Tied in Chains: The Independent Restaurants

Three years ago I wrote a blog about my guilty pleasures. It was really a photography blog about using built-in flash and I’ll probably edit and re-publish it one day soon. But when I listed my guilty pleasures I included a paragraph about my love of chain restaurants. I’m always going to have mixed feelings about that because even though there were good reasons why I like chains, I do actually have a much stronger affection and loyalty for independent restaurants. This has been highlighted for me recently by the sad closure of Bed Restaurant in Harrogate.

The Closure of Bed Restaurant

Bed Restaurant was opposite the conference centre in Harrogate and served a delicious range of world food. It was a relaxed and humorous place with amusing signage like “join us for early nights in Bed” and customers were treated to a curly wurly with their bill. People had real affection for the place and tourists gave it rave reviews. I personally loved it and I could talk your ear off about the menu. For many years it dominated Harrogate’s Tripadvisor listings, staying within the top 5. However the fat lady has now sung and without warning the place has shut down.

Bed’s owner Dave Burns has been quite specific about the reasons for the restaurant’s closure. He stated on Facebook “We just couldn’t compete with the tsunami of restaurants, more so of late the larger chains, opening in HG1 and the slow and painful demise of the once very busy Harrogate International Centre.” Personally I am not a user of the International Centre so I was unaware of the alleged “demise” but none of us in the town can have missed the rising army of chain restaurants.

Support Independents

The local paper has started a campaign recently to encourage people to support independent businesses and there are solid economic reasons for any community to do this. It supports local jobs, it reduces the circulation of money to distant corporations, it’s more likely to be taxed fairly, it sustains a local economy and quite simply it keeps members of your own community in work.


So how can I possibly justify ever having written anything warm at all about chain restaurants? I don’t know about you but when I pick a restaurant I never really think about whether it’s a chain or not. I think most of us use other criteria to decide where to eat. It was only after talking to a friend that I realised I found them easy places to visit as a family and that I had used them rather a lot. That’s what prompted me to write about it. Chains make for an easy life as a customer with their meal deals, family friendly menus and heavy use of food photography. I think maybe it would be a smart move for independent restaurants to nick a few of their ideas. Perhaps independents could even club together in the same way that Best Western started out as a co-operative umbrella for independent hotels. They could refer customers to each other and offer standards on hours and menus that customers could expect across all restaurants. That would enable town-wide promotion of independents as a brand.

Where to Eat

But for now my conscience has been pricked and I’m going to have to shop more wisely and remember more often to champion the independents.

Here’s a short list of a few of my favourite family-friendly independent restaurants if you’re ever out and about in Harrogate town: Caffe Marconi, The Damn Yankee, The Black Swan (Burn Bridge), Yorkshire Meatball Company, Gianni’s Brio, Al Bivio and last but not least Cattlemens. Bon Appetit!

(Not a sponsored post)


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