16 | Feb | 15

Richard Johnson

RIP Cinnamon Snail

Street food is easy, right? Low overheads — and so much less to worry about than a bricks and mortar restaurant? Wrong. If you’re looking for an illustration of just how tough it is out there, on the streets, look no further than the massively successful Cinnamon Snail. The US food truck won every award going (apart from one of these). Their deft menu wasn’t designed just to fill you up. Oh no. It was there “to help you transform into a being of pure light who can serve all living creatures simultaneously and eternally”. In your face, Ribman. But this weekend the Snail announced that they were going to close. Or reincarnate as something else. See below for their words of warning to anyone who still thinks street food is the ‘easy’ option. Nirvana is never ‘easy’. For now, let’s just chant and be happy…

 

From the Cinnamon Snail:

Running food trucks is a very problem ridden business model. Much as I have absolutely loved being able to do it, running the Cinnamon Snail been emotionally and physically exhausting for me and my family. 

As many of you know, over the years we have had every type of emergency, from generators catching fire, engines needing to be replaced, to police harassment, parking problems, and being chased off by other food trucks and restaurants. That says nothing of the endless logistical complications of running a food truck year round, things you wouldn’t think of, like preventing our plumbing from freezing at night, which prevents us from having working hand sinks and forcing us to take the day to have all our pipes replaced. We have dealt with all the obstacles that have been thrown our way, but there is no light at the end of the tunnel, where running a food truck will be without these types of issues that make the business very difficult to be profitable in. 

There is a misconception about food trucks, that we have very low overhead. Like any restaurant, we do in fact pay very high rent on our kitchen, where we prepare everything that we use on the truck from our donuts, to sauces and condiments. But in addition to a restaurant, any little mechanical problem on our truck, can cost us days on the street, and sometimes result in us having to throw out or give away thousands of dollars of food. We face every problem a regular brick and mortar restaurant deals with, plus many more problems that are unique to food truck life. 

It’s been a really exciting five years on the streets. When I first set out to build the truck, I never dreamed we would receive the national and international recognition that came. In addition to being at the top of so many “best food truck” in the USA/NYC polls, twice our food has made the front page of the New York Times Dining section, we have won 4 Vendy Awards, been named by yelp.com the #1 place to eat in all of NYC and #4 in the entire country, and won numerous awards and accolades from VegNews, Vegetarian Times, New York Post, Gothamist, Huffington Post, PETA, New York Magazine, and too many blogs to mention. 

My wife and I started the truck so that we could bring vegan food into the street, where people who would otherwise never patronize a regular sit down vegan restaurant could check it out. The food we created has been designed to shatter the misconceptions people have about vegan food, and to make the mainstream gravitate towards considering a meat free diet. Doing this work, has been a matter of life and death for countless animals who’s lives have been spared, by our customers who have chosen vegan lifestyles, or have even just reduced the amount of animals they consume. This purpose is what has motivated us through all of the hard times, and difficulties we have dealt with running the trucks, and will continue to motivate us in our next project.

Right now, we are just going to focus on getting through the next two weeks, so that we can figure out where we are going from here with a clear mind after the dust settles. We are going to be exploring brick and mortar restaurant opportunities, whether they in the likeness of the Cinnamon Snail, or as a new exciting (vegan) concept. While we brainstorm about what the most fun yummy new project is going to be for us to work on, we are open for input or ideas from our customers and community. If you have some opportunities you think that we should explore, contact us at [email protected]

Anyone who has gift certificates, may either use them in the next couple of weeks, or please contact us for a refund. 

My cookbook Street Vegan will be coming out in May, sharing lots of the recipes from the truck, along with many wonderful creations never before featured on our menu, and of course a complete donut chapter. The book is already available for pre-order from online booksellers at a discount of their retail price.

While we get setup for our next venture, I will be teaching cooking classes, and my wife will continue to be making special order vegan cakes.

It has been an honor to serve all of the communities that have been supporting us over the years. Really, the people who come to our truck every day have made us feel very loved, and have done such genuinely nice things. One defining moment, which our customers really blew my mind, was after hurricane Sandy. After being shut down by the storm for the week, we started doing emergency outreach, providing hot meals to people in badly affected areas. We only had enough money to be able to provide a couple of days of meals. When our customers found out that we were doing the outreach, they set up a donation fund, and collected thousands of dollars, which allowed us to continue providing meals for weeks. So much of the outreach we were able to do was completely made possible by our generous, caring customer base. 

There have been a lot of great times, and a lot of hard times, and now it is time to transform once again and do something else to elevate vegan food in a new way.

Some people are going to be really upset, and maybe even angry with us that we are moving on from the trucks. I hope you can all forgive us and accept that we are just planning a different, more sustainable route. I am genuinely sorry.

Thank you for five of the best years of my life.
Looking forward to serving you again soon.

-Chef Adam Sobel