In this northern border community, WNY faces the exact opposite dilemma that Arizona has recently legislated against - we need MORE immigration and population, not less. Until the situation is under control, we urge the law enforcement community to begin issuing tickets to those who are caught patronizing chain restaurants. We won't allow officers to dispense the summons' in the parking lots of, say, the nearest Olive Garden. That would be food profiling and we are against the practice. But, if in the course of a routine traffic stop an officer notices the stench of a Blooming Onion on a driver's breath, we think it should be grounds for an additional surcharge of $50, all proceeds directly going to the local municipality. Three-time offenders should be deported to North Carolina.
Two recent conversations of note (one with an independent operator; the other a chain operator), and a police blotter item distilled the crux of the chain versus independent argument.
LFS.com: How's business?
Independent: Biz is good this month. Graduations, Mother's Day and people finally getting out and spending a little. But the problem in WNY is always the same - we need more people, about 100,000 more with good paying jobs. It's a great place to live and there's lots of talent in the biz here, but we need more people.
LFS.com: How's business?
Chain: We did 400K last month. We're dinner only. We are ahead of last year and number two in the country system-wide.
Police Blotter: The Buffalo News reported that the Applebee's in Lockport was burglarized over the weekend and reported a theft of $6500.00 in cash. Assuming that cash accounts for less than 20% of all daily transactions, that means this location probably grossed approximately $36,000 for the weekend, not including Friday cash drop. Let's toss in the Mon-Thursday estimate and it's not a stretch to assume this store grossed $70 -$75 K in the week.
The independent's assumption -that WNY's population loss adversely impacts business - seems logical and correct. The chain numbers support the notion that a disproportionate amount of $$ now go to the chains, not just in the fast food category but in sit-down.
Independents judge their business activity, most often, by comparing themselves to other independents, when the real comparison should be to chain operations in their competitive neighborhood. Independents need to wring more dollars out of chain customers and not other independents, since the total customer population will continue to diminish.
Easier said than done. There's no way to surgically extract customers from a bad chain habit. Obviously chains fill a market need. The independent community needs to brand itself as separate and distinct.
There's no two State solution and it is a 100 Year war.
Us or them?