Make us your home page
Instagram

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Put Brandon area independent eateries on your menu

Al Paone, owner of the Shrimp Boat Grill in Brandon, concocts a specialty margarita sorbet that is made with margaritas and liquid nitrogen. Paone says that chain restaurants may appeal to Brandon’s residents more than smaller-budget independent eateries because “you know what you’re going to get there.”

CAROLINA HIDALGO | Times

Al Paone, owner of the Shrimp Boat Grill in Brandon, concocts a specialty margarita sorbet that is made with margaritas and liquid nitrogen. Paone says that chain restaurants may appeal to Brandon’s residents more than smaller-budget independent eateries because “you know what you’re going to get there.”

The restaurant review heard round the world: Marilyn Hagerty, 85, reviews Olive Garden for the Grand Forks Herald in North Dakota.

The Twitterverse smirked, Gawker and Fark choked and sputtered. The ensuing electronic deluge might have been poking fun at Grand Forks, at 40-year newspaper veteran Hagerty or even at Olive Garden itself, described in the review as "the largest and most beautiful restaurant now operating in Grand Forks."

But it seems more likely that the snarkfest was a nationwide recognition that there are some communities out there where, in the absence of great independent restaurants, the arrival of a household-name chain is cause for celebration.

Brandon, you're no Grand Forks, but don't get too smug. Cruise along Brandon Boulevard and other major thoroughfares and get your checklist ready: Chili's, Outback, Village Inn, Beef 'O' Brady's, Buca di Beppo, Bonefish, Carrabba's, Mimi's Cafe, GrillSmith, Panera, Red Lobster, Applebee's and, yes, Olive Garden. I'm out of breath here, but I could keep going.

Why does Brandon have such a preponderance of chain restaurants? Opinions vary.

According to Al Paone, owner of Brandon's Shrimp Boat Grill, it's partly because Brandon has a more transient population than some other nearby communities. A diverse population with a fair number of snowbirds, residents may be drawn to chain concepts because, as Paone says, "you know what you're going to get there."

He's also quick to note that chain restaurants tend to have multiple levels of management, lots of employee training and systems in place to "idiot-proof" the kitchen and dining room operations.

Independents, often smaller-scale and smaller-budget endeavors, may not have these safety nets built into the system, and they are visually less dramatic and come-hither, often stacked along strip malls as opposed to in freestanding buildings with major-league signage.

John Reeves, general manager of Brandon's Mellow Mushroom, a chain out of Atlanta, thinks it's a function of being in the suburbs.

"Suburban people like consistency, and that's harder to get in smaller places. It's harder for the little guys to compete."

But he agrees with Paone that a transient population favors the chains: "We get a lot of people from out of the state who come to live here."

So why does it matter?

According to a report released in February by research company NPD Group, independent restaurants have been disproportionately decimated by the recession.

And they're still struggling.

Americans ate out 60.6 billion times last year overall, down from 62.7 billion in 2008. That's a 2.1 billion difference — 2 billion of that in independent establishments. That's 87 percent of the losses on the backs of independents.

No one would claim that independent restaurants are inherently better than chains (although it is true that to patronize a locally owned business is often to put your money back into the community).

Still, independent restaurants are often the vision of a single person, a person who may be a creative genius or woefully confused. In the world of food, as in art or literature, real change and forward momentum is seldom achieved by committee.

Put another way, a great chain restaurant may excel at executing and a great independent restaurant at innovating. For a robust restaurant scene, you need a mix of both.

If the Brandon area wants to improve its status as a place for good eats, it needs more independents and more residents willing to give ambitious chefs and locally owned eateries a chance.

Laura Reiley can be reached at lreiley@tampabay.com or (727) 892-2293.

Put Brandon area independent eateries on your menu 04/14/12 [Last modified: Saturday, April 14, 2012 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times

    

Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

Loading...
  1. Secret Service says it will run out of money to protect Trump and his family Sept. 30

    National

    WASHINGTON — The Secret Service said Monday that it has enough money to cover the cost of protecting President Donald Trump and his family through the end of September, but after that the agency will hit a federally mandated cap on salaries and overtime unless Congress intervenes.

    Secret service agents walk with President Donald Trump after a ceremony to welcome the 2016 NCAA Football National Champions the Clemson Tigers on the South Lawn of the White House on June 12, 2017. [Olivier Douliery | Sipa USA via TNS]
  2. After fraught debate, Trump to disclose new Afghanistan plan

    War

    WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump will unveil his updated Afghanistan policy Monday night in a rare, prime-time address to a nation that broadly shares his pessimism about American involvement in the 16-year conflict. Although he may send a few thousand more troops, there are no signs of a major shift in …

    U.S. soldiers patrol the perimeter of a weapons cache near the U.S. military base in Bagram, Afghanistan in 2003. Sixteen years of U.S. warfare in Afghanistan have left the insurgents as strong as ever and the nation's future precarious. Facing a quagmire, President Donald Trump on Monday will outline his strategy for a country that has historically snared great powers and defied easy solutions.  [Associated Press (2003)]
  3. Trial begins for man accused of threatening to kill Tampa federal judge

    Criminal

    TAMPA — Jason Jerome Springer was in jail awaiting trial on a firearms charge when he heard inmates talking about a case that had made the news.

    His attorney said Jason Jerome Springer, 39, just talked, and there was “no true threat.”


  4. Editorial: Tampa Electric customers should not pay for utility's fatal misjudgments

    Editorials

    There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers. Monetary considerations will not begin to …

    LUIS SANTANA   |   Times
There will be financial fallout from the terrible miscalculations that resulted in five workers being killed in June at Tampa Electric's Big Bend Power Station. State and federal regulators should ensure those costs are borne by the company's shareholders, not its customers.
  5. Superior Uniform acquires Los Angeles-based PublicIdentity

    Corporate

    SEMINOLE — A subsidiary of Seminole-based Superior Uniform Group has acquired Los Angeles-based branded merchandise company PublicIdentity Inc.

    Superior Uniform Group CEO Michael Benstock
[Courtesy of Superior Uniform Group]