The Foodie Report
Ruminations on food, cooking in and eating out in our area.

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Nicci King is an unabashed foodie and the Lifestyle/Food editor in The Enquirer's features department. She loves to discover new food faves, and she's on a daily quest to answer one burning question: What's for dinner? E-mail her at nking@enquirer.com.

Enquirer Weekend editor Julie Gaw tends to order the same dish every time she eats at a restaurant, but periodically ventures out to discover something new and fabulous. After living in China, Hong Kong, the Philippines and Thailand for more than 8 years, she craves tasty Asian food. E-mail her at jgaw@enquirer.com.

Food/dining writer Polly Campbell loves every quirk and secret of Cincinnati's food personality, and is on a constant lookout for something good to eat. Keep an eye out for her restaurant picks, or see how she's progressing toward becoming famous for her apple pie. E-mail her at pcampbell@enquirer.com.

Communities reporter Rachel Richardson is on a mission to prove vegetarians eat more than lettuce. She shares both her graduate work on American food culture and food-related news.. E-mail her at rrichardson@enquirer.com.

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Thursday, October 04, 2007

Upscale casual versus national chains

The topic of upscale casual places versus national chains has come up more than once this week.
What I've heard:
How are local restaurants supposed to compete with $12.99, 3-course meals?
What do we do to let people know we're not more expensive than a chain?
How do we get people to choose us over them?
So what do you think? Are you anti-chain? Based on what I read on the blog, I think a lot of us lean that way.
I don't really eat in chain restaurants here, but I do when I'm in other cities visiting family. Surprisingly, I don't come from a foodie family. With the exception of my sister, no one in my family likes spice, sushi or anything out of the ordinary. Plus, when there's a group, I think people assume it's easier to accommodate everyone at a chain restaurant.
What do you think? Why choose a chain over a local restaurant?


at 5:03 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

I prefer cozy little neighborhood places over chain restaurants. The neighborhood business owners tend to give you better service because they know you can make or break their business. Big chains don't really seem to care if you come back or not. I just don't like the big chain atmosphere of rush you in, rush you out,the food is only fair and the prices are high. They seem to almost encourage mediocre service. Give me my neighborhood restaurants anyday over the chains.

at 8:54 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

also with being a culinary arts student at MCI. I realize that in upscale casual You do not have a cookie cutter way of designing the plate. At applebees all across the nation the steak dinner is going to be served the same way. Where Chef Michelle Brown at JAGS will come up with new garnishments all the time. Local has to be CREATIVE.

at 9:29 AM Anonymous FoodieToo said...

My hubby refuses to eat at a chain restaurant. He is a stickler for supporting independant restaurants, even on vacation.

Sometimes it can be hard, (I am not 100% on board with this) but it has gotten me to try (and fall in love) with some great local restaurants.

at 9:34 AM Anonymous FoodieToo said...

One more thing...
I agree with the poster that talks about getting more personal service from independant restaurants. A good example is Chez Nora in Covington. Jimmy and his wife Patti are always around and stopping by to chat. Right after my son was born we tried to have dinner there but my son wasn't cooperating. Patti came and offered to walk around with him, allowing us to enjoy our meal.

That's customer service.

at 10:58 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I never go to chains if we can. Unless it's a family event or someone else picks it. There are ocassions when we do go, but it's rare. When we travel I always do research ahead of time on good local food.

You get MUCH better service at local places and I prefer putting my money back into the local economy. Local places are also receptive to diners comments and ideas.


P.S. After I wrote the above, I remember I love Starbucks, but I do frequent the local coffee houses too. Sometimes on the way to a client it's easier to find a Starbucks.

at 1:08 PM Blogger Stepf said...

Oh, great comments!!!
I love the service, the attention, the emotion that goes into food at a local restaurant. The people who own the restaurant are your neighbors, and their livelihood relies on it... It's not some suit sitting in an office a million miles away.
I usually don't grocery shop in hypermarkets too often, but last weekend I was in D.C. and went to a GIANT supermarket there. It was so depressing. I'm used to Findlay Market, Wild Oats, Trader Joe's, even the Natural Foods store in Hyde Park. Buying cold (!) tomatoes alongside a million other household items just saddens me. I felt so detached from the food, kind of the way that I do in a chain restaurant.
I just wish we could get people to forget the "bigger is better" mentality!

at 1:35 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

My wife and I were coming back from vacation last weekend on Sunday night and needed groceries. So we stopped at Meijers in West Chester (on the way home). NEVER AGAIN! Why does the world need 7,284 different types of cereal? Now, 7,284 types of beer is OK 8-)

We usually shop at Reading IGA, but their product is so iffy and good luck finding any fresh fish at any grocery store. We usually go to Wild Oats or Fresh Market for theat or the place in Hyde Park on Edwards Rd.

One other local place you forgot is Pipkins in Blue Ash. We try to go there for produce.

Speaking of Wild Oats, any word on when they will oficially change to Whole Food here?

Noothing beats Findlay Market on a Saturday morning. Wish they could do more in that area to to make a place where one goes every day.

We were in Italy over the summer. So much fresher food there. And they go to the store almost daily to get it. Small, local grocery stores. Just like it USED to be in the USA many moons ago. But we live in a mini-van/chain restaurant culture now where every town looks the same. Sad.


at 2:13 PM Anonymous nicejewishgirl said...

Generally I prefer to eat at privately owned places, but I'm not anti chain restaurant at all. Many chain restaurants provide very good meals and excellent service. (I'm thinking of P.F. Changs and J. Alexanders in particular.) Many chains try too hard to give the illusion that they are privately owned mom and pop places--which is just sad-- but I think that there is room for both types of restaurants. This doesn't have to be an either/or proposition. One thing I do like about chain restaurants and coffee shops is consistency. I know that I can go into any Starbucks in the world and my Grande Nonfat Latte will taste exactly the same as it does in Cincinnati.

at 2:52 PM Blogger Cin Twin1 said...

I love the fact that so many locals here have commented how much they like to support the neighborhood places, BUT with CVG being a hub and with all of the people who travel here for business, how do we advertise or promote our local restaurants to them? I know when I travel, I am hesitant to try a place I have never heard of. There is some comfort in familiarity. I challenge the local hotels, and companies to help visitors support our local businesses and restaurants.

at 3:06 PM Anonymous Anonymous said...

The Cinti Rest Week was a great idea to highlight local places. I have found two new places that I am ready to go back to.

When I used to travel, after I settled in at the hotel, I went to the front desk and asked them to reccommend a local place, a restaurant that was special. I said I coule eat at Applebees or TGI Fridays in a 100 different towns. I wanted someplace one-of-a-kind. In this way I found some great places to eat when I was traveling.


at 10:47 AM Anonymous Anonymous said...

Isn't posting a question like this kind of preaching to the choir? If we're on the Foodie Blog, most of us are more inclined to eat at an independently owned restaurant. Perhaps you should pose the question somewhere like cincymoms where the number of chain goers is likely higher.

That said, I share the sentiments of most everyone who posted here. Supporting the local economy, diversity on the menu, local products, and having somewhere to go where you know the person in the front and/or back of the house.

at 8:36 PM Blogger Stepf said...

You're exactly right. It is like preaching to the choir. :)
Not sure on the Wild Oats/Whole Foods merger. I'm curious to know what's going on...

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