Hard times for chain restaurants as local eateries thrive

Posted at 6:07 PM, Feb 21, 2017
and last updated 2017-02-21 19:46:22-05

It's hard times out there for a chain restaurant. Several popular chains have announced cuts nationwide.

They're restaurants in high traffic areas we've all heard of - Carrabba's, Outback Steakhouse, Bonefish, and Noodles and Company are just a few of the chains planning to close dozens of ‘underperforming’ locations this year.

"After a certain time, restaurant brands could become stale," said UW-Milwaukee Marketing Professor Purush Papatla.

While we don't know the impact to those chains in southeastern Wisconsin, Papatla said he's not surprised by the cuts.

"It gets to be a bit monotonous," he said.

Papatla said recent data shows a desire for fresh foods and convenience -- something consumers are finding locally.

"I think the local trend is a big trend and I think it's growing," he said.

Papatla mentions one Milwaukee standout - BelAir Cantina.

BelAir manager Andrew Miller said their first location opened on N. Water seven years ago with one thing in mind.

"Fresh from the get go," he said. "Everything we produce here at BelAir and our other locations, we do as fresh as possible."

If it isn't the food, Miller says the dining experience brings people back.

"High energy, fun environment, (it’s) exciting," Miller explained.

The successful business model has turned into a local chain of their own. Their sixth location was just announced in Madison.

"I think the local options have exponentially grown over the last couple of years," said Miller.

Noodles and Company recently announced the biggest chain cuts recently. The chain plans to close 55 stores by this summer. Company leaders say locations that have opened within the past few years will likely be first to go.

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