It’s no secret that Locol, the socially conscious fast-food concept from Roy Choi and Daniel Patterson, isn’t a smashing financial success. In March, Patterson revealed that its Watts location was losing money, and in June, the uptown Oakland Locol closed. But, in a lengthy interview with Giant Robot Media, Choi explains that money, and even accolades like being named the LA Times restaurant of the year, are beside the point.
Although Choi says he and Patterson “built this project to grow and to eventually be in like five cities by now,” they’re not looking to grow for profit. Locol, revenue and all, is for the Watts community. “I hope this thing makes millions and billions of dollars,” he says. “I hope the money is flowing, but that money’s going to go back to the community. It’s not going to go to us as owners.”
More than a restaurant that offers a healthy alternative to fast food, Locol is a community center. The Watts location employs people from the neighborhood, and is set up as a place where “families can relax” and make use of free internet. Locol relies on community support from everyone “from true G.’s out there to grandmothers” to keep it going.
In an ideal world, Locol would grow to open successful locations “that serve as revenue centers for us as owners of the business,” Choi says. But, the Locol locations in “the inner cities, that are built within communities that need us most at this point of life, those will be built as community centers.”
Locol outposts in places like Watts will provide job training and serve as safe spaces for “growth and education.” If they do happen to make a profit, in addition to paying back investors, “that money will go back into rebuilding, whether that’s providing more jobs, giving raises, providing programs for young kids or whatever the case may be,” Choi says.
Choi says the Watts location is “better than ever.” The team is “thriving,” they’ve started a community ambassador program, are thinking about setting up a Watts souvenir shop — to show people the beauty of the neighborhood, not for the money. “If we’re only in it for the money, there’s no reason to build a Locol in Watts,” Choi says.
• Going Locol From the Inside Out [Giant Robot Media]