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Restaurant Battles: Independents v. Chains

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Here’s a battle that will resonate with a lot of you: a Subway franchise planned for Mariposa’s historic downtown district has thrown the town into a tizzy.

In one corner: Folks who want to protect locally owned, independent restaurants from competition with chains. Check out their Facebook group “No Way! No Subway in Mariposa!” (See the group’s logo, at right.)

In the other corner: Facebook group “STFU, Subway Will Not Hurt Mariposa. Yes to Subway in ‘Posa!” Their page says: “Bring it On, They have cheap, healthy food, might actually be open regularly, creates Jobs, provides Healthey [sic] Economic Competition for the other Restaurants that make sandwiches. It’s a GOOD thing.”

The Mariposa County Board of Supervisors will hear the issue on Tuesday morning.

This is a battle that could happen just about anywhere. We saw it in 1997, when Starbucks was looking for a spot in the Tower District.

And we’ve seen it worldwide. In the 1980s, the entry of a McDonald’s in Rome sparked the Slow Food movement. (As a side note, McDonald’s recent introduction of a McItaly line of burgers has outraged Slow Foodists yet again.)

So, what do you think? Are you one of those folks who loves Cheesecake Factory/Panera Bread/P.F. Chang’s/Famous Dave’s and cares not a whit that they’re chains? Or do you always go for the locally owned, independent restaurants?

Responses to "Restaurant Battles: Independents v. Chains"

Anonymous says:

I guess I can kind of agree…after reading the 31 days of Fresno blog and remembering all the good local places in Fresno, it would really break my heart if my favorite local Fresno restaurants closed down. Ex: Triangle Drive in, Irene’s Cafe, the Chicken Pie Shop, Guadalajuara (on Weber), the BS Cafe….if any of those places closed down I feel like I’d be losing a piece of my childhood in Fresno….but at the same time I understand how local independently owned places don’t always have the good meal deals like chains and franchises do, which with the economy as it is right now…everyone is feeling the pinch and trying to cut back and spend less…..its a toss up.
Just follow the advice from the 31 days blog…and try and visit a local place at least once a month and hope for the best…

Pook says:

I think there is room for both types of food. Some times, in some situations it makes sense to grab something convenient and fast. So, a Subway or a McD’s isn’t really all that intimidating.

I totally understand not wanting to throw a Subway into the middle of a historic site though. There were no sandwich shops in Old West Mariposa that I’m aware off. So it will take away from the historic aesthic of the spot. So have them put it in somewhere down the road. Build a spot to suit. I’m sure Mariposa would love a Kragen too. But I wouldn’t put it in the middle of their historic downtown.

Chains have their place in the world. But I prefer to eat at places whose owners live and spend in the Nickle Nickle Nine. (love that phrase) I’d rather know my money is going towards making a local rich rather than some faceless board of shareholders. Thats why I don’t review chains as well.

-Pook

MF says:

Subway seems like such a harmless business thats caught in this situation. However, in the long run, I believe keeping the chains out of a historic area would better suit the community. Who’s to say after letting one chain/franchise in this area, that other chains won’t soon follow? Living in a city where fast food restaurants & chains thrive and run rampant, while good, locally owned restaurants all too frequently shut their doors permanently is sad & depressing. As good as the thought of more chains sprouting up sounds, it doesn’t exactly engage or affect the community in a positive manner as much as you might think. To me, chains suffocate a city’s character, uniqueness, creativity and innovativeness.
Read the following article on how locally owned community food enterprises can boost the economy.
http://www.huffingtonpost.com/michael-h-shuman/community-food-enterprise_b_436026.html

It would be nice to see more establishments preparing and providing local ingredients that are grown in an environmentally sustainable way, rather than chains that fly in ingredients, some frozen, from thousands of miles away and that also burn large amounts of diesel fuel for this sole purpose. Everyone, big and small, young and old, deserves to eat food that’s wholesome, nourishing and grown or produced in a way that’s also fair to the people who produce it(i.e. small farmers). There needs to be more choices out there for this, instead of the highly convenient, ultra-processed food that crowd every street corner.

Cheaply priced, mass produced food isn’t exactly the healthiest, nor ethical, but I guess that’s a whole new debate for another day. We need to get over the idea that food should be cheap.

THINK DIFFERENTLY.

Dave says:

Competition rules. If you are afraid of it—you have something to hide. Inferior product(s), service, location etc. If you can’t compete, you obviously don’t belong in business.

Stavros says:

Mariposa doesn’t have a Subway? Who live like that?

Arnie says:

If the locals can do better, more creative food than the chains can, then have at it. Locals owners usually can only pull off one aspect of the restaurant experience: ambience, service, food. Rare is the local that gets them all right. That is why there are chains.

MF says:

Chains exist for a multitude of reasons. They often have deeper pockets and large groups of investors who can “weather the storm”, so to speak, during down times. They’re consistency with their brand of food, as opposed to smaller independent type restaurants, comes from the fact that most, if not all, of their product is fabricated, produced and cooked at an offsite facility and then sent to various locations. This requires little cooking skill from their in-house kitchen staff, since the product basically just needs to be opened or thawed and reheated and/or microwaved. This keeps labor costs & percentages at a minimum since the “cooking” has been perfected outside the actual restaurant by a corporate chef who is paid a nice sum while the kitchen staff makes the minimum or just above it. This mass produced, streamlined factory set up enables these large companies more purchasing power by buying in bulk at far more reduced prices than its independent local counterparts. The end result means menu prices are far lower than that of independents. That’s why you can get two entrees for $20 at Applebee’s or an app, entree & dessert for $20 or so at TGIF.

Now, more creative than chains??? Please. Chains look at what the current culinary trend is(which originates in the mom & pop, independent cafes, bistros, restaurants, etc.)and experiment with 20 different variations/recipes incorporating that trend at a corporate headquarters before deciding which one will be promoted and marketed to no extent.(Which by the way is another advantage of having deep pockets.)
There was chipotle flavored aioli’s and sauces long before Taco Bell and the like ran with it. Braised beef short ribs were being crafted for some time before Olive Garden began offering it on their menus. I won’t even get into sliders! And the list goes on and on and on…
More creative???? How is offering the same produce year round, even when it’s out of season, creative? Again, chains will fly in produce from around the country or world to maintain their menus/recipes. In some states, this is probably necessary, but in California where we have access to beautiful produce year round, this should not be the case. Most locally owned, independent restaurants utilize this aspect by changing the items on their menus seasonally, monthly, weekly and some even daily!! Now that’s being creative. Go to Chili’s, Elephant Bar, Cheesecake Factory and countless others and you get the same menu items year round. Boring. Not to mention the environmental impact flying in produce has. If eating flavorless tomatoes in January floats your boat, you are indeed missing out.

RS says:

It’s a free market. Let Subway in. Mariposa is a tourist town, and Subway will be a familiar brand to travelers passing through. The more options Mariposa has, the better. If you don’t want Subway there, then you go pay the lease on the space to keep it out.