A recent study done by market research firm Mintel showed that independent restaurant operators appeal more to consumers than large restaurant chains. A total of 43% of diners who visited independent restaurants said that they make it a point to seek out independent restaurants over chains. Out of this tally, 52% says they dine at these places to support their local economy and community while 51% think that independent operators do well in supporting their local neighborhood. This, as compared to those who say that it’s the chain restaurants who do a great job in sustaining their local community, which totals to only 37%.
“People are loyal to their communities and will often patronize local industries that help their community grow,” said Mintel’s director Eric Giandelone. “The only aspect where independent eateries do less than expected in comparison to restaurant chains is their lack of limited offers and promotions. But these can easily be addressed through social networking platforms and social shopping. “
Among the respondents who were not able to visit an independent restaurant this past month, 22% declared that independents are too expensive, although more than half of the respondents (56%) did say that they are willing to shell out more money at an independent dining place. Mintel has observed that most consumers are ready to pay as much as 10% more for an excellent dining experience at an independent restaurant than at a chain.
“One advantage that independent eateries have over chains is that they are able to offer their guests a unique experience, and they have the liberty of not having to abide by the rules that the government has set in place for larger chains,” said Giandelone. “Yes, chains have the advantage of being able to offer convenience and value to their consumers; but they do need to concentrate more on the other attributes where independents get better ratings, such as local flair and menu items.”
A total of 21% said that servers at chain restaurants are better at offering convenience to the customers, while 20% think that chains are a lot faster. But 42% actually think that independents are far superior to chain restaurants when you speak about food quality and customization of customers’ orders.
This study then gives independent restaurant operators a hint to capitalize on their independent image. Given the advantage of being more able to listen to their customer base than the chain restaurants can, independents can learn and listen to their local customers’ demands, and find ways to meet those. The market was said to love the idea of helping out independent restaurants because they are being run locally; hint, hint…independent operators should then take steps to enhance the idea of being local. Marketing efforts—food promotions, web design, advertisements, daily deals, and all others—should be aligned to the idea that the restaurant is part of the neighborhood and that its dining experience, as well as the training of its wait staff, is designed to reproduce the feeling of eating with family and friends. Telling the story of the restaurant’s origins; using local produce and highlighting it in the menus; and getting involved in local community projects can also do the trick.