What’s on indie owners’ minds?

We wanted to know what independent restaurant owners are thinking about going into 2012, so we asked a bunch of them, “What’s on your mind?”

Having read through all of the responses, it’s clear that they generally believe the effect of group coupons is training customers to expect to never pay retail, which is bad; they are concerned that food, gas and other commodity prices are going up; they think online reviews and social media tools can be great to create awareness, but are often being intentionally misused; and they are excited about the opportunities they have to use local ingredients, which is something they are better set up for than chains.

Here are a few of the verbatim responses that we believe best capture what indie owners are most concerned with right now:

“Trend I like: Due to Food TV, Whole Foods, Farm to Table, etc., people are slowly but surely becoming more interested in quality food and beverage, and they’re becoming more educated. That is an advantage for independently owned restaurants. Trend I dislike: The new expectation of many restaurant patrons to ‘never pay retail.’ This industry is not set up for deep discounting, but we’ve conditioned our guests to expect deal after deal.” – Jon Myerow, Tria Cafe, Philadelphia

“I’d say I’m most excited about the emerging trend of hyper-local meats and veggies that independents are looking towards adapting. Most concerned about the sites like Yelp! that are being compromised by fake bad and good reviews put out by competitors and restaurant owners. Very alarming.” – Jeff Gigante, Ciccio Restaurant Group, Tampa, FL

“We’re a small-batch, artisan coffee roasting company in Brooklyn. We are focused on sustaining our community, sourcing from local businesses, and supporting local organizations, so the trend that excites us the most is a growing one that focuses on slow food and smaller, craft approach. This allows us to remain a family-run business, and focus on a high quality artisan product. It is a very nice trend to watch grow, especially here in Brooklyn, where family business was so much a part of the history and roots of the city. Small business is rejuvenated here and making a comeback and it’s exciting to be part of that. What concerns us the most is the rise in production costs. We’ve seen green bean coffee prices rise 80 percent in the last year. Combined with a rise in shipping costs, milk/food costs, fuel/ gas prices, this presents a challenge for us going into 2012.” – JD and Kathy Merget, Oslo Coffee Roasters , Brooklyn

“Looking forward I see a lot of opportunity in the social networks and smart phones. Apps will lead people to our restaurants. But the same trails that will lead people in, will also hinder people from coming in, if they read biased reviews that turn their attention to the negative. – Vince Zavala, Dogz Bar and Grill, Long Beach, CA

My personal favorite response came from Tim Creehan of Cuvee Bistro in Destin, FL, who wrote: “Simple well prepared quality products with great attentive service will just about guarantee a success.” I love this philosophy. Reminds me of how we view Schedulefly. Besides, with so many things being outside of restaurant owners’ control and so many potential distraction, this focused approach seems like a great way to be successful no matter what trends surround you.