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Columbus Diners Moving Away From Chain Restaurants

Walker Evans Walker Evans Columbus Diners Moving Away From Chain Restaurants
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Customer preferences are changing rapidly in favor of independent restaurants versus chains, according to Yelp’s second annual Local Economic Outlook report.

“While chain restaurants across the country encounter increasingly choosy diners, independent fast-food and fast-casual restaurants have seen a continued increase in average ratings, improving by seven percent in the last five years,” stated Yelp Data Editor Carl Bialik. “Ratings for casual-dining chain restaurants held up better, unchanged on average, though they lagged behind their independent competitors, which gained a quarter of a rating point between 2012 and 2017.”

Despite the changing trends, room for improvement remains. According to Yelp’s data, the Columbus dining scene has the sixth highest saturation of chain restaurants measured against other major metro areas. That includes the following breakdowns in Columbus:

  • Approximately 35% of all casual dining restaurants are chains.
  • Approximately 45% of all fast casual restaurants are chains.
  • Approximately 70% of all fast food restaurants are chains.

Local organization SOLE (Support Ohio Local Economies) works to promote and support the localized economy, and Coalition Chair Chuck Lynd states that similar research has been done that aligns with Yelp’s findings. He points to the 2011 “Indie City Index” that measured the independent retail vitality of all 363 US metro areas, and found that Columbus ranked nearly dead last in 350th place.

“On average, about 50% of metro economies are locally owned, whereas in Columbus only about 35% of our retail economy is local,” added Lynd. “We have a lot of chain stores, and that includes restaurants.”

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