Are our independent restaurants doing enough to keep us coming back?
First of all, please let me make this very clear. I am a huge supporter of independent and local eateries and it will always be my first choice to support small businesses. It’s just that on more than one occasion recently I’ve noticed that independents aren’t all doing enough to compete with the bigger chains.
Last year we returned to a local pub / restaurant who stopped serving its homemade burgers, because it became ‘too much hassle’. They used to make the best burgers in the city, but now several new chain restaurants have since popped up, and this particular pub no longer has the edge (more about this story here). Luckily there are a couple more burger places who are doing it very well, but I just think it’s a shame that this pub dropped its quality and standards.
Fast forward a few months and we decided last minute to go for lunch at an old quirky pub which has been taken over by new owners in the past year. Some great effort was made to advertise their new menu on a revamped website and through social media. Images of freshly cooked food and healthy options caught my attention and we looked forward to eating there. In reality though, we were served a fish platter which cost £16 and consisted of chips, deep fried scampi, very deep fried calamari, the tiniest portion of smoked salmon and some piri piri prawns, none of which looked very appetising to us. We felt the food was very over-priced considering what had been presented. In addition the rest of the order had been wrong and their staff were not trained to handle the issues when we made a complaint. We ended up paying for the bill, even though we hadn’t touched the food, as it wasn’t what we had expected or had wanted. We left feeling quite unhappy with the experience.
At this moment we had lost confidence in attempting to eat at another independent in case they too no longer served the same standard of food they did last week, or several months ago. So, on this occasion we ended up walking straight into a chain restaurant where we experienced first class service and great food. Whilst enjoying our pizza we looked around at the full restaurant at 3pm in the afternoon and for the first time it dawned on us why the place was so busy. The well-known pizza restaurant was full because the food, service, quality and price is consistent. It may not be the best food you’ve ever had in every chain eatery, but you do know that it will meet your expectations and therefore you won’t be disappointed.
We probably had just turned up on the wrong day and ordered the wrong thing from the pub’s menu; but if independent pubs, restaurants, cafes and eateries are to survive then I think some of them might need to do a little more to keep us coming back. Maintaining the initial levels of enthusiasm, service and standards over the long term isn’t easy, but it’s what the successful chains manage to achieve to make their outlets dependable.
I’d love to hear your thoughts and comments on this topic, please feel free to leave them below.