?
Damn. I don’t know. Nobody’s really posed it to me like that before. Like, I didn’t put up any fight when they said the card would only be good for one burrito a week, because I was already like, It’s free food, like I’m not gonna say “no” to anything. But now that I’m thinking about it, they probably could afford to give me like an unlimited supply of burritos, but my thought process was that they’re still really small. If I had asked Chipotle for free burritos or something like that, I would’ve been pretty pissed if they didn’t come through with like a bigger deal, but I don’t know. I was more understanding ’cause I know Dos Toros is still trying to grow, you know what I mean?
I noticed you took down the original Instagram post.
Yeah, I took it down. Actually, I archived it so I can look at it when I want to but no one can really see it.
Why did you decide to take it down?
Part of it was that kids at school were asking me all the time, and I kinda just wanna move past the whole burrito thing. Like, it’s cool, it’s gonna be a cool story for the rest of my life, and I don’t know. I kinda wanna get into media, so like it’ll be like a cool story, but at least for right now, I’m done being the burrito boy at school.