Here’s another episode of the Experience Fort Collins podcast! These are the basic show notes of what we talked about, but I certainly encourage you to give the episode a full listen to catch all of the details of our discussion.
I met up with Taylor Smith from the Silver Seed food truck, and the soon-to-open Gold Leaf Collective to talk about food trucking, the food and service industry in town, growing into a full service restaurant, and what the term “vegan” means to him. And of course, we also cover what he feels is the best and worst about living in Fort Collins, as well as what he considers a bucket list experience in our community.
Taylor decided to go into an ownership position after experiencing a lot of frustrations working for other owners and management in the service industry. He moved to Fort Collins in 2014 from Chicago after learning about our local farms and CSA programs. He toured a farm in December of 2013, quit his job on the drive home back to Chicago, and in two weeks moved to Fort Collins.
The logistics of opening a full service restaurant we’re outrageous, so Taylor opened a food truck – the Silver Seed – instead. If he had opened a full service restaurant instead, he would have closed after the first year. But, he experienced positive success with the food truck that grew in profits year over year.
He didn’t intend to start out as a “vegan” food truck, he intended to be another “farm-to-fork” truck. But after being influenced, and changed, by watching “Earthlings” with his friend Dave Bell from Mama’s Tofu here in Fort Collins, he began vegan and switched everything for him. It worked with the business, because he was filling a need that needed to be met in the food community in Fort Collins.
He goes into some of the rookie mistakes that food truck owners make, like relying on being at the breweries. Breweries hindered them and events helped them grow more. It was a difference between a couple of thousand dollars of income at breweries to 10-15 thousand dollars at events. They tripled their sales the second year because of this. The third year they doubled their sales again.
This is when he started thinking about the next step, and started to move toward opening a full-service restaurant – which was already on his 5-year plan, but was accelerated in his 3rd year. The Gold Leaf landed the spot where Ras Ka was after the owner called him to let him know she was leaving. His loyal customer base raised $200,000 for him to expand (not from a crowdfunding campaign, either!!!).
Then we get into the discussion about the food truck regulations and the challenges of navigating the contentious relationship between some of the full-service restaurants that attempted to regulate them through City Council and kill their business.
The full-service restaurants that tried to shut them down last year had a lot of political power. The food truckers ended up calling this “The Waffle Lab Law” as to what happened. The city was trying to change the regulations based on that one truck, and it would have dramatically impacted the entire food truck community, including the food truck rallies at City Park. Taylor ended up meeting with all of the city council members, and the mayor, to help work regulations that would benefit everyone. They were really open to working with him. Now the regulations set for this season are fair.
We get deeper into what the Gold Leaf is bringing to Fort Collins. It’s not necessarily designed as traditional vegan (but yes – all vegetable-based dishes), but more about overall hyper-local sustainability. It’s “New Colorado Cuisine.” But really, it’s Fort Collins on your plate.
They are also going to bring a mobile soup kitchen to fruition to continue their focus on sustainability.
Next up in our discussion is the best and worst of living in Fort Collins, and a bucket list experience.
Taylor feels the best part of living in Fort Collins is the networking and the community building that happens here. It’s unlike anywhere else he’s ever been.
The worst is the hospitality industry here – we have such low service standards. We’re not a “service” industry here, we have a “feeding” industry. (We go into a really extensive conversation on this – it’s a great listen that show notes won’t do it justice).
A bucket list experience in Fort Collins for him – climb to Horsetooth. “You don’t know Fort Collins until you’ve climbed to the top and see the whole city.” Nobody has a “backyard” like we do!