Battling with low-operator and consumer confidence, rising food costs and a lack of corporate support, independent restaurants can be hit hard in these poor economic times. However, recent Mintel research reveals that indies may have some advantages over their competition, as 43 percent of American consumers who have visited one in the past month seek out independent restaurants over chains.

Moreover, 52 percent of independent restaurant users said they visit these establishments to support their local community/economy while 51 percent agree that independent restaurants do a good job of supporting their local community — compared to 37 percent who said the same of chain eateries.

"People take pride in their communities and will often reward local businesses that make their community a better place," said Eric Giandelone, director of Mintel Foodservice. "The primary way indies underperform in relation to chains is through a lack of promotions and limited-time offers, two things that could be easily addressed with social shopping and social networking sites."

Among those patrons who had not visited an independent restaurant in the past month, 22 percent of respondents said it was too expensive, but more than half (56 percent) said they are willing to pay more at an indie. According to Mintel, the majority of diners are willing to pay up to 10 percent more for an independent dining experience for similar food and service found at a chain.

"Independent restaurants have the advantage of being able to provide a unique experience for customers and have the freedom of not having to comply with government-mandated laws that chains have to face," Giandelone said. "While chain restaurants are able to offer up a big helping of value and convenience, they need to focus on areas of opportunity where independents are rated better, such as unique menu items and local flair."

Forty-two percent of restaurant-goers say independents are superior to chains when it comes to food quality and the ability to customize their orders. However, 21 percent said they do a worse job than chains in regard to convenience, and 20 percent said their speed of service isn't as good as the service in chain restaurants.

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User Comments – Give us your opinion!
  • James Shannon
    Firstly, for independent operators who haven't researched "social shopping", due diligence needs to be done before signing on the dotted line. It might be "easy" to do your marketing this way, but being successful is a different story. Twenty minutes on google will give you plenty of horror stories and things to avoid.

    Secondly, a fascinating Harvard Business Review study was just released that say independent restaurants benefit from online review sites while chains don't. Basically, chains have with a (decent) reputation system-wide while independent restaurants start from a blank slate (something important the article doesn't really mention). Yelp-like sites publicize reputation, which doesn't do much good if the reputation is already widely known. See a link to the study and my discussion on my local store marketing blog.

    Lastly, all hope is not lost, for either chains or independent restaurants. It just means that the LSM that you do has to be tailored not just to your local area but your individual restaurants strengths.


  • James Shannon
    My link got stripped from above:
  • James Shannon
    Sorry; one more time:
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