Have you heard there’s a food window at Skechers? It looks kind of like a Costco food court, it’s almost as cheap, and it doesn’t even require a membership. Park at the vast lot next to the warehouse-sized Skechers shoe store in Gardena, next to the intersection of the 110 and 405 freeways, and find that there’s almost always a line of people waiting at the Food Spot window for $2.50 cheese pizza slices, $2.50 Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs, and $5 double cheeseburgers.
Without too much fanfare, the Skechers food spot opened on May 3, 2023, serving classic American fast-food dishes at prices that feel shockingly low. The semi-secret project gives one of the shoe brand’s busiest retail stores an extra feature to go along with reasonably priced footwear: tasty, decently-cooked food that almost anyone could afford.
Beyond standard Costco-style fare, a well-fried chicken sandwich sports a golden brown crust between plush Portuguese-style buns. Priced at $6, the sandwich costs only 25 cents more than the one at Chick-fil-A. Equally impressive, Food Spot’s Nashville hot chicken sandwich is only $6.50, featuring a lightly greased red-tinted crust and dill pickles. Diners need two hands to hold up these fried chicken sandwiches, which come in generously-sized portions. There are even crisp fries, served bare or topped with garlic and Parmesan. At a time when it seems like restaurant prices around LA just keep rising, the ridiculously affordable dishes at Food Spot are a welcome change of pace. And everything tastes pretty great — definitely better than Costco — and on par with any good concessions stand at a sports venue.
Melinda Micklo, an operations training specialist for Food Spot and a former Smashburger employee, says a restaurant next to a shoe store just makes sense. “We just took some space from the store, and you can’t tell if you’ve been inside,” says Micklo. The idea is pretty genius, with good frontage along 190th Street and Vermont, a bustling intersection surrounded by industrial office parks in the southern part of Gardena. The store, one of the sneaker brand’s busiest in the country, always had the space to accommodate a food window, but it just needed approval from the city. Once that came through a few years ago, Skechers CEO Michael Greenberg and his team built and recipe-tested a casual eatery to work alongside the shoe store.
“Years ago we thought, wouldn’t it be great to have a food concession?” said Greenberg, who has invested in restaurants like Rock & Brews, the Shade Hotel, and Fresh Brothers Pizza in the past. “I thought we could make shopping for shoes like a family outing.” Inspired by the likes of Heavy Handed’s burgers and Howlin’ Ray’s hot chicken, Greenberg set out to make a Costco-inspired food court but with name-brand ingredients like Ghirardelli chocolate, Nathan’s all-beef hot dogs, and certified Angus beef. As if the brands weren’t enough to differentiate Food Spot from the more ubiquitous Costco food courts, it even serves Coca-Cola soft drinks, while Costco sells Pepsi and its related brands. The results are a snappy hot dog that might not be as large as Costco’s but tastes meatier and juicier, and a $5 double cheeseburger that might not be better than Shake Shack’s, but is easily twice the size and a few dollars cheaper. It’s affordable enough to take a chance.
Locals have responded to the sneaker store’s culinary addition with enthusiasm. On a recent weekday in August, the Food Spot had a dozen people in line to order and another dozen or so waiting for their food. Almost every seat at the small outdoor dining area was taken, and most of the standing room counters were occupied too. Joe Fields, senior operations manager of the Food Spot, says, “There’s a good cross-pollination with people stopping and grabbing food. Nothing is frozen, except for the fries, and everything is seasoned or cooked to order.”
Greenberg won’t share numbers but says the food business has exceeded all expectations, generating a significant contribution to the store’s shoe sales. “They come to visit the Food Spot, and they have to visit the shoe store. When they come to visit the store, they have to eat. All in all, it’s a beautiful concept. We’re very pleased,” says Greenberg.
The one area where Food Spot could improve could be the pizza, by no means worse than Costco’s wide, cheesy slices, but perhaps lacking a bit of flavor in the crust. At least the pepperoni curls up like at any proper NYC-style joint, but there’s room for improvement. Fields says they’re toying around with adding additional combinations like barbecue chicken, something Costco has never offered. Another place where improvements could be made is the churros, served with a choice of caramel or chocolate sauce but lacking the requisite crunch or crispiness of a good churro. The soft serve is also not up to par, showing more iciness than one would expect. At least there’s a thoughtful Cobb salad, named after Greenberg’s hometown of Manhattan Beach, topped with bacon, black beans, cheese, corn, tomato, and seasoned chicken. At $7, it’s far better than any salad at Costco.
As for the pricing, Greenberg says they plan to keep the business like this for the first 12 months before evaluating any changes. “We’ll always provide good value because it’s in our DNA,” he says. Greenberg also hasn’t ruled out expanding Food Spot to other Skechers retail locations, so long as they have the traffic and space to accommodate eateries. “We don’t want to rush into anything so we really want to vet it. Everything is looking really positive with the concept. We’ve had such positive feedback,” says Greenberg.
The Skechers Food Spot is open daily from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at 19000 South Vermont Avenue, Gardena, CA 90248.