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What Does the Future of Locol Look Like?

Despite a rough start, Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson are determined to grow

Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi
Daniel Patterson and Roy Choi
Hillary Dixler Canavan is Eater's restaurant editor and the author of the publication's debut book, Eater: 100 Essential Restaurant Recipes From the Authority on Where to Eat and Why It Matters (Abrams, September 2023). Her work focuses on dining trends and the people changing the industry — and scouting the next hot restaurant you need to try on Eater's annual Best New Restaurant list.

Changes are afoot at the socially-conscious Locol mini-chain. On Friday, food world odd-couple Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson opened Locol Bakery in West Oakland. A spinoff from their fast-food concept, the new spot serves baked goods, quick entrees like salads and pizza, plus coffee and green juice.

Eater SF reports the bakery is focused on grab-and-go dining, with only a few seats at the counter. And it’s just one part of an ongoing push to keep the brand growing and evolving: Patterson confirms to Eater that he and Choi “plan to replicate [the] bakery as we grow.”

In a thought-provoking California Sunday profile of Patterson, the chef explains that the first years of Locol — which currently has locations in Los Angeles’s Watts neighborhood and in Oakland — have been tumultuous. The Watts restaurant, the brand’s first, and in many ways, more fully realized location, is losing money. After a high-profile opening in January 2016, sales dwindled, and Patterson says the restaurant is earning only enough to cover payroll. The Oakland Locol is in a wealthier, more commercial neighborhood but has faced its own setbacks, including a controversial zero star review from the New York Times. (Why would a reporter from The New York Times fly 3,000 miles to go apeshit on a five-dollar burger?,” Patterson asks in the profile.)

Photo: Locol Oakland

Patterson credits a menu overhaul with “dramatically” boosting sales at Watts this year. Adding familiar options like a double cheeseburger and chili cheese fries and a take on the beloved fast-food tradition of secret menus has pushed the restaurant towards profitability. In LA, Locol now operates a food truck, tapping into Choi’s reputation and expertise in the city’s street food scene.

Coupled with a new catering operation, Patterson projects Watts “will be in the black in the second quarter, as will Oakland.” Eater SF also reports that plans for a Locol in San Francisco’s Tenderloin are still on the table, but without a concrete open-date or timeline.

There’s further room for growth in Locol’s coffee program. The chefs partnered with Tonx Coffee co-founder Tony Konecny to put $1 coffee on the original Locol menu, and Locol Bakery is also selling coffee. But Patterson has still loftier goals for Locol’s potential to change both the coffee industry and the food industry, telling California Sunday: “We’re bringing back the great $1 cup. The fancy coffee industry is not going to be happy with us. We’re going into institutional food, too. We’re already talking about prisons and hospitals and schools.”

While Patterson and Choi haven’t been able to open Locols at the clip they were originally hoping to, Locol Bakery might provide a way forward. With a smaller footprint and a tighter focus, the bakery could be the scalable springboard the duo needs.

Locol Bakery Now Serving Up Pizza and Bunz in Oakland [ESF]
Cooking Lessons [California Sunday]