Restaurants on Wheels – Marketplace

Throughout “City of Gold,” the late food critic Jonathan Gold drives his truck through Los Angeles like a tour guide, pointing out notable restaurants clustered in modest strip malls.

At one point, he passes King Taco, a taqueria that started life in 1974 from a converted ice cream truck. One of King Taco’s locations, he explains, has a food truck parked out front to honor its origin story.

“If you come on a weekend evening, there will be an hour wait for the truck and you can walk up to the counter of the restaurant itself,” Gold says in the film. “I’ve had tacos at the truck and at the restaurant, and that’s right, you want the ones from the truck.”

As part of our month-long look at “City of Gold,” let’s take a look at food trucks in Los Angeles and beyond.


That’s the number of food trucks in the United States in 2023, up 6.9% from last year.


The rise of social media has fueled the modern food truck scene in Los Angeles. Chef Roy Choi, who was featured in “City of Gold,” attributed the success of his Kogi truck to Twitter, where customers could follow the Korean taco truck’s movements. (In 2009, Choi’s more than 8,000 Twitter followers were considered impressive.)


LA, Marketplace’s hometown, took second place in Food & Wine’s 2023 readers’ poll for best food truck city. Portland, Oregon took first place.

5 mpg

Food trucks are heavy. The typical truck gets about 5 miles per gallon.

$55,000 to $180,000

The costs of opening a food truck are considerably lower than those of a brick-and-mortar restaurant. The Food Truck Association of Los Angeles estimates start-up costs between $55,000 and $180,000. Despite this lower barrier to entry, food trucks and restaurants face very similar business challenges.


It’s not cheap to street legalize your restaurant. In Los Angeles, license and permit fees run nearly $30,000, according to the U.S. Chamber of Commerce’s Food Truck Nation project.


In Los Angeles, the price of restaurant meals increased 6.2% in August from a year earlier. That’s a challenge for food truck owners, whose customers are less price tolerant. “People who go to food trucks aren’t looking to spend a lot of money,” said chef Susan Feniger. In response to rising labor and food costs, Feniger said it makes perfect economic sense to deploy its Border Grill food trucks at larger festivals and for concerts catering. “We are no longer on the streets as much as before. »

74.8 degrees Fahrenheit

This is the average daily maximum for downtown Los Angeles. The dry, warm Mediterranean climate makes it year-round food truck season. But extreme heat, like what the United States experienced this summer, can be dangerous for food truck workers.

“City of Gold” is available to stream for free on Tubi, on Kanopy for eligible library cardholders, and on Prime Video and DirectTV Stream with a subscription.

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