Sherman Oaks, CA: Food Trucks Eating Into Our Profits, Local Bistros Say

By Christina Penza |

Sherman Oaks restaurant owners say mobile food trucks sometimes park right outside their businesses.

When gourmet fast-food trucks first pulled into Sherman Oaks, they carried barbecued beef short ribs, spicy pork burritos—and an unanswered question. Would these low-priced, mobile meals pose a threat to neighboring restaurants, especially during an economic decline? More than a year later, the issue is still a sore point with some restaurateurs.

“The brick-and-mortar places that pay property taxes are at a disadvantage, compared to someone who has pulled up in a truck,” said Sherman Oaks Chamber of Commerce President Dr. Robert Cohen.

Restaurant owners tell local leaders that some of the popular trucks sometimes stop right outside their restaurants, park in illegal spots and even block their driveways.

“I am getting more frustrated with them as they get more aggressive,” said 5th District City Councilman Paul Koretz. His area includes the Commercial District on both sides of Ventura Boulevard. “Many are based outside the city. They pay no taxes to the city. I think they will end up putting restaurants out of business,” he said.

Thursday night, chef Jovany Morales was in a Calbi food truck parked outside a Ventura Boulevard supermarket. “We look for a location where people are in a rush,” he said. “They want fast food.” Morales said his family’s seven trucks park outside grocery stores and pharmacies. He said he does not see his business as restaurant competition.

“People tell me you can’t find a restaurant with these fusions,” he said while cooking up one of Calbi’s special Korean-Mexican tacos.

“I love the food. It’s fast and easy. The prices are great,” said Geoffry Coatar, a food truck regular.

High school freshman Sarah Matsui von Guetzow agreed. “Their tacos are really fresh, but their burritos are bomb.”

L.A.’s food trucks reached popularity by combining gourmet tastes with technology. Fans can find the location of their favorite truck through social media like Twitter.

“From area to area, you can find them through Twitter, which is really nice,” said Ellan Nandio, a food truck devotee.

Yet, the long lines at some trucks are starting to dwindle.

It seems that a lot of the craze is done with now,” Nandio adds. “People actually show up and the line moves fairly quickly.”

The food trucks do not worry Sherman Oaks restaurant owner Philipe Gris. He runs Cafe Bizou, down the block from the Calbi truck. “Look at this,” Gris said, as he swept his arm across his packed dining room. “I would be surprised to see my customers making a line for the truck.”

Sherman Oaks small-business owner Donna Carsten said she enjoys dining at both food trucks and local restaurants. She thinks the food-truck following can actually benefit restaurants in the long run.

“What it does is, it puts me in the area and it makes me think, gosh, you know, we should go to Cafe Bizou next,” Carsten said.