Locally Owned Restaurants: Does It Make a Difference?

When a certain restaurant chain opened in Grand Rapids recently, I had a hard time getting excited. Because it’s a chain. When others pointed this out, many responded, “so what if it’s a chain? Local workers still get jobs there, right? What difference does it make?”

I’m not sure when I became aware of the fact that I prefer to dine at local restaurants. I think as I got to know some local chefs and owners, and saw how hard they work. Also I started reading about where our food comes from, and how many chain restaurants are basically reheating frozen food (which caused me to exclaim, “I’m paying how much for a TV dinner?”)

My husband claims I’m a food snob. Maybe I am. So to find out why one might want to stick with locally owned restaurants, I emailed Local First.

Here’s what Melissa English, Administrative Coordinator, had to say:

1. Though chains certainly provide jobs to a community, a locally owned restaurant’s success is rooted in its relationship to its community–therefore, the local business’s decision making is more likely to take the health and sustainability of the local community into account, while the chain’s primary responsibility is to earn a profit for its non-local shareholders.

2. Furthermore, local restaurants are more likely to go to other local businesses and service providers for expenses like marketing and supplies.  This means that money spent at local restaurants acts as a circulating investment in multiple business sectors of our local community, while chains tend to purchase their services on a national level, and that money is invested elsewhere.  Our Local Works! Study shows that 73% more money stays in the community when that money is spent at a locally owned business (including restaurants), and that shifting $1 in $10 to locally owned businesses would create 1,600 jobs in West MI. 

3. Finally, locally owned restaurants are more likely to purchase from local farmers–transportation (and thus, environmental impact) is reduced and the food is fresher, healthier, and tastier!

I can definitely vouch for the tastier part!

So, what do you think? Is it worth seeking out locally-owned restaurants?

One thought on “Locally Owned Restaurants: Does It Make a Difference?

  1. I agree wholeheartedly & try to eat local whenever I can, no matter which community I am in. I like that in local restaurants you stand a chance of actually talking to the owner or chef. I appreciate that they want to take care of YOU rather than just pulling in a paycheck. As someone with allergen concerns, this personal relationship can be awfully important.

Whaddaya think?