Are you part of the chain gang?
In this particular instance, I’m asking quite simply if you prefer to eat at a chain restaurant rather than a local one?
Wikipedia defines restaurant chains as follows:
“A restaurant chain is a set of related restaurants with the same name in many different locations that are either under shared corporate ownership (e.g., McDonald’s in the U.S.) or franchising agreements. Typically, the restaurants within a chain are built to a standard format through architectural prototype development and offer a standard menu and/or services.”
That last little bit certainly gets my mouth watering. There’s nothing wrong with eating at a chain restaurant, but is there anything right about it?
Firstly, I’d like you to think about the money trail. Chain restaurants are either corporately owned or franchised. What does that mean for the community? Nothing. At least some of the money, if not most of it leaves Holly Springs in order to pad the pockets of these often publicly traded companies. Conversely, when you eat at a locally owned establishment, the money stays here in the community.
Then there’s the food. One word I’ll use to describe a chain restaurant is consistent. You know what you’re going to get when you order. They go through great lengths to ensure that the dish you order here in Holly Springs tastes exactly like the dish under the same name if you order it in El Paso. Other words that can often be used to describe the food; processed, frozen, generic typical. In no way am I saying that all chain restaurants serve only frozen meals that are being cooked or reheated before being placed under the heat lamps before making them to you, but it’s pretty common.
Local restaurants often buy from local vendors. They may even change menu items when local produce is in season.
When you meet the owner of a local restaurant, they bring something to the table other than their food. They bring pride. Ask a local restaurant owner if their food is fresh. Chances are they’ll be appalled at the insinuation that their food could be anything but.
Along with the fresh ingredients come an assortment of other qualities. The recipes used are unique to that establishment. They may come from experimentation, or they may come from recipe cards handed down through generations. There is also a high level of passion put into your meal. If the owner is in the kitchen, which they often are, every meal that is going to a table, has to meet their standard before it leaves. After all, it’s their reputation on the line with every dish. I don’t know that the “cook” at the local fast food restaurant really cares if you ever come back. The same may be able to be said for some of the larger chains as well. The owner of the local restaurant’s livelihood depends on it.
Another item that can vary greatly from chain to local is the menu. Chain restaurants tend to stay in the “middle of the road” so to speak. Their goal is to appeal to the masses. Local restaurants tend to be a bit more risqué with their selection. Of course every restaurant has their staple dishes, but there’s a good chance that you’ll find some items on local menus that are less mainstream.
Try something new. Plan to eat at a restaurant in Holly Springs that is unique to Holly Springs. It’s OK, the big boys won’t go out of business if you skip a meal there. You may discover your new favorite place to eat. You may even feel compelled to tell the owner you had a great meal. When you return, chances are you’ll see the owner again, and chances are you’ll be remembered.