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The Rise of Local Restaurants over Chains: Why Ambiance Trumps Technology

Boost for Independent Restaurants

As COVID restrictions begin to lift and diners return to their favorite restaurants, there is good news for local and independent restaurants. According to a recent survey, consumers are showing stronger support for independent restaurants compared to chain restaurants.

In this article, we will explore the reasons behind the boost for independent restaurants, and the rise in eating at restaurants.

Support for Local Restaurants

The pandemic has affected small businesses across the board, and the restaurant industry is no exception. However, independent restaurants have been hit particularly hard.

Many of them do not have the financial resources or brand recognition to weather the storm. But there is a glimmer of hope on the horizon.

A recent survey conducted by Datassential shows that consumers are more likely to support local restaurants than chain restaurants. In fact, 66% of respondents said they will visit independent restaurants more often than they did pre-pandemic.

One reason for this is emotional ties to the community. When small businesses close down, it affects the entire neighborhood.

People are more likely to support businesses that they perceive as being locally owned and operated. This sentiment is reflected in the survey results, which showed that 76% of respondents said they want to support small businesses in their community.

Another reason for the boost in support for independent restaurants is that people are looking for a change from the standard chain restaurant experience. Independent restaurants tend to offer more unique and eclectic menus, with a focus on local and seasonal ingredients.

Diners are more likely to have a memorable experience at an independent restaurant than at a chain restaurant where the food and ambiance can feel generic.

Rise in Eating at Restaurants

As COVID restrictions begin to ease, more and more people are venturing out to eat at restaurants. A recent survey conducted by the National Restaurant Association showed that 60% of Americans have eaten at a restaurant in the past 30 days, and 75% have eaten at a restaurant in the past 90 days.

This is a significant increase from last year, when many people were hesitant to dine out due to safety concerns. One factor contributing to the rise in eating at restaurants is the lifting of COVID restrictions.

Many states have increased capacity limits, allowed for indoor dining, and lifted mask mandates. This has made diners feel more comfortable about eating out than they did last year.

Another factor is the weather. As the weather warms up, restaurants are able to offer more outdoor seating options.

With the fresh air and sunshine, many diners prefer to eat outside rather than in a stuffy indoor space. This has created a demand for outdoor dining options, and restaurants are responding by expanding their outdoor space with sidewalk seating, patios, and rooftop decks.


As the pandemic slowly recedes, there is reason for hope in the restaurant industry. The boost in support for local and independent restaurants and the rise in eating at restaurants signifies a return to normalcy.

Small business owners can look forward to a bright future as diners rediscover the joy of dining out.

Preference for Local Restaurants Over Chains

In the post-pandemic world, the restaurant industry is experiencing a paradigm shift in the way diners choose to eat out. One trend that is emerging is the preference for local restaurants over chain restaurants.

In this article, we will explore the reasons why diners are choosing local restaurants over chains, and the factors that contribute to a great dining experience.

In-Person Dining Experience

One reason why diners are choosing local restaurants over chains is the in-person dining experience they offer. Local restaurants are often located in community structures, and they take advantage of that by creating a memorable ambiance that is unique to their area.

The decor of a local restaurant may reflect the culture of the neighborhood in which it is located, or it may have a cozy, intimate atmosphere that encourages conversation and socializing. Chain restaurants, on the other hand, often have a standardized look and feel that is the same in every location.

While some chains may have a unique decor theme, it can feel artificial and less authentic than the ambiance of a local restaurant.

New technology, such as touchless menus, may improve the dining experience in a chain restaurant, but they may not be as impactful as the overall ambiance a local restaurant can offer.

This is not to say that local restaurants shun technology usage. Instead, they use it strategically and minimally to add helpful elements to the overall experience.

Delivery vs. In-Person Dining

Another factor that is contributing to the preference for local restaurants over chains is the experience of dining in-person.

While delivery has been a popular option throughout the pandemic for diners who are not comfortable eating inside a restaurant, it lacks the social experience that many people crave. Chains have perfected the art of delivery, but that may not be as appealing to diners who are looking for an immersive experience.

Local restaurants have an edge here because they tend to offer a more welcoming experience in person.

Furthermore, diners who choose to eat at a local restaurant are more likely to support the local economy by eating in-person.

Local restaurants make a direct impact on the community as they hire people from the neighborhood. And with the sudden economic hit that the pandemic caused, this has become an even more critical factor in the decision-making process.

Focus on Food Quality

Another trend that is emerging in the restaurant industry is the focus on food quality. Customers are willing to pay more for dishes that use fresh ingredients and local produce, and local restaurants have an edge here because they often have relationships with local farmers and suppliers.

As a result, they are able to use high-quality, fresh ingredients that add depth to their menu offerings.

Lack of Interest in QR Codes

One emerging technology that is not resonating with diners is QR codes. QR codes have become ubiquitous during the pandemic as a way to offer a touchless experience, but many diners have voiced their lack of interest in using them solely for this reason.

The use of QR codes eliminates the human-to-human connection that makes the dining experience unique and enjoyable. It can also feel cold and impersonal, detracting from the ambiance that local restaurants strive to offer.

The pandemic caused increased worries among customers that many restaurants tried to address by implementing more touchless experiences. However, this has led many customers to prefer the traditional experience that a local restaurant can offer.

Ambiance Over Technology

Ultimately, the dining experience is more about ambiance than technology. While technology can certainly improve the dining experience in terms of convenience and efficiency, it can only go so far.

A great dining experience is about feeling welcomed, appreciated, and satisfied. The ambiance, decor, food quality, and service all play a part in creating a memorable experience that diners will want to repeat.



As the restaurant industry continues to evolve in the post-pandemic world, the preference for local restaurants over chains is becoming more prevalent. The in-person dining experience is a key factor in this trend, and local restaurants have an edge because of the unique ambiance and overall greater experience they offer.

Moreover, diners focus on food quality over technology is evident. The ability of local restaurants to source locally and keep the dishes fresh and of high-quality has been a significant determining factor in their performance.

The restaurant industry is quickly changing, and its essential for dining establishments to stay on task with what their customers care about to maintain their foothold in the industry. The preference for local restaurants over chains is becoming more prevalent in the post-pandemic world.

This is due to the unique in-person dining experience that local restaurants offer, which often reflects the community’s culture and creates a memorable ambiance. In addition, diners are focusing on food quality over technology, which local restaurants excel at by sourcing locally and using high-quality, fresh ingredients.

The pandemic has accelerated these trends, causing diners to prioritize their local communities and support small businesses. Restaurants must pay attention to these trends and adapt to these new demands to remain relevant in the industry.

Ultimately, the dining experience is about feeling welcomed, appreciated, and satisfied, and these are the values that local restaurants offer.

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