Friday, March 18, 2011


A couple of quick stories found from across the internets:

Jack in the Box officials said it isn’t clear yet whether franchising is in their truck’s future.For now, the truck will be used as a “brand building” vehicle in Southern California, where it will be available for the growing number of food-truck special events and catering, said Brian Luscomb, Jack in the Box spokesman.

Dubbed “Jack’s Munchie Mobile,” the 34-foot-long catering truck is a first for Jack in the Box. The truck has the same equipment as a brick-and-mortar kitchen, including a grill, fryer, toaster, fountain beverage dispenser and prep area for burgers, sandwiches and tacos. It also has a 47-inch digital menu board and satellite radio.

Other burger chains, including Carl’s Jr. and In-N-Out Burger, have offered catering trucks for some time, as are a growing number of full-service operators in Los Angeles like California Pizza Kitchen and Border Grill.

Beth Mansfield, a spokeswoman for Carl’s Jr. parent CKE Restaurants Inc., based in Carpinteria, Calif., said the company owns a fleet of seven “Star Diner” trucks for special events and catering.

The company has gotten so much interest in the trucks from franchisees, Carl’s Jr. recently moved one of the Star Diner trucks to Texas for the rest of the year.

“Our franchisees in Texas lobbied for it, along with our company operators and marketing staff,” said Mansfield, noting that the trucks are available for a per-use fee.

It will be interesting to see how these do. Food trucks have given local resterateurs a competitive advantage in two ways, by allowing lower overhead and low startup costs, which in turn, give the opportunity to compete on a price level with lower quality foods. When those lower quality foods from chains find their way into the same market how will it shake out? Will they drop their prices even more? Will they still be able to make a profit then?

As I said, it will be interesting because the chains will also allow a ramping up of production of modular types of urban structures such as food trucks. Even if their trucks fail, it will create a means of production for this proto- or provisional urbanism infrastructure that barely exists today, which is what has been holding back much of the prefab/modular building.

Point being? I think we need the financial power, if not the food of these national chain food trucks.

And second, Phillip Langdon of the New Urban Network looks into WalMart's new strategy to get small and get urban. Given an extension of this strategy expressed locally recently, I find the research he assembled into one article, much of which as been around for some time, helpful whenever we think about "OMG WALMART MEANS JOBS!":

Why DC is allowing WalMart:
I asked Harriet Tregoning, director of planning for Washington, DC, why the District government is so willing to welcome Walmart. Part of her answer: The District is underserved by retailers. “We have only 8 to 9 square feet of retail per capita in the District,” she noted. “By comparison, she said, “The region has about 23 square feet per capita. We leak about $1 billion in retail sales every year” — and thus lose tax revenue.
Which is understandable and WalMart can certainly deliver square footage quickly if that is what you want. The underlying problem however is 1) the potential instability of their supply chain which allows them to provide cheap stuff while an endless series of trucks extending from here to China circle the globe non-stop fueled by extraordinarily and temporarily cheap gas:
Moreover, locally-based enterprises return a larger portion of their revenue to the local economy — by using nearby accountants, nearby web designers, and so on — than do centralized retail chains. A study in Chicago by the firm Civic Economics found that every $100 spent at national chains produced an average of $43 in economic activity in the city, while $100 spent at locally owned businesses generated $68 in economic activity in the city.
So with a national chain, what happens to the money spent by local citizens is that the majority of it ends up getting extracted from the city in question and zapped electronically to Bentonville, Arkansas,which then gets sent throughout the world to global shareholders that really could give a flying frack about where, when, or how that money gets into their investment account. The whole system underscores the difference between how Germany has built what I would suggest is the most stable economy in the world, which is focused on stakeholders, who are able to take into account all the invisible means of profit that exist somewhere outside of a spreadsheet, rather than shareholders.

The other point is about how many jobs does WalMart create? We accept this fact because yes, WalMart has employees, who they hire. But, if what WalMart provides is stuff to meet the needs of the local economy, isn't it safe to assume that those needs would/could/possibly should/and once were met by local entrepreneurs and businesses? The real question becomes, how many jobs does WalMart add on a net basis, as in how many do they create compared to how many they replace from the local economy? The answer isn't kind to Walmart:
Stacy Mitchell of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance says economists at the University of California examined more than 2,000 Walmart store openings and found that the average Walmart eliminates 1.4 retail jobs for every one job it creates.
This is very close to a study I recall sponsored by the US Congress in the '90s which pointed out that for every 2 jobs created by WalMart it replaces 3 (which also happen to be at a lower wage). Those more jobs (at higher wages) would allow more money to remain locally and in turn, to be spent locally. Instead, we get sucked dry by the promise of JOBS JOBS JOBS! Keep believing everything you read.