The Breakdown

Explaining Southern California's economy

Visual Aid: The food truck business, NYC edition

I have a bit of an attitude about food trucks. Living in LA, I tend to take them for granted and also tend to focus on the basics: taco trucks. I am in fact the Foursquare mayor of my favorite truck, where I can get a ceviche tostada or a plate of tacos and a Jarritos soda for less than $5. High-end food trucks have of course become a big deal in LA, but given that we live in America's most spread-out metropolis, they seem to be able to operate without too much trouble.

Down deep, New York has serious LA envy, so in the last few years, food trucks have become thick on the streets there. New Yorkers are competitive eaters (unlike Angelenos, who are basically happy to subsist on a diet of burgers, tacos, sushi, steak and the occasional cleansing bowl of arugula), so of course they can't just emulate LA food-truck culture, they have to transform it into something that might be worthy of a Harvard Business School case study.

Witness the nine-minute Business Insider video above (sponsored by UPS, hence the "logistics" questions). A boy from a humble fishing village in Maine graduates from college, goes into investment banking, but really just wants to be...a boy from a humble fishing village in Maine. So he sets up a lobster-roll restaurant, Luke's Lobster, and grows it into...several lobster roll restauarants, leveraging his access to his family's seafood-processing business back in Maine to undercut the competition on price. Remember, this kid was in finance, he might look like a saltwashed young fellow from Maine but in fact he's a hungry, hungry shark.

Actually, he seems like a nice guy with a good idea some sneaky business savvy. The Maine lobster roll is something of a cult foodstuff on the East Coast, a purified way of eating lobster without having to deal with all the cracking and picking. So now Luke is doing a lobster truck. At least he isn't a truck evangelist — he sees them as a limited trend, good mainly for marketing. This is still pretty New Yorky, however. In LA, I'd say the majority of trucks are operated...to sell food. Marketing would consist mainly of deciding to name the truck something other than the 10 other trucks operating in the area.

What do you think? Is LA a superior food-truck town because it takes its trucks less seriously than New York? Or has the City that Never Sleeps raised the food truck to the state of the art?

Follow Matthew DeBord and the DeBord Report on Twitter.

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