October 25, 2021
(DENVER)—Leslie Silverglide, who founded her restaurant at only 24 years old, is used to being the youngest person in the room. As a woman in the male-dominated restaurant industry, she found her age to be the biggest stumbling block. Fifteen years later, Silverglide is ready to be the most confident person in the room.
With a master’s in biodiversity, conservation, and management from Stanford, Silverglide was looking for a place to use her knowledge for the greater good. She founded Mixt in 2005 hoping to combine healthful food and sustainable restaurant practices. The California-based brand now has 16 locations and is growing.
In an interview with The Click, Silverglide shares how she grew Mixt and how any restaurant can grow sustainably while leading with empathy.
The Click: You’ve been the youngest person in the room practically your whole career. How has it been moving up in the world and in your station with this confidence? How has that served you in your career?
Silverglide: You have to have confidence and not be afraid to fail. And I think that’s the biggest thing for me is that I always just look and say, “You know, what do I have to lose?”
The Click: How has that guided your leadership during the past 18 months of the pandemic?
Silverglide: You know, I tend to really try to operate at a pretty even keel in terms of how emotional I am. Even if I’m bubbling inside you wouldn’t necessarily know it.
During the pandemic … it hit an emotional level for me that I had never been at in my life.
The feeling of failure and distress and anxiety and anguish and anger, it was so strong, So for the first time really, I let that show to my team. I’m standing there in front of our whole entire corporate team, and I just start crying.
The Click: How did your team members react when you broke down?
Silverglide: Everyone else started crying. And it let us go to a place of vulnerability that we were all feeling but all putting on this mask and facade. In that moment, it created a connection and created bonds. It brings humanity to its core. And that’s what I did.
The Click: You’ve led your team through the pandemic and into growth mode. What’s it like growing again after 18 months?
Silverglide: It feels great for our team to be focusing on the future, and not just maintaining and hunkering down. So, that feels really good. It feels awesome to be able to think that we’re going to be able to reach these new customer bases, and we can’t wait to get our food in their hands. That is also very exciting but there’s also an aspect of it that’s a little scary because what if this happens again?
The Click: Mixt is a sustainable company focused on clean ingredients and materials. How do you grow with that model?
When we go into a new region, we create a whole new supply chain for ourselves. So it starts with the supply chain, of course, number one, and number two is how we build out our spaces. We have always focused on green building. That means that we build healthy environments for our team members and for our guests. We don’t use materials that [give] off gas like organic compounds, and we also focus on our energy efficiency, water conservation, and using materials that are more sustainable, that travel a fewer distance and that also will be around for a long time.
A lot of [restaurants] in our industry are refreshing their interiors on almost a five-year basis, which ends up having quite a large footprint and a lot of waste. We look and say, “How can we create a design that’s still going to look good in 15 years?” which is [a] really hard thing to do.
Our first restaurant is over 15 years old. It’s pretty amazing that you still walk into it you’re like, “This place looks pretty good.”