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February 8, 2018

US consumers prefer independent restaurants to chains – study

Yelp has identified a ‘tremendous rise’ in consumer preference for independent restaurants in the US over the last five years.

By Jasmine Lee-Zogbessou

Yelp has identified a ‘tremendous rise’ in consumer preference for independent restaurants in the US over the last five years.

As a part of the multinational corporation’s latest ‘Local Economic Outlook’ edition, a study ranking the growth of local businesses in 50 metro areas, Yelp analysed restaurant review ratings as an indicator of consumer preference.

The rise of celebrity chef-owners and increased confidence in non-chain establishments due to the ability to source review platforms has assisted the 7% growth.

On average, fast casual chains have seen a decrease in ratings by a third of a star out of five, equivalent to 16%, between 2012 and 2017.

Ratings for casual dining chains were unchanged on average.

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Senior principal at food industry research firm Technomic, David Henkes said: “Historically, chain growth has outpaced the broader restaurant industry growth, but in the past three years we have actually seen independents and smaller operators outperform chains.

“It’s clear that consumers are voting with their dollars and are rewarding those restaurants that provide a resonating point of difference in the overall experience.

“Consumers are embracing local in all aspects of their lives, and this includes the restaurants they visit.

“[They] tell us that smaller, independent restaurants are more authentic, offer better and more unique menu items, align more closely to consumer needs, and provide better value than their chain counterparts.”

Henkes added: “The key to success in the restaurant industry today is having a unique and defining point of differentiation. For too many chains, this differentiation has been lost – and is an area that smaller, independent restaurants excel at.”

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