By Kelly Sheridan
The Meridian Times Staff Reporter
In Meridian Township, there are two types of restaurants—local and national chains. Both of these have different advantages and disadvantages, but the chain restaurants have the upper hand when it comes to funding and advertising. This is the ultimate reason why there are more of those in the area.
Restaurant Report stated that according to an exerpt from Lebhar-Friedman Chain Store Guide, only 12 percent of restaurants are independent. The biggest advantages the chain restaurants have are their marketing ability and the funds to advertise and promote their business.
Chain restaurants are able to use their national profile to their advantage while attracting customers, said, Joshua Barber, the general manager of Olive Garden located at 5015 Marsh Road in Okemos.
“I believe being nationally-recognized helps with advertising,” Barber said. “Olive Garden is a very strong company.”
For locally-owned restaurants such as Blondie’s Barn in Haslett, being a family-run restaurant makes it a part of the community and give it its biggest advantage.
“We hope that our customers [think of it as a staple of the community] and appreciate it as a local place—our kids grew up here, half the high school has worked here at some point,” said co-owner Andrew Manuel. “We try to hire local kids, so yeah I like to think we are a part of the community.”
According to a report by Civic Economics in 2009, local businesses generate two to three times more local economic activity than chain businesses. Manuel believes this is due to the way local businesses can make personal relationships with local consumers.
“The fact that you’re local and everyone knows you’re local and they can watch you and grow with you is something that we try to take advantage of,” Manuel added.
Manuel also feels that convenience is key when it comes to the difference between local businesses and large chains.
“Its sad to think there are less and less of us around, because that’s just an indication that the Walmarts are taking over, and its the same thing with restaurants,” Manuel said. “People are in a hurry, they’re in a rush and they just want their food so they go to McDonald’s or something or anywhere to get their food.”
Even if the chain restaurants are more convenient, the local ones have an advantage when it comes to the friendliness of their staff, said Blondie’s Barn regular Murdock Jemerson.
“I’ve been coming here for the past two or three years,” Jemerson said. “The staff’s nice and friendly and cooperative and that’s what I think the smaller kind of restaurants give more of as opposed to, like, Wendy’s or chains.”
While both types of businesses have their advantages and disadvantages, there is an abundance of restaurants in the Meridian area. Competition is always present and business fluctuates depending on many different factors. However, according to Manuel, competition is something that can keep their businesses alive.
“There’s always competition, but you learn in business that competition is not a bad thing,” he said. “It makes you stay on top of your game, and promote yourself and show why you’re better than them.”