Chains vs. Local Restaurants

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Chain restaurants have been a mainstay of American dining culture since the
early 20th century, and show no signs of slowing down. You see the signs all along the highway, or
when driving through the center of town. There is something to be said for consistency, people do like
familiarity. Even older than chain
restaurants, though, are the smaller, locally owned eateries that are often
family owned and operated. These places
run the gamut from small local sandwich shops, to Michelin-star-rated
establishments serving the very finest culinary creations. The sheer variety is one of the greatest
strengths of locally owned and operated restaurants over their chain
counterparts. They can be reflections of
the communities in which they are located, a fresh seafood and oyster bar near
a beach community, or a ranch themed restaurant serving up dishes of local game
and meats not traditionally found on chain restaurant menus … the possibilities
are endless.

Local Flavor
One of the advantages of a locally owned establishment is
the fact that it is indeed, local.
Being
members of the community, these restaurants can be, and often are, imbued with
the local culture and local cuisine.
A
good example would be the many creole restaurants one finds in New Orleans, or
the Barbeque shacks throughout the South and Texas.
Each one has its specialty, and each one
gives you a glimpse into the culture of the area you are in.
Chain restaurants rarely give you that
opportunity to delve into the local culture, by their very nature they are
monotonous, the same wherever you go.
A
T.G.I. Fridays in New Haven, Connecticut is going to be the same as a T.G.I.
Fridays in Atlanta, Georgia for the most part.
That consistency is the strength, but also weakness of chain
restaurants, and that is where local places can draw the advantage.

Variety
Since they are not controlled by a corporate office, the
chefs or owners of local restaurants can, and often do, experiment with their
menus.
Whether it’s Asian-Fusion or the
latest trends in gastronomy, a local chef has only to answer to his customers
and their tastes.
Not all restaurateurs
are so adventurous, and many offer good old-fashioned, traditional fare, while
others bring a variety of different ethnic and foreign cuisines to their locales.
In Atlanta, Georgia for example, the foodie
community is strong, and many of the local establishments reflect that.
Whether it’s a burger from The Vortex, or the
Varsity, or going for some delicious chicken and waffles at Gladys Knight’s,
the local flavors and communities are often captured in the smaller locally-owned
restaurants that just cannot be found in the larger chains.

Community
In cities like Boston, Massachusetts or Savannah, Georgia, history
is alive.
In small towns, and large
cities across America, there are diners, mom and pop places, and other
restaurants that have been around for decades, and even longer, and have become
established parts of the local communities.
The local joint has earned its place in American pop culture, with TV shows
such as Happy Days which showcased Al’s, and the Fonz’s ability to fix a broken
juke box and hold court in luxurious red leather restaurant booths, and movies
such as When Harry Met Sally, with its famous scene at Katz Deli, one of New
York City’s finest sandwich restaurants.
In our culture, the local restaurant has always played an important part
in our communities, and even with the ever-increasing number of chain
restaurants, there will always be a place in our hearts for the little sandwich
shop down the street.