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Locally owned or chain restaurants: Does it really matter?

Melissa English, of Local First, shares some of the benefits of selecting local first when eating out.
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Locally Owned Restaurants

Wondering where to find locally owned restaurants? Be sure to check out the restaurants, food & beverages section of the Local First Directory.

A hot new chain restaurant opens up in town. Some are excited. Others are dismayed and prefer to only dine at locally-owned restaurants. Does it really matter? According to Melissa English, Administrative Coordinator at Local First, yes, yes it does. One of the arguments of chain-restaurant supporters is that chains provide jobs too. English points out that though chains certainly provide jobs to a community, "a locally owned restaurant’s success is rooted in its relationship to its community–therefore, the local business’s decision making is more likely to take the health and sustainability of the local community into account, while the chain’s primary responsibility is to earn a profit for its non-local shareholders."

Another benefit of locally owned restaurants is that they tend to be more likely to purchase ingredients, products, and services from other locally-owned businesses, while chains make their purchases at a national level--wherever they can get the best price. English says, "Our Local Works! Study shows that 73% more money stays in the community when that money is spent at a locally owned business (including restaurants), and that shifting $1 in $10 to locally owned businesses would create 1,600 jobs in West MI." 

Locally owned restaurants are more likely to purchase from local farms, which means that ingredients are fresher and have less of an environmental impact from transportation. 

So, while both chain restaurants and locally owned restaurants provide jobs, supporting locally owned restaurants puts more money into the community and has the potential to have a positive impact on the environment.

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