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From a Restaurant Owner...

After reading many posts about "the restaraunt that I loved, that I have not visited in six months, and that has disappeared" -----

May I ask you to go RELIGIOUSLY to the *one* or *two* places you love, that are not part of a chain... and do not spend money on McDonalds, Applebees, PJ Changs or other chains - that will survive no matter what happens -

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE, go to the places that you *value* EVERY week. Do not spend your money on the O.K. places. Because, the little places will disappear, unless you choose your favorites. Choose the place you love and go EVERY week and - maybe,maybe they may be there in a few years...

With hope - to all my friends in the business - to all the people who busted their asses - to all of the folks who have tried so hard to please the customer......We are the champions.....

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  1. THANK YOU That said,I was planning to wake up that older thread with an in between tie in.In some areas 20 - 30%,at every level there will be a vanishing act.Restaurants,
    chefs (back of the house),wait staff (front of the house) are encountering ECONOMIC
    TOUGH TIMES.Many really first rate people will be hurt for a long time.
    Are you planning to do any entertaining this fall > holiday season ? My plan for me and most clients is to hold at 2007 prices,rather than cancel anything.However we also feel a sense of loyalty and community.Working out the balancing act will require some new thinking.We plan on almost all events to be "off" nights this year,Sunday - Tuesday or Wednesday.Work deals with restaurants at every level.Hire ?? that you already know and like to serve,pour,carve,bus,cook or mix drinks.These are "champions" to preserve in the industry.(F & B).My EXTRA plan/goal is to come up with 125 FULL TARRIFF shifts for about 15-18 people.On the nights etc that they are already faced with serious cutbacks and loss of traffic.Take a little pressure off reduced hours,tips etc.
    Loyalty and fairness now will be rewarded when circumstances permit.The staff you care about also cares,it is a two way thing.

    2 Replies
    1. re: lcool

      >>May I ask you to go RELIGIOUSLY to the *one* or *two* places you love,

      You are very correct, Siobhan.

      I am guilty of not doing so, since I don't have a weekly go-to place that I love. That said, I don't eat in chains.

      1. re: lcool

        DH and I agree this is very important - we visit our favorite local diner at least once a week, the local sushi place 2 times per month. We remind our friends and family to support their local economy by visiting locally owned restos as well.

      2. for the most part you are preaching to the choir here(other than the few chain devotees on CH, and shame on them).

        I only eat at locallly owned restaurants when I am doing the choosing. At the locally owned place I frequent, the food is better, the service is better, and the money stays local as opposed to the horrid chaing opitons in the area.

        I agree it is too bad the people who choose a chain restaurant over a locally owned restaurant, they dont know what they are missing in regards to better food, they are hurting local business people, and they are supporting faceless corporations. Put your money where your mouths are.

        1 Reply
        1. re: swsidejim

          Unfortunately, there are just too many places, where the chains really draw 'em in, so chef-driven restaurants have a realy tough time. West Phoenix is one. Unfortunately, it's so very far for us to drive (and we love our wines), but I always read the reviews of such spots, only to see them in the Business Section in the "bankruptcy" listings so very soon.

          When we drive through that culinary wasteland, on our way out of town, the chains are all that we see. There is a vast segment of the dining public that would not think of dining at a mom-n-pop, if there is a Chili's nearby. Fortunately, there are not many of these diners on CH.

          Yes, "preaching to the choir."


        2. If only I could afford to go to ANY restaurant every week.

          I do support my locals as often as possible. But where I live, there are very, very few local choices that are palatable. I have tried mightily, I have probably tried 40 different locals within a very close radius to where I live and literally only 2 produce food good enough for me to return again and again. I love them, but I get tired of middle eastern and pizza as my only dining option. This leaves the option of driving a half hour to a different local resaurant or eating at a chain. Sometimes, when it's 830pm on a cold, wintery night with bad roads, I'm sorry but i don't feel like making that half hour trip.

          I love my locals and support them as often as I can, even though we don't go out to eat once a week, but the argument that ALL locals produce better food than chains just doesn't hold up. Come to my town and eat in some of the diners, full-service restaurants, delis, breakfast places, barbeque joints, mexican places, steakhouses and others among the 40 in my area and I can tell you the meals are just bad in a lot of them. cheap ingredients, shortcuts, sysco everything, tasteless, awful cuisine unfortunately in a lot of them and though the people might be very nice, after 2 tries where neither me or mr. rockandroller have liked what we've had (we usually give a place 2 tries unless it's so bad neither of us can actually eat our meal, which has also happened), we don't go back. I do see these places going under from time to time but honestly, whose fault is it, really?

          5 Replies
          1. re: rockandroller1

            I have your problem in my town as well. The independent restaurants are simply not very good. There are a few worth returning to, but half are too high end to be feasible to visit on a regular basis and the other half aren't necessarily the type of food I'd want every week even if I could afford to go out that often. The roads here are also very bad in the winter, making going out even less desirable. Typically I just end up staying at home and cooking, because the grocery stores do tend to have better items than you can find in a lot of restaurants.

            1. re: queencru

              I have the same problem that you and rockandroller1 have--the few indy restaurants here are just not very good (save for a couple). And I truly enjoy cooking, so I spend at the supermarket or my (not-so-local) natural foods coop. I do regularly patronize the local ice cream shops--probably why I resorted to hiring a personal trainer (she's a local trying to start a business, so I guess I'm helping out the local economy that way).

              I do understand the strain that independent restaurants are under and I really hope that they fare well in these times. But if they aren't good, I won't spend my money there. And some of us don't even go out to eat that often in good economic times--I do have a favorite local place, but I go every month or two and I don't have the inclination to increase that.

              BTW, NYTimes did a story on the changes restaurants are doing to get through this economy:

              1. re: nofunlatte

                Sounds like my little corner of northeastern Indiana. There are some private owned restaurants near me but they aren't very good and I refuse to pay $15 plus for a fish and chips dinner cooked in rancid grease! With that said, we do go to a few local owned Chinese restaurants and the only time we go into a chain is when on the road and we hit a fast food joint along the interstate. On those occasions, if we're traveling for pleasure, we do try to find a small mom and pop. We went for over 6 months without eating out and have only gone a few times in the past three. It's a rare treat for my family and usually coincides with a birthday or some special occasion.

                1. re: alliedawn_98

                  I think I'm probably just a bit south of you, in another culinary wasteland. Good local Thai place, though, and they seem to be weathering this economy so far. I don't eat out much, but when I do, it is this Thai resto, because the food is good.

                  1. re: nofunlatte

                    I have lived near Indy......in Lebanon and Frankfort and there wasn't much there either. Same goes for Warsaw, Wabash, and North Manchester.

                    I did eat at a pretty good little diner today in Howe, IN. The food is nothing out of the ordinary but the burger was made by hand and served with sauteed mushrooms and caramelized onions on a toasted bun.......really, really good.

          2. I make it a point to only partake in sole proprietorships where possible. I have a rotation, and frequently add or remove as I try new places. To get in my rotation, the chow has to be prepared with love, taste excellent, regardless of whether it's comfort, steakhouse or a happy hour, a 'bad day' has to be a real rarity, service must be consistantly very good and the menu has to be fairly priced. So I'll keep patronizing non-chains as long as the restaurants don't get greedy. However, in my area there has been a tendency for local places to gouge the patron, a bad habit from the past that is coming to haunt them in today's economy. Payback time!

            1. True that. Sometimes when I drive a little further to a place I love I tell myself I am "voting" for that place. The preaching to the choir comment posted here is spot on. So I try to talk up a favorite place to those who haven't yet become addicted to chowhound. But it never hurts to post yet another glowing review of your favorites, just in case you can entice a new chowhound customer to go there.

              1. We prefer going for apps and a glass of wine at our local favorites than a chain meal. we wonder why there is a chain site on Chowhound. Thank you et al

                3 Replies
                1. re: Passadumkeg

                  I would think there is a "Chain" site on chow hound to help people, such as we, who are sometimes out of town, and not willing or able to drive to a known chowhound haunt miles away, need sustenance, and appreciate the guidance of chowhounds in such situations.
                  While we frequent local establishments at home, we do not always have the luxury of knowing which establishments are reputable in other towns.

                  1. re: grantham

                    I travel too, but refuse to bow to the crap of chains. I'll risk a burger or dog at a local joint, thank you. To each his own.

                  2. re: Passadumkeg

                    I also wonder why there is a chain section on Chowhound, since chains have nting to do with good food.

                  3. Please note that I myself am a small business owner. I hope you realize Siobhan that many chains are in fact independently owned and operated. My cousin owns a single outlet of a national chain and trust me, he won't "survice no matter what happens" if people quit coming to his higher end place in times like these. He's more than busted his ass and employees quite a few people.

                    7 Replies
                    1. re: Rick

                      I'm with you. I don't want to vilify chains as satanic. But please guests, customers, get to know who is on the other side of the counter and , if you value the business - GO!!! We all have limited funds, so if you normally have fast food for lunch - save your money and go have a slice of pizza for dinner. All i'm asking is that you think about your choices and decide that you want Place X to survive and then SHOW UP for the next 26 weeks. If you only go for a slice of pizza in the local place then you will help that guy survive and I can tell you, you will be treated like a god - (at least in the places that know what it's about.) And if they don;t treat you well, move on and spend your dollars elsewhere. This economic turndown is life and death to the folks in the trenches. I'm wondering how to pay my gas bill - if I have a good weekend , it's o.k. If not, I'll try to put off other vendors and play the juggling game that we all have now. Just think about your choices, know that someone's business is counting on YOU and vote with your feet, mouth and heart...

                      1. re: Siobhan

                        I consciously try to frequent locally owned restaurants, and some of them are chains, but they are local chains with not many locations. After Hurricane Ike we still didn't have power and wanted a good square meal, so we went to a cafeteria (which is part of a chain.) We were standing in a long line looking over the food, when we realized that the only things that appealed to us were the chicken dishes. We left and went around the corner to this little place that is new, one of a kind cuban rotisserie/grilled chicken, and really nice people who are obviously family. We were happy, they were happy and we saw 2 other people that had left the cafeteria to eat in this little place. AND, it was a lot less expensive, and better food. Support these places every chance you can!

                        1. re: Siobhan

                          gee, i don't know of any mom and pop pizza places that sell by the slice. it's either a whole pie or nothing. in fact, except for costco (big chain) i don't know of any pizza places at all where you can buy just a slice, local or chain.

                          1. re: KaimukiMan

                            Ignoring the fact that you needn't take Siobhan's plea to go get a slice literally, because that wasn't her point, that's a function of your location. There are plenty of areas where one can, indeed, buy a slice at locally owned shops. It's hardly unheard of.

                            1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                              When I lived in Delaware and Pennsylvania, I could easily buy a slice (I'm missing the slices from Margherita's in Newark, DE). Where I live now, it is whole pie or nothing. And here it is mostly--perhaps totally--chains, though one is a local chain and another is a national one started by a local boy who made good. Both still only sell whole pies--bummer.

                              1. re: Caitlin McGrath

                                Thanks Caitlin, my point was that except for chains it can be difficult to go out to eat and spend less than $10-$15 for even a light meal. heck, even driving through McDonald's is likely to cost me $7.50. I guess my reply was a bit too literal.

                              2. re: KaimukiMan

                                Do you not consider Boston's North End "mom & pop" Sure it has a few locations but
                                it still is locally owned by "Uncle" Tommy and they do sell by the slice a rather big slice
                                to be exact.

                          2. I agree that it's important to support your favorite local restaurants whenever you can. It's especially important when it works both ways and your favorite local restaurant is also supporting local suppliers. For example, spending $1 on locally grown produce generates 2-3 additional dollars into the local economy overall. If I were an independent restaurant owner right now, I'd support and market myself as a supporter of the local farmer, waterman, wine producer, cheesemaker, etc.

                            Siobhan - keep fighting the good fight! The most important thing you can do is to make sure that you do not cut corners on quality of product and provide superior customer servcie regardless if you have a fine dining or a pizza joint. The best investments you can make right now are in your Team and your commitment to your Guest. I could go on and on about this subject....

                            Oh, and please remember that alot of the "chains" are actually franchises that are independently owned & operated by members of your community. The big chains may survive but there are lots of regional and small - medium sized national franchisors that might not. The effect of a franchise and an independent closing are the same...loss of jobs and options in your local economy.

                            1 Reply
                            1. re: oldbaycupcake

                              Very true. Believe it or not, my area lost 4 or 5 Burger Kings a couple of years ago. Is this a culinary tragedy? Obviously not. But a family who owned these franchises lost everything, and a lot of people lost their jobs. It says a lot about how bad the economy of my county is that we couldn't keep a BK and a Pizza Hut from folding - traditionally, fast food places can weather a bad economy.

                            2. I would love to but, unfortunately, many of my favourite places are not open Saturday for lunch which is when I typically go out for a restaurant meal, leaving me with no choice but to go to places which are actually open, usually chains. I'll sometimes go for an early dinner instead but that doesn't often work with my schedule.

                              1. The jfoods are doing what they can, also within their budgetary constraints. And he cannot even remember the last time they went to a "chain". Fortunately they live in a part of the US where there are tons of M&P's.

                                Likwise if he sees the owner meeting him halfway, then they move up the power rotation, but those that still have the attitude, then they move down the power rotation. Everyone is in this together and when the pendulum comes back, hopefully restos will still be there and hopefully the owners remember their real customers, as well.

                                1. My wife loves the chains. Applebees and Chilis are her favorites. She like to know what she's going to get, no adventures, no surprises. The last time I talked her into a M&P we waited for well over an hour for ice cold dead food. We left after discussing with our waitress (not ours) who apologized profusely. We never could get the owner's attention, she was too busy fawning over babies a couple tables away. This restaurant is in an older area of town with lots of cool independent restaurants. I named off each as we passed it. Wife was having none of any of them. We ended up at Applebees @ 3:00 pm for our Sunday brunch. Service was excellent, food wasn't.

                                  Previous to that, my kids recommended a cool Asian restaurant in the nearby college town for the three of them, The waitress was waaay too cool to write down any of their orders. When my daughter's vegetarian noodles had chicken in them, the waitress said, "Yeah, I'm a vegetarian too, and I'd be upset if that happened to me.." and walked off leaving the chicken and noodles.

                                  I know its a long post, but please help me help you. I'm trying to stay out of Olive Garden here.

                                  1. We are making a conscious effort to support our local restaurants. Our problem is that our budget is limited, and there are so many good ones we want to support!

                                    Aside from a potbelly sandwich, I can't remember the last time I ate at a chain of more than 3. (there is a great Mexican(ish) chain in the area with 3 restaurants, each individually owned and operated, that I adore!)

                                    1. I'm finding this thread to be a good reminder for me to value what I have. True, I don't go out to eat much, so my restaurant patronage isn't likely to increase. But I have become more cognizant of purchasing locally produced foods--just today I bought extra bison meat from the farmer at the farmer's market today. And sadly he informed me that he ;might not make his buffalo-pork sausage next year--I LOVE his hot buffalo summer sausage with the addition of cayenne pepper. Yes, it's expensive, but I can talk to this guy and I can get to know him.

                                      1. A worthy plea. As one who does not do chains, unless forced to, I follow your suggestion. While we try to add new spots, we always fall back on our favs. This is true for our trips out of Phoenix, say to Hawai`i and New Orleans. Each trip features returns plus a couple of new spots.

                                        First, I so greatly appreciate the food at our favs., but also want them to be there for the next trip. They have fed me and made me happy. The least that I can do is to patronize them.

                                        Same with a local boutique grocery/'wine shop. They're just over the hill from me, and their prices are ~US$5.00/bottle more, than the discount wine stores. Still, I make sure to stop in a pick up a few cases, because I want them to still be in business, when I need "just one more bottle of the '96 Condrieu." It is a small price to pay for the convenience of having a full and ecclectic wine list, just "over the hill."

                                        Treat me well, feed me great food, offer me a well-matched selection of wines for your fare at fair prices, and you have a patron for life.

                                        When asking for fine-dining recs. in a new area, or on a new CH board, I almost always specify "no Ruth's or Morton's," as first, I am less than impressed, and second, I want to support the local chef/restauranteur.


                                        1. I spent my first 11 years in Chicago--at the time, the second largest city in the U.S. There were no chains, except a small local fastfood burger chain, Henry's Hamburgers. When I moved to southern California there were some chain coffee shops such as Denny's, Sambo's, and Du Pars' and the occasional McDonald's. Back then, McD's were strictly walk-up window operations with high school boys in white uniforms flipping, assembling, and wrapping burgers with lightening speed. The McD's of that era would be almost completely unrecognizable today. There were no Burger Kings, Pizza Huts, Domino's, or Taco Bell's. Sadly, most of the little Mom and Pop restaurants that were here when I first moved to Los Angeles are gone.
                                          I avoid chains like Applebee's etc. like the plague. I go only when forced to by others, such as work-related events. When I'm spending my own hard-earned cash, I go to an independent or a very small local "chain." I think the only two chains I remember liking are gone now or at least from southern California--The Magic Pan and Jolly Roger.

                                          I think this practice should also extend to other types of businesses, though, not just restaurants. Hardware stores, clothing stores, etc.

                                          1. I moved 2000 miles away from Chicago, where I was born and bred, over a year ago. There was one restaurant there (which shall go unnamed so as not to derail the thread) where I went religiously. I always ordered the same thing.

                                            I miss it, and so far no restaurant in Seattle comes close to making this dish the way I'm used to, so one day last week, when I was really jonesing for this food, I emailed the owner and asked if he would overnight fed ex me this dish (on dry ice) and I, of course, would incur all costs.

                                            Alas and alack, he politely replied the next day in the negative, saying he couldn't guarantee proper temperatures.

                                            Darn darn darn. But at least I tried. Doesn't help my jonesing, but I gave it a shot. Now all I have are fond memories, although when I go back to Chicago sometime early next year, you bet that place will be my first stop.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: marcia

                                              You are to be commended.Under the circumstances,"special"at that,perhaps he would be kind enough to share the recipe??My sister has a similar tale.The recipe of "hers" has been a family holiday favorite 30 years now.