Taco Cat's founders: "Who cares if you deliver something in a car? That's easy."
Minneapolis may have its cycling struggles (see this week's cover story), but a number of factors contribute to making it one of the most cyclist-friendly cities in the country. Our dedicated bicycling community is constantly coming up with new ways to situate the human-powered machines within the mainstream.
The bike courier lifestyle has changed over the last decade, thanks to the advent of the Internet and a decreased reliance on hand-delivered documents. So couriers have had to get creative. Taco Cat did just that when they introduced their bicycle-delivered taco service last April, appealing to bicycle fanatics and taco enthusiasts alike.
Due to an unexpected amount of attention from the local press, Taco Cat was initially taking upwards of 70 orders per night -- which was a lot for a couple of self-proclaimed "dumb guys" who were just getting used to their Midtown Global Market kitchen space and running their own business.
Thanks to a brief plateau in sales, Taco Cat's founders Tristan Jimerson and Daniel Laeger-Hagemeister, along with some of their friends in the industry, have been able to revamp the menu, churn out specials, and come up with more efficient systems to help things run smoothly. Their hard work has paid off. When LynLake Brewery opens in Uptown, Taco Cat menus will be placed on each table, allowing customers to order taco delivery straight to the taproom -- all by bike of course.
Hot Dish: How many people are working with you now?
Dan: On a regular night, there's three bikers or so and two people in the kitchen, generally. In addition to us, we have two other guys working in the kitchen and then about ten bikers, but there's never more than three or four on at a time. We've only got one Jimmy John's guy left. Some Rockit. One of the guys from Peace Coffee. Just regular couriers. Just a handful of friends. We all have day jobs. This is a second job for everyone.
What were your jobs before this?
Dan: I was working at Jimmy John's
Tristan: I was a freelance writer before this at a bunch of different place, a bunch of ad agencies, Best Buy, stuff like that. Then I was working at Sea Salt last summer and Chatterbox before that. We're both doing this full-time now, but we are the only people who do this full-time now.
Does Dan handle more of the cycling realm while you handle more of the recipe development?
Tristan: We started like that. It was like "I'm going to do all the kitchen stuff and Dan's going to do the bike stuff."
Dan: We both do everything.
Let's talk bikes for a second. Do you think the bike delivery element is part of what appeals to your customers?
Tristan: To some of them, but it's not why we started it, I guess. I mean it is to an extent. We get to ride bikes and that's fun.
Dan: It's much more effective. Cars are expensive. It's also not as interesting. It's much more interesting to deliver a bunch of stuff on a bike than it is in a car. Who cares if you deliver something in a car? That's easy. You just drop it in there. You deliver it on a bike -- something that's fragile -- it's more interesting because it's harder. And it's way cheaper.
Tristan: We've both been delivery drivers and riders and I think we would both take riding our bikes over driving cars any day.
Do either of you deliver for Taco Cat?
Tristan: There would have to be some serious issues if I were to take an order.
Dan: It's also like taking money out of someone's pocket.
Anything coming up for you guys that we should know about?
Dan: The North American Cycle Courier Championships is coming up this weekend. We're catering that.
Tristan: We also catered the Powderhorn 24. We were closed the next day because of it -- there was just no way for us to do both. It's fun for us because we're in the kitchen so much, we don't get to see the reactions a lot of the time, unless people call back and say something is screwed up and then we're like, "everyone hates us and hates our stuff." But then actually getting out there and seeing people is a nice change.
It's fun to see our merch, our pins and stickers, out in public. We used to put them in every single order, but the guy who makes our buttons, after the first couple months, he's like "I can't, guys, you're killing me. So many buttons."
Dan: We kind of stopped doing the button thing because everyone probably has a handful at home that aren't being used.
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