Know Your Community Intimately

Scott Maitland started Top of the Hill Restaurant and Brewery to prevent a chain restaurant from dominating downtown Chapel Hill. Not only did he accomplish that, but he turned his restaurant into a place that anybody can visit to represent the quintessential Chapel Hill experience. Located at the very heart of downtown Chapel Hill, Top of the Hill Restaurant & Brewery is, quite simply, the social crossroads of Chapel Hill. It has undoubtedly become an institution.

During his interview for Restaurant Owners Uncorked, Scott discussed how important it is for indie restaurant owners to have intimate local knowledge, and how chains and owners from outside of your town can miss on that…

How about an example of a restaurant that didn’t have that intimate local knowledge?

“Here’s one. Michael Jordan hooked up with an independent restaurant group out of Chicago to start “23 Restaurant” here in Chapel Hill. They had marketed themselves as the place for fathers and sons to go to before the game. To be frank, I was a little nervous. They were right down the block, and I was thinking, It’s going to be tough to compete against that.

Well, I’ve never seen a group that had such a scattered concept of what the restaurant was going to be about. They were advertising it as the place to go to before the game, but the menu didn’t have a hamburger on it. Rather, they were selling $26 rabbit!

I now have this theory that the bigger a city is, the farther it is away from its food, so consequently, the food needs to become more and more exotic. I don’t know if I am accurate or not, but I guess rabbit seems fun and exotic in Chicago. Meanwhile, there are plenty of people here in North Carolina who remember hard times, and the only way they got to eat was to go out and shoot a rabbit.

The idea of paying $26 to have a rabbit doesn’t work on many levels. It’s not what you want to eat before a basketball game, and it’s not what this market wants.”

Our book will be available soon, and you’ll be able to learn a lot more from Scott and the other owners who shared their advice and pearls of wisdom.

The Schedulefly Crew