Stories produced by students in the Meek School of Journalism & New Media
Oxford is already home to dozens of quick service and sit-down chain restaurants, and it will be home to a few more in the near future. With the opening of Steak n’ Shake, Cane’s Chicken and others, what will this do to a town that is home to some of the best local eateries in the state?
Associate professor of nutrition and hospitality management Jim Taylor believes that, in the end, people will continue going to independent restaurants because they deliver a more unique dining experience.
“People go to chain restaurants and local restaurants for completely different reasons. Local restaurants provide a real food experience, while people go to chain restaurants for convenience,” Taylor said.
Not only have some of Oxford’s most famous independent restaurants been reviewed in magazines such as Town and Country, some local chef’s generate significant publicity.
Chef John Currence of Oxford’s City Grocery, has been featured in The New York Times and The Washington Post and has received a number of awards for his cook book titled, “Pickles, Pigs & Whiskey.”
Oxford food expert and publisher of the blog Eating Oxford Liz Barrett Foster says that chain restaurants often generate more local buzz.
“There is usually more excitement over new chains coming to Oxford like Krystal or Panera, than the opening of a local restaurant. The biggest reason for this being that the large student population in Oxford recognizes these chains from their hometowns.”
College student Elizabeth Prusa is a good example.
“I ate Panera at home a lot, so when I get to eat it here. it’s like having a little piece of home.”
Analysts from the National Restaurant Association say the growing popularity of chains, especially restaurants that offer reasonably priced meals, are giving mid-priced independent restaurants fierce competition.
Foster says chain restaurants also have the benefit of a proven operating system.
“Mom-and-pop restaurants will sometimes open with no real business plan in place which makes it hard to compete against the existing customer loyalty of a big chain.”
On the other hand, no matter how busy life gets, everyone wants something special sometimes. It’s probably safe to say that as long as there is a small-town USA, there will be a locally owned and operated restaurant just waiting to be discovered.