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4 Ways Independent Restaurants Can Compete with National Chains

April 15, 2020

National restaurant chains might seem like they have the market cornered, but independent restaurants are chosen more and more by consumers. Independent restaurants are often perceived as sharing the values of their consumers and providing higher quality food and better customer service. 

How to Start a Small Restaurant that Competes with Large Chains


Are you starting your first restaurant? Want some tips on how to stand out against national chains? Our restaurant food suppliers share best practices to get you started. 

1. Quality Over Quantity

There is no denying that large chain restaurants offer consistent food quality at reasonable prices. While their food is predictable, that doesn’t always mean it’s exciting or exceptional. 

Large scale restaurant operations rely on menus that are often the same across all their locations. While this model has proven successful for chain establishments it doesn't allow for much creativity or experimentation. This is where independent restaurants can shine. 

Small eateries have more freedom in menu conception. In today’s growing foodie culture, customers are more interested in dynamic menus and unconventional flavor profiles - and fresh is best. Independent restaurants can source high-quality products and fresh ingredients whenever they want from their local foodservice distributors. 

 2. Personal Connection

Chain restaurants offer fast service and tend to turn over tables quickly. This is great if you're looking for a quick meal on the run, but this style of service lacks warmth and personal connection. 

Small restaurants have the ability to offer high levels of customer service, with a personal touch. More and more customers are looking for meals that offer an experience, not just a quick bite. Customers love when chefs or owners make a point to stop by their table, or when their server remembers their favorite order. It’s those types of personal connections that independent restaurants offer in a way that chain restaurants cannot. This sense of community and fostering relationships is what keeps patrons coming back.

3. Online Reviews and Creative Marketing

In today’s tech-driven world, online reviews and social media presence have profound impact on the success of restaurants. Most potential customers decide to visit a restaurant for the first time based on word of mouth or online reviews. Independent restaurants are more likely to gain clientele from online reviews or recommendation than are chain restaurants. After all, since chain restaurants menus are so consistent across locations, why would customers need to review them? 

National chains might seem to have the advantage in online marketing, but small restaurants can outmaneuver them by engaging in savvymarketing techniques, creating memorable guest experiences, and maintaining high-ranking online reviews.

4. Personality

The vibe and decor of a restaurant can have a major impact on your clientele. Independent restaurants have more freedom to take decor and aesthetics into their own hands. A mom-and-pop fish house on the beach might have photos of their own fishing boat lining their walls. A high-end bistro might have a rare, handmade chandelier in its entryway.

These personal touches are what make small restaurants unique, exciting, and inviting. They convey a sense of personality in ways that large chain restaurants cannot. While one can argue that national chains have their own style and identity, they don’t have the ability to produce one-of-a-kind experiences. 

US Foods CHEF'STORE: Partnering with Independent Restaurants for Over 60 Years


At CHEF'STORE our customers are our partners and we understand their unique needs. From high-quality meats and produce, to bar equipment, to professional services, we are in the business of helping your business succeed. Search our wealth of quality products at competitive prices. Don’t forget to set up an account today!


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