Less than an hour after Freebirds World Burrito opened Wednesday morning, you could see the sweat building on Burrito Roller Vincent Monroy's face.
"It's hot back here, I'm a big guy, and that's how it is," Monroy tells us.
Monroy is one of more than 50 local workers hired by Freebirds to staff their first Bay Area restaurant. General Manager Todd Brownstein deflects the idea that a shaky economy might be a deterrent to success.
"I think it's a great time to be opening a business," says Brownstein. "It's an opportunity to give 50-60 people jobs in an economy where people need jobs. I think it's an opportunity for this company to revitalize that economy."
San Mateo resident Sara Medina was hired to be a Freebird Ninja. She says she got very little sleep last night, very excited about the opening.
"I help the guests out here in the dining area," she says with the enthusiasm of youth. "I refill drinks for them, greet them, and make sure they're okay."
Clearly okay were twenty-five brave locals, who camped overnight in the rain to make sure they were first through the door this morning. Their reward: Each was given a voucher entitling them to free burritos for the next year.
Mountain View resident Kirsten Madrid was first in the line. She began her stand in front of the old Boston Market restaurant on Metro Center Blvd. at 9 a.m. yesterday morning.
"My husband went to UC-Santa Barbara," says Madrid, "so we're huge Freebirds fanatics." (Freebirds opened its first outlet - in Santa Barbara - 25 years ago, and has since spread to more than 60 locations in Texas, Oklahoma and California.)
As we watched, Madrid asked for extra cilantro and extra onions on her first Foster City Freebirds burrito. And she asked for one other thing: "Can I have it to go?," she asked. "I need to go home and take a shower."
San Mateo resident Anna Franco showed up a little late for the line, and found herself in spot #27, two spots away from the offer of free burritos for the upcoming year. Then, one person in front of her dropped out. Now, she was in spot #26. "I knew there were 26 people," she says. "I thought: I'm already here for hours, I might as well wait."
Her persistence paid off. Within hours of the opening, another person dropped out of line.
What will Franco do with weekly burritos for the next year? "My husband will be very happy."
Erin Prescott lives in Foster City. She wound up right behind Franco in line, and will have to pay for her burritos every time she heads to the new restaurant. But her lack of luck does not change her excitement about the new Mexican restaurant in town.
"I like the atmosphere and I'm really excited about what they're going to bring to the community," says Prescott.
We asked if she would continue to go to that other Mexican chain in town with the initials T.B. "No more," she said as she smiled. "No mas."