L.A. International Airport is at or near the bottom in customer satisfaction surveys, mostly because of the atrocious food and beverage offerings.

Airport officials have been working on this, and after three years of trying, they think they've found the answer. Food trucks.

Food trucks? God help us all.

On a 13-0 vote, the L.A. City Council approved a 10-year contract today for food and beverage service in Terminals 4, 5, 7 and 8. Some of the business — $14 million of annual revenues — will be going to CMS/Camacho, and another $14 million going to Delaware North.* But most of the business — more than $30 million of annual revenues — will be going to HMS Host.

Yes, the same HMS Host that has been serving crappy food at the airport for 40 years. The same HMS Host that finished last in the contract bidding last year, but managed to restart the process through a Herculean lobbying effort. The HMS Host that should have been booted out of LAX entirely a year ago but has managed to cling to a decent chunk of the business through the sheer power of incumbency.

That's who we're dealing with. So what's their big plan to improve the image of LAX among the traveling public? As part of the bid for Terminal 4, Host is offering a “concept” called “L.A. Gourmet Street Truck.” From the flackage:

This will be the most talked about restaurant in the industry!

(Facepalm.) OK, so just a quick a word on the point of food trucks. Food trucks are a solution to a land-use failure. Too many office buildings do not have ground-floor restaurants or lunch options within walking distance. So food trucks pull up alongside them at lunch time.

Take them out of that context and plop them down into an airport concourse and what you have is a marketing gimmick. It doesn't inspire a ton of confidence that these folks know what they're doing.

Oh, but they have some other things up their sleeve. Host will be offering Cole's French Dip, 8 oz. Burger Bar, La Provence and Campanile. This is the same company, by the way, that loudly proclaimed last year that its that its rival's plans were too fancy and expensive for working-class travelers, and printed up a bunch of T-shirts with the slogan “Real L.A. Food for Real L.A. People.” That was then. Host's new slogan is: “You want fine dining? We can do fine dining!”

Today's council vote at least draws a close to an unsavory bit of governmental sausage-making. And Host's near-monopoly at LAX has been broken up somewhat. But if you're counting on a major improvement to LAX food and beverage service, don't hold your breath.


LA Weekly