Starting off the topic is the subject of chain restaurants. If a restaurant is doing well, thoughts of expanding might then be entertained. I would assume that’s only natural in the business. Some obviously have no interest in expanding and clearly some choose to expand.
When does a restaurant stop being a local business or eatery and move into chain territory? Scott and I just had this discussion and I would be curious to hear your thoughts. If you’ve been a reader of OHC for a while, you know that we try not to eat at chain restaurants. Even if those places are only in Ohio or got their start in Ohio (think Bob Evans or Wendy’s), they are clearly chains and hold no interest to us.
Scott presented me with the example of one of our favorite places, what if they decided to open another location, would that make them a chain?
My answer was no, I would not consider that a chain. But if they opened a third location, then yes, to me that is a chain. Two restaurants, I think the owners would be able to handle and be very involved in the running and upkeep of the place. Still small enough of a venture that one would get a personal feel walking into the restaurant. The individual taste of the owner would still be present, and customer service would still feel like it is number one priority.
Three restaurants? And that’s where I think things start to slide or get pushed to the back. I would think it would be very hard to oversee and run three restaurants. Clearly there would have to be other people involved at the other restaurants to make sure everything is running. The owner would then have to start delegating and start passing out more responsibility to others.
To me, it seems like it would be very hard to stay involved in the day-to-day process of running a restaurant when you’ve got three or more on your plate.
And that’s where I think it starts becoming a chain business, when the owner can’t oversee everything themselves and they need to put other people in charge.
Now I’m not talking about restaurant managers, as that is a whole other situation. I’m talking about the owner being involved in food purchase, menu creation, and generally being on hand to address the variety of things that come up during their day. I think, once there are three plus restaurants the attention to detail one expects from a local restaurant starts to fade.
I feel the same way about a business in general. A local specialty shop opens, does well and opens another. Then another and so on. The same rules apply, once you reach so many stores owner involvement gets stretched very thin. Tasks and responsibilities get handed off to others.
Popularity can be a double-edged sword. You are so popular that people demand more, but if you create more there is the risk of losing individuality and gaining a generic sort of feel. For restaurants, think Friday’s. How generic does a Friday’s feel when you walk in? Putting up local sports souvenirs doesn’t help the atmosphere at all. And for businesses, think The Locker Room. The setting and atmosphere of those places, to me, feels like, “Get in, get your stuff, and get out.” The goal being to process people as quickly as possible in order to meet some sort of dollar agenda by the end of the work day.
That is not something I like experiencing when I’m eating or shopping.
So what are your thoughts? When does a business become stop being individual and become a chain?