Lloyd: The taco of the town

By Janelle Harb

Features Editor

A vibrant symbol that the City of Buffalo has come to know and love is that of the florescent green Lloyd Taco Truck. As the first food truck in Buffalo, Lloyd’s quickly revolutionized the meaning of fast food and convenience with its fresh food within minutes of popular city locations. However, being these pioneers was no easy task for founders Peter Cimino and Chris Dorsaneo.

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“We started in July of 2010,” Cimino, a 2003 Canisius graduate, stated. “I saw an opportunity to basically fill a huge gap between restaurants and a hot dog cart downtown. After doing some research [on other food trucks], I thought why not? Why don’t we have these here in our city? And the process began.”

After partnering with Dorsaneo, a longtime friend who at the time was in a culinary student in Hawaii, the two began journey of bringing food trucks to Buffalo. “At the beginning there were issues, learning curves,” Cimino continued, “primarily because there was no legislation to tell us how to operate the company.”

“When we first opened, we didn’t have a big, bright, lime-green truck,” Cimino explained. “It was a white truck and on the side, it was hand-painted our logo ‘lloyd.’ People would come up expecting it to be french fries, or they wanted coffee, all of these things that we didn’t carry, and so we had to say, ‘No, these are street tacos, give ‘em a try, and if you don’t like ‘em, you can throw them back at us.’”

At first, the taco truck was only allowed to be in a certain place downtown with surrounding hot dog vendors.  As months progressed, they began to travel to different places, and develop a large following. Their following was broadened even further when they took part in an online Food Network contest centered around food trucks.

However, after constantly being shut down while operating on the streets, there was an outcry from the fanbase. “[It was] to the point that finally City Hall and the Common Council sat down with us to talk about changing the rules,” Cimino explained. “That was a battle that lasted for another year, into 2012. Plain and simple: it wasn’t easy. We fought literally tooth and nail. Our sole reason for surviving is that we don’t give up.”

Cimino stated that he can trace this determination instilled in him back to his days as a student at Canisius. “I think they encourage people to be resourceful and I think that’s a huge asset, and a huge skill that everyone needs to have,” Cimino continued. “Whether they’re going into business or they’re going into the workforce. I think the support of the school is second to none. You can go and have a conversation with your professors, and that’s not something that you can find anywhere else.”

A common misconception about Cimino is that he studied business while at Canisius, in reality, he was a dual major in math and education. While going on to teach after he graduated, Cimino always kept entrepreneurship in the back of his mind as he began small businesses, until he teamed up with Dorsaneo to create Lloyd’s.

As time went by and more legislation was passed, Lloyd’s was able to more freely expand its truck schedule and rotation. The company currently has four trucks set on a weekly rotation with Tuesdays at Roswell, Wednesdays at Larkin Square, and so on. “It’s important not to be too close to other stops,” Cimino went on to say.

Most recently, Lloyd’s has focused on making the Lloyd Taco Factory become a reality. “We were at a point where we were either going to become a 20 truck operation or a restaurant and bar,” Cimino explained. “To be strategic about costs, and taking into the account that the weather here can be brutal during the winter, we thought there was nothing wrong with starting to serve [food] at a restaurant.”

Cimino continued, “When you have a food truck, you have to pay rent and have a commissary kitchen [which is] nothing more than a kitchen that Erie County allows you to make food in. You can’t just prepare the food from the truck, you have to have a separate facility.  Because our rent was so expensive, we thought ‘What the hell are we doing? We’re paying an insane amount of money just to rent a kitchen for the trucks. Why don’t we rent this space that’s commercial space that has a storefront and retail opportunity, and run our trucks out of the back of it?’”

Since the opening of the Taco Factory, business has been better than ever before for the Lloyd’s brand. They currently have two trucks being run out of this Hertel Ave. facility and restaurant, while they’re hoping to run the other two out of their other rented facility on Elmwood Ave. that they’re also looking to turn into a functional restaurant. Eventually, the company feels as though they could become a nationally recognized brand known for their fresh and flavorful food.

“I hope in some tiny, special way it has [helped Buffalo to regrow],” Cimino concluded. “Seeing a city change means change in the food, in the drink, where people go, and what they value. When you want to attract people here, and keep people going to these universities here, you want to give them a place to go. A big part of that is food, entertainment, drink, parks, and we have that here now. It’s only increasing, and it’s increasing rapidly.”

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