The restaurant focus will grow the local business

Marcus Samuelsson once said, “One of the reasons people enjoy coming to a great restaurant is that when they are served an exceptional meal, they feel honored, respected and even a little loved.”

This statement is why the restaurant business is so critical to the ultimate success and growth of a community. Communities without great restaurants are communities that will struggle to sustain consistent growth. Many restaurants have closed in recent years. The local restaurants that haven’t closed yet are either near breaking point or fast approaching it. If there was ever a time when the community cried “all hands on deck,” now is the time in the restaurant business.

This column is a call to arms for the entire community. While this is not always 100% the case, in the past it was safe to say that restaurants have historically suffered from poor management and been forced to close their doors. What remains today are restaurants that have resilient management but have been battered by the economic winds of COVID, inflation, skyrocketing wages and recession, leaving them vulnerable to join the others that are already closed.

When I say all hands-on deck, I mean the entire community. Now is the time for each of us to step up and take a community leadership role in this effort. Don’t get the wrong impression, this is a two tier approach, one by the community and the other by the restaurants. With that knowledge, let’s take a quick look at what can be done now.

First, everyone in the community must commit to visiting local restaurants more often than they would normally have done. If you are thinking of visiting a national chain for dining, make a conscious decision to visit a local restaurant instead. Nothing against national chains, but most chains have deeper pockets that allow them to weather the current storm.

Your local restaurants don’t have that safety net. When you spend locally, every dollar spent is multiplied three to seven times in your community, much higher than national chains. These efforts will help save your local restaurants. This puts your community on a more solid footing. In a community or county with 25,000 residents, just one extra visit per month per person spending an average of $20 per person equates to $500,000 flowing through the community each month, or $6,000,000 per Year. Add in the compounding aspect and you have about $18,000,000 outstanding every year.

How many local restaurants and jobs will this save?

Second, local residents should take over a local restaurant. By adopt we mean take her under your wing and visit her often. Get to know the owner and let them know that you care and want to see them succeed. When you know the owners of locally owned restaurants and other businesses, they become your friends and neighbors. It becomes much easier to help friends and neighbors in need. Imagine 25,000 residents taking over a local restaurant or business?

Locally owned restaurants need to cater to their customer base. If your town is full of lunchtime sandwich and burger shops, it doesn’t meet the needs of your community. In many communities, you have to leave the community to find a nice, quiet atmosphere, table linens, and a nice steak. Community leaders must work with local entrepreneurs and/or restaurants to develop local restaurants that meet the needs of the entire community. When places close at 5-6pm, they lose 70% of restaurant business.

I could write another full column with additional ideas a local community could incorporate into their local restaurant survival plans, but I suspect many communities have many bright and forward-thinking people who can add to this list. Let me reuse an example I used a year ago: “Every time you spend money, cast a vote for the kind of world you want.” Now is the time, that vote for your local restaurants.

Another crucial element in a successful community’s ability to win this economic war is the cooperation of its local media. This is an opportunity for the local media to shine. Local media must take this effort to heart and make a difference in their community. If the local media provides the education, coverage, interviewing and marketing to make this happen, the community along with the local restaurant businesses will be grateful. Local media needs a vibrant, locally owned business base to survive. What would be a better project in times of crisis for both the hospitality industry and local media outlets?

John Newby is a nationally recognized consultant and speaker whose Building Main Street, not Wall Street is published across the country. He can be reached at [email protected]


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