The Sassy Server:
By Marie Beachdale
Sunday, Sept. 16, 2012, Surfside Beach - How do you choose where to dine – at locally owned Mom and Pops or at popular chains– when Myrtle Beach has an almost overwhelming variety of restaurants?
There is no rule of thumb that a locally owned restaurant is going to be better or worse than a chain, but I’ve learned over the years there are subtle differences that may impact your decisions.
Since I am a server at a locally owned restaurant, management immediately hears my voice when I need to talk about policy changes. Many friends who work for chain restaurants tell me they become frustrated when they hear the same customer complaints day-in and day-out, but can’t do anything to fix the problems due to the dreaded “corporate policy.”
At my restaurant, changing policies, recipes or menu items is as simple as calling the owner and letting him know there’s an issue. My friends who work for chains don’t have that luxury. If you, the diner, have a complaint, it most likely won’t be fixed by the next time you visit the chain. Even if servers report that customers are having the same complaints every day, they may be powerless to change anything until someone in a corporate office approves.
That’s not to say there aren’t kind souls at chain restaurants that won’t do everything in their power to ensure you have a good dining experience. It all boils down to good management skills-- if a manager of a franchise or chain is concerned with customer feedback and takes an active interest in his or her restaurant, you’re probably going to love eating there.
Working for a local owner instead of a chain can also have nice perks. From getting paid in cash for attending an early morning meeting to an unexpected holiday bonus from the owner, locally owned businesses are generally known for taking great care of their employees.
One of the most phenomenal examples of owner generosity I can think of was at the beginning of this year, when a fire devastated locally owned Dead Dog Saloon. The restaurant needed to shut down in order to rebuild and repair, and though it could have been easy for the owner to wallow in self pity for his loss, he put his employees first.
In almost every interview given by the owner of Dead Dog, he mentioned his concern for his employees, making it known that fundraising efforts would be used to make sure his staff would be able to survive until the restaurant reopened.
To me, that’s a prime example of the type of close-knit family atmosphere that comes from working for a locally owned business. Instead of working for a faceless man in an office thousands of miles away, we all work together, usually closely with the owner, to ensure the business thrives and our customers are happy.
Of course, employees at chains and franchises are going to take their jobs just as seriously, and those employees are locals. However part of me feels that with the slower winter season coming, the smaller, locally owned restaurants are more inclined to go the extra mile to draw in business and maintain regular customers to ensure they can stay open another year.
Generally, dining at a local mom and pop means more of your money goes back into the community. But, at the end of the day, it all comes down to the person in charge. A local restaurant owner who simply doesn’t care, or has an “if we build it, they will come” attitude isn’t going to win you over at their restaurant, and a franchise owner who gets involved with the community and goes the extra mile to make sure you enjoy yourself will probably keep you coming back for years.
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