Success in the restaurant industry does not rely on being part of a large, national chain. In fact, some of the best restaurants in the country are local enterprises. They are solo restaurants or chains of just two or three locations. They do not have the benefit of corporate finances and large-scale marketing. So how do they survive?
You could look out over the retail landscape and clearly see that mom-and-pop stores haven’t fared well against big-box retailers. Corporate retail initiated the demise of the mom-and-pop model, a demise that was only exacerbated by online shopping. But in the restaurant sector, mom-and-pop restaurants still thrive. Local establishments continue to bring home the bacon even as corporate chains are doing their best to overpower them.
According to the owners of Utah’s Taqueria27 Mexican restaurant, it all boils down to local restaurants distinguishing themselves from corporate chains. Restaurants able to draw a distinct line between themselves and their corporate competition are better positioned for long-term survival.
Focusing on Neighborhoods
So how do local restaurants distinguish themselves? They do so, first and foremost, by focusing on neighborhoods. Taqueria27 is a fitting example. Taqueria27 is actually a group of five family-owned restaurants in the Salt Lake City area. Each is a reflection of the family’s primary goal: to create neighborhood restaurants that encourage friendship, family dining, and community involvement.
A neighborhood focus is something that corporate chains just cannot accomplish. Corporations are too big, too impersonal, and too numbers-structured to put in the time and effort necessary to cultivate good neighborhood relationships. That gives locally owned restaurants a very distinct advantage. They can focus on neighborhoods and build a loyal audience at the same time.
Setting Trends Instead of Following Them
Another way local restaurants distinguish themselves is by setting trends rather than following them. In a corporate environment, getting new ideas from the drawing board to the table involves a lot of time and red tape. The owner of a local restaurant can come up with a great idea in the morning and have it ready for the table that evening.
This gives local restaurants the opportunity to set the trends that everyone else follows. The key here is a willingness to take chances and be creative. Everything from unique fusion recipes to creative marketing promotions is capable of becoming the next big trend.
Individually Distinct Food Preparation
The last item on our list touches the very core of why people dine out to begin with. Survey data over the years has demonstrated that experience is one of the most important factors in determining whether or not a guest likes a particular restaurant. Give guests a good experience and you will make them happy.
To that end, local restaurants have an advantage by way of individually distinct food preparation. In other words, the cook back in the kitchen is not preparing meals using a written formula, pre-portioned ingredients, and so forth. Every dish is prepared distinctly and individually as it is ordered.
Go to a corporate chain and every serving of the same dish is identical. Even different dishes appear eerily similar. Customers pick up on that. Whether consciously or subconsciously, they know that the corporate kitchen is more like a small factory than an environment where actual cooking takes place. That doesn’t make for an optimal experience.
It would be easy for local restaurant owners to throw up their hands and quit in the face of competition from corporate chains. But most do not. They soldier on, distinguishing themselves from their corporate competitors and staying in business because of it.