Owners seek to boost visibility

Tuesday meeting could be step toward collaboration

May 2, 2007


Owners of some independent restaurants in Lawrence are looking into banding together to boost their effectiveness in competing with a common foe: chain restaurants.

Doug Holiday, owner/operator of Bigg's Barbeque, organized a meeting Tuesday that drew representatives from nearly a dozen Lawrence restaurants. Together, they agreed to pursue printing table tents designed to educate diners about the value of frequenting places that are independently owned.

Holiday cited research indicating that every $100 spent at an independent restaurant generates $68 in local economic activity, compared with $43 generated on the same amount of spending at a chain restaurant.

Holiday acknowledges that while getting independent business owners to work together can be difficult - "it's like herding cats," he said - the foundation of Tuesday's meeting could lead to more partnerships, such as with coordinated advertising or even cooperative purchases so that group discounts could be negotiated with suppliers.

"I told everybody: We're competing with corporate chains," Holiday said. "We all have something in common: We aren't traded on the Nasdaq. And you can see the CEO when you come in our restaurant. You can come in, and you'll likely see the owner."

Such an approach already has taken hold in at least 17 communities in the form of chapters of DineOriginals, the brand name for the Council of Independent Restaurants of America Inc.

The organization represents more than 600 independent restaurants, who together spend $450 million a year on goods and services and generate $1.4 billion in sales.

"We would be among the top 10 chains in the country," said Don Luria, who helped establish the organization in 1999 and continues to serve as president.

DineOriginals works to highlight the local flavors, concepts and services that are unique to each community, and therefore boost the profile of such operations to the point of drawing more business. Luria said his family's own restaurant in Tuscon, Ariz., used group purchasing to cut its food costs from 31.5 percent of expenses to 27.5 percent, saving $110,000 while generating sales of $3 million a year.

"It's the chains that are our competition, not other independent restaurateurs," Luria said. "We need to work together for our own benefit. Otherwise, we're just going to disappear, like the drug stores and bookstores and hardware stores."

Holiday said he was encouraged to meet Tuesday with restaurateurs from all over town, representing such operations as Bucky's, 23rd St. Brewery, Don's Steak House, Scarlet Orchid, Buffalo Bob's Smokehouse, Molly McGee's, Tortas Jalisco, J.B. Stout's, Johnny's and Marisco's.

Now it's a matter of working together.

"Everybody has their own ideas and interests. That's what makes local independent restaurants so cool," Holiday said. "We'll see what we can do to make our businesses better and help the local economy, too."


monkeyhawk 11 years, 1 month ago

Perfect - another clandestine group rallying to limit choices of the citizens and visitors of Lawrence. Didn't Holiday used to work for a large corporation in KC, spawned from the Gilbert Robinson empire?

amazed 11 years, 1 month ago

I eat at restaurants that serve good food, period. One plate of cold, sauce-covered fat chunks from Biggs was enough to keep me away. Mr. Holiday needs to worry about what's happening INside. The rest will come.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 1 month ago

agreed amazed it s the food that get people to come back. It really does not matter if it is chain or local, bad food and service will send them packing no matter who you are.

peter brady 11 years, 1 month ago

the perfect restaurant doesn't exist and mega chain operations, by their very nature, limit your choices. unless you truly enjoy prepackeged/microwaved/flavorless/overpriced chain food, your only out is an independent restaurant. good, or bad. and, the only thing clandestine about this is the ease in which a chain can take every single cent of their profit out of the communities in which they do their business and pass it on to their non-local executives and shareholders.

jonas 11 years, 1 month ago

mommaeffort and amazed: Bad service will get you out the door, good promotion is what gets you in in the first place.

. . . and they aren't saying they want to limit choices, just collectively work to get their names out.

Christine Pennewell Davis 11 years, 1 month ago

not true I have eaten in many places that I had not even heard about before just to try, If it was good I would go back if not no way. Some of the best food I have ever had have been little places in the middle of nowhere. My problem is I am directionaly impaired so always hve to have some one else drive.

Kelly Powell 11 years, 1 month ago

It's called marketing.....And chain restaraunts wouldnt have the toe hold they do if it wasn't for the fact that many of the local places are very inconsistent about the quality of their food and service....Allso, lawrence pays crap for food workers....Most places think if they get enough big boobed gals to work front of the house that people will ignore the crappy service and food.....I'm so glad I am out of the biz (other then some catering and the jerky/pickle thing leann and me do)

Meatwad 11 years, 1 month ago

I'm baffled by Moneyhawk's thinking that local restaurants organizing is a "rally to limit choices" of the citizens of Lawrence. On the contrary, as time goes on and chains eventually take over everything (since unfortunately a lot of people don't think to support local businesses), THAT'S when your choices will be limited. I personally think what the locals are doing is GREAT. There will be chains and there will be locals and that's the way it should be. Balanced. Quality food/service AND bad food/service can be found at both chains and locals alike. The bottom line is that the more choices we have, the better; locals organizing keeps them in business and keeps their prices low. I personally prefer to support locals, and find that more often than not, THEY have the better, healthier food and better service.

TrueBlue 11 years, 1 month ago

Several restaurants have opened up within a year, including On the Border, 3080 Iowa, and Longhorn Steakhouse, 3050 Iowa. Another one of the newer establishments is Bigg's Bar & Grill, 2429 Iowa, which opened in September. Co-owner Doug Holiday, also the former general manager of the Hereford House, said the competition in south Lawrence was good.

A statement from Mr. Holiday in 2005. So is competetion really good? Or did you not mean this? As a longtime Lawrence resident this arguments surfaces once again and is getting old. I suggest getting better at being better. Too many times I see local businesses drop the ball on staffing, food quality, cleanliness, general execution, etc.. Worry about being excellent within the four walls. I would bet the most successful restaurants have this in common. Free State seems to do ok and so does Chili's. One is local and one is a chain. Hmm?

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