At a Restaurant seminar a high ranking executive from a corporate restaurant chain said “family owned can never compete against the chains because when a family owned restaurant makes a mistake with a customer they lose that customer forever because they rely on that single customers business so much. Rather the chain restaurant makes a mistake on that same customer and they could care less because their are 10 more coming in right after them”.

Educating customers on the difference between the two is a challenge but not impossible. One major category family owned restaurants struggle with that chains have down pat is “consistency”. The biggest reason for this is that chains have 90% of their food pre-made in a factory in Minnesota or somewhere out there and shipped to all their locations. So no matter what chain you go to from California to New Jersey, it’s always the same consistency. Bob the so called Chef at Olive Garden or Brio just needs to follow the simple manual created by corporate and if he deviates he’ll be replaced by Joe or Nancy. On the other hand, family owned establishments make 90% of their menu from scratch. Ever try making Aunt Theresa’s secret meatballs. It never comes out right. For example, lets take Friendly’s New England Clam Chowder; that soup is made in a factory by machines that pre-measure the ingredients so the soup comes out identical each and ever time, like how Mars makes M&M’s. That soup then gets packaged into a bladder bag, preserved, boxed up and shipped to all the Friendly’s in America. At your local, the owner and his wife or kids or kitchen crew are making that Clam Chowder from scratch every day or other day. They’re cutting the veggies, adding fresh clams from the fish market and making the cream base from heavy cream, flour and spices. One day it’s the owner making it, the other day it might be a crew member that he or she have trained. What I’m trying to say is that it’s human creation therefore human error sometimes. That Chowder might be alittle different from time to time because it’s being made from scratch by different human employees. The soup is just one small example of how the whole menu differs in creation at a family owned vs the chain.

Your local family establishment is using humans to make fresh house made food so humans will always make it slightly different each time, but take comfort in knowing that locally owned strive extremely hard to execute consistency with their whole menu. It just doesn’t always come through because of natural human error. Enjoying food from chains is fine if you’d rather have the same consistent, sodium filled, highly preserved cup of french onion soup. Their’s a comfort for people in knowing no matter what location they visit they’re going to get an entree that taste the same each time. Just have some compassion and understanding for the little local restaurant in your town that is doing everything they can to make your favorite pasta dish taste great every single time you come in. Also understand that when you patronage a chain your helping buy the franchise owner another yacht. Instead, when you shop at your local businesses your money helps put that owners child through college so that child can choose their future.

Costantino LaMarca///