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Old 07-27-2012, 02:24 PM
 
Location: Duluth, Minnesota, USA
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(You'd think this would be better in the Food forum, but because it concerns a model of business and not so much food itself, and because I want a global response, I'll keep it in the World forum.)

Do chain restaurants (national or international) or local restaurants dominate your country's restaurant market?

In the U.S., they definitely dominate our fast food market. There are over a hundred national chains here, often with hundreds and sometimes with thousands of outlets. Not only truly international ones like McDonalds, Burger King, Subway, and KFC, but also newer and less-known-outside-the-U.S. ones like Chick-Fil-A, In and Out Burger, Maid-Rite, and White Castle. Outside of certain cities, we do not have many street vendors or market stalls selling prepared food, so corporate chains can more easily dominate.

For take-out pizza - a category in its own right - the U.S. market seems to be divvied up between chains and independent operations, often with more than one location. For example, Duluth has its Little Caesars', its Pizza Huts, and its Dominos', but it also has well-known local pizzerias such as V.I.P. and Sammy's. I figure it is this way all throughout the country, with the possible exception of newer suburbs without much "local" culture.

Chinese places do not immediately appear to be franchised or part of a chain in anyway, but I hear there is a complicated system of franchising and distribution that goes on.

For actual sit-down restaurants - what I usually mean when I refer to a "restaurant" - they are a mix of chains and independent operations. Chains definitely seem to make up more of the market share here than in other countries. The U.S. has literally hundreds of sit-down restaurant chains, usually casual dining but sometimes formal as well. Some of the larger ones include Olive Garden (Italian-American food), Applebees (standard American fare), Red Lobster (seafood), IHOP (breakfast), Waffle House (breakfast), and Chilis (southwestern food). Other ones that have made a splash more recently include Cheesecake Factory (standard American fare), Buffalo Wild Wings (wings), and P.F. Changs (Chinese).

When chain establishes a new outlet in my hometown of Duluth, they are virtually guaranteed business; the Olive Garden, when it came in 2003 (a rather late arrival), had about a two- or three-hour waiting list for a period of months. Even now it is very busy; compare the traffic in our local Italian restaurants (many of which had sprouted up AFTER the arrival of the Olive Garden) with that of the Olive Garden.

Perhaps the most curious thing about chain restaurants is their location not only in the Mall Area, with the other chain businesses, but in Canal Park, our local tourist district. There you can find local restaurants, such as the Lake Avenue Cafe and Vitta, but the largest and most trafficked restaurants by far seem to be chain restaurants, such as Red Lobster and Timber Lodge Steakhouse.

Independently-owned restaurants still proliferate and are varied in their success. Many close after about a year in operation, while a few are famous local institutions. Most medium-sized to large U.S. cities include a vast range of ethnic cuisines, and restaurants serving these are almost all locally-owned or part of very small local or regional chains. I've never heard of national chain of restaurants serving Ethiopian food, Colombian food, or for that matter, even Thai or Indian food, even though the latter two cuisines are represented in almost all cities worthy of the name.

What's the situation where you are, from your point of view?
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