Every week there seems to be a new concept restaurant opening up in my neighbourhood. It gets harder and harder to decide where to eat out, especially since I have the fortune of calling Port Credit my home. With so many choices, how does one decide? If I may weigh in on the topic, I am a true believer of supporting your locally owned restaurant, and here’s why.
1. The owner truly cares
Most small local restaurants are directly run by the owner themselves, and they do it because they love it. They work long hours and rarely get a day off let alone a vacation. If they are a truly good operator, they may see a small profit in the first few years, so by no means is owning a restaurant a get-rich-quick scheme. They do it because they are passionate about food and pleasing people, and they genuinely care about your dining experience.
2. Their family probably works there too
There is a constant battle to keep costs down in order to charge you a fair price, and with labour being one of the highest costs, owners often rely on family for help and support. Family ties (vs. just a paycheque) can provide strong motivation to deliver excellent service.
3. The restaurant relies on your patronage
Local restaurants don't have the safety net and support of a corporate head office - they rely entirely on customers like you to keep going. Typically, your local restaurant has very little margin for profit, so every seat with a diner in it counts. Also, the money made by the restaurant goes back into the restaurant, not to some head office in the form of franchise fees and marketing dollars.
4. You are investing in your neighbourhood
When you shop local, you are re-investing directly into that economy. Unlike a chain restaurant, local restaurants typically source their food from local suppliers. They make every effort to buy the best quality without having to charge you too much for your meal. A chain, on the other hand, is more focused on consistency and purchasing power in order to deliver you the same lower priced meal every time. Which leads me to my next point...
Here’s a story: In 2008, there was an uproar in the restaurant industry when the Dairy Farmers of Canada lobbied to have the definition of “cheese” changed, as it was very ambiguous and they were concerned about quality. They won, and due to this definition change, most restaurant chains across Canada no longer used what was considered “cheese” as an ingredient. Restaurant marketers across Canada got paid well to get creative with their menu reprints, settling on terms such as “pizza cheese.” I doubt this affected small restaurants who were using “real” cheese anyway. As well, your local restaurant is likely prepping everything fresh, not reheating sealed bags of pre-cooked/pre-cut ingredients.
6. Go where everybody knows your name
With the year-over-year increases to minimum wage, many service industry workers are now finally able to call this their full time career. Many owners offer wonderful benefits to their employees in order to retain them. For you, this means having the same staff welcoming and serving you each time, creating a warm, intimate atmosphere. No need to repeat that you don’t like mushrooms - the staff already know! And how great do you feel when you walk into a room where everybody knows your name?
Give it a shot. Your bill will probably be the same at the end of your meal as if you went to a chain, however your belly and brain will thank you for the experience you had!