Texoma residents reached out to Newschannel 6 about concerns of big restaurants forcing locally-owned restaurants out of business. We looked into the issue.
Newschannel 6 Anchor Brittany Glas filed an open records request with the Wichita Falls-Wichita County Public Health District and learned the food and beverage industry is growing rapidly in Texoma. The data showed that in Wichita County, since January 2011, 69 new restaurants have opened their doors. During the same time period, 50 restaurants closed. Aside from this data, 20 restaurants opened and closed the past two and a half years.
Vanda Wright, the director of the Small Business Development Center at Midwestern State University in Wichita Falls, said regardless of the closings, the records are still positive.
"If we see chain businesses come into town, then that's probably a really good time for anyone to be in business because they are seeing something positive in our economy, in our demographic, that makes them want to place a franchise here," said Wright. "I think that can be a good signal for mom and pops; for locally-owned businesses," she continued.
Newschannel 6 learned franchises however, can be locally-owned.
Numerous local restaurant owners we reached out to said that while a surge in chain or big restaurants in Texoma makes for a challenge, they realize it means more available jobs for area residents.
Ronnie Blanchard has owned Ronnie's Burgers in Wichita Falls for 24 years. Blanchard told us he knows franchises help the local economy.
"A lot of people are looking for jobs… I see a positive in the job market," said Blanchard.
While Ronnie's is often considered a staple restaurant for many Texomans, the local burger joint is still vulnerable to the impact of new, big restaurant business moving into town.
Blanchard said, "When I hear that a new franchise is coming in, I get a little anxious at first because I know that it is going to hurt business for a little bit."
Scott Plowman, the owner of The Pelican and both Southwest Parkway Grill locations in Texoma, told Newschannel 6 that small restaurant owners need to make sure they're doing their jobs well because chains will inevitably grow.
"I can't control what Five Guys does, or Chick-Fil-A, Ragin' Cajun… They are going to come in… Chains have to grow and they are going to keep coming," said Plowman.
Vanda Wright has a number of recommendations for current or aspiring Texomans looking to open a restaurant to call their own. She said small local restaurants already have a foothold in the market, so restaurant owners need to use that to their advantage.
"We love it when we go in and we're known by name or [employees] know what we want to order each time," Wright said. "There are many things that a locally-owned business can offer that oftentimes a franchise cannot."
The SBDC director also emphasized the need for restaurant owners to be prepared.
Wright said, "Restaurant owners need to save up for that rainy day because… in the locally-owned restaurant world, their rainy day is when a new restaurant opens in town." She said local restaurants have to be prepared to weather the storm.
Despite the somewhat negative aspect of new big restaurants moving into Texoma, Ronnie Blanchard remains optimistic.
"As long as we, as local business people, continue to put out a good product that people want and we continue to give them good service, then even when the franchises come in… if we do what's right and continue to serve the community like we should, then we shouldn't be worried about franchises," said Blanchard.
Agriculture Commissioner Todd Staples encourages Texans to eat local as part of the sixth annual GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up.
"When you dine out, make sure the restaurant serves fresh food straight from a Texas farm or ranch," Commissioner Staples said. "The GO TEXAN Restaurant Round-Up brings together the best offerings of Texas produce, meats, cheeses and beverages through the creativity of our local chefs. By dining out during the Round-Up, consumers give back to our economy and help contribute to area food banks."
The annual statewide dine-out event supports Texas farmers and ranchers by promoting fresh Texas-grown foods. This year's week event began July 22 and will continue through Sunday.
For more information on the 2013 Round-Up, click here.
6 On Your Side will take a look at different issues impacting the Texoma community each Thursday night. If you have something you would like Brittany to look into, send an email to email@example.com.