Is the invasion of mobile food trucks along the Miracle Mile driving restaurants out of business? The recent closure of two casual establishments has raised that question.
Recently, Toshi’s Fresh Asian, an independent Asian takeout, and Organic-to-Go, a fast-casual chain based in Seattle, both unceremoniously closed their doors on Wilshire Boulevard.
The restaurants had been familiar lunch stops on the 5700 block of Wilshire, an area thick with office buildings and eateries that serve their occupants.
However, the daily lunch scene in recent months has been visited by as many as eight food trucks that offer everything from barbecue to organic sandwiches to several kinds of Mexican and Korean food, often at low prices.
To be sure, the new wave of food trucks has pressured brick-and-mortar restaurants all over the city. But the situation has escalated into a food fight along the Miracle Mile, where restaurants have enlisted a city councilman to get involved on their side.
“We’ve always had trucks out there, but their numbers have increased. We are absolutely hurting,” said Dennis Rohde, owner of the Baja Fresh franchise next to Toshi’s. He estimates that business is off 20 percent, forcing him to cut back employee hours.
“When they’re directly across the street from your business, they catch people coming out of the offices. Many of them are interested in a quick lunch and the trucks can offer that for a cheaper price because they don’t pay rent, maintenance fees or the things we have to maintain.”
The former proprietor of Toshi’s could not be reached for comment and Organic-to-Go representatives did not return calls. A sign on the latter’s window informs passersby that the place will reopen in April as a new concept called Mixt Greens.
Jerry Snyder, whose company J.H. Snyder Co. owns and maintains its headquarters in the Museum Square building where a half-dozen restaurants are housed, said his tenants are complaining.
“They’ve been screaming at me because the trucks have lowered their business by some 20 percent and, in this recession, that’s not healthy,” said Snyder. “If they stay in place, I’ll probably lose most of my restaurants there.”
Snyder said he has already encountered resistance from at least one would-be tenant – a hamburger shop – to which he offered the now-vacant Toshi’s spot.
“They would have come in if not for the trucks,” he said. “We’d love to have them because they do very well, but they said, ‘As soon as the trucks leave, we’ll talk.’ ”
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