Independents versus chains in Sheffield
In case you have missed it, the winners of the 2010 Eat Sheffield awards are:
The Eat Sheffield Restaurant of the Year (judged category)
Favourite Family Friendly Food Operation
Endcliffe Park Café and Our Cow Molly Ice Cream Parlour
Favourite Gastro Pub/Bar Dining
Favourite Theme restaurant
Favourite British/Modern European
Best Local Produce Menu (judged category)
Sheffield Food Champion (judged category)
Amanda Perry, Fancie
Best Newcomer (judged category)
When I heard rumblings on Twitter last night that Wagamama had won the best Asian/Oriental category, I was a bit disappointed that the winners might be mainly chain restaurants, which would reflect badly on the city’s restaurant scene.
However, if I’m not mistaken, only two chains were crowned winners last night (Wagamama and Ego), with the rest being local, independent businesses. But thinking about it – and given that many of the awards are voted by the public – why shouldn’t a chain win an award?
Sheffield is a proudly independent city and I’d much rather we were home to stunning local restaurants in every category, but the truth is we still have some way to go. So if anything I hope the results of this poll spur on city restaurants to up their game even more and prove to the public that the food they produce really can compete with the biggest names out there.
Of course a chain like Wagamama is helped by the clout of being an international name, with no doubt a marketing budget to match. But the majority of last night’s results also confirm what we already knew, that Sheffield people love Sheffield names. So there is an opportunity there for the independent restaurants to grab.
I think a good restaurant scene in a city needs both independents and chains as part of its offering. Some people like a chain, as they know what they’re getting, can offer good food and also can be great value for money.
But we also need our independents to give Sheffield something distinctive. In turn, this keeps more money in the local economy through direct revenue for the owner and also supporting local suppliers.
What do you think – would a Eat Sheffield 2011 winners list that was 100% full of independent, local businesses be a triumph? Or would it show that we are inward looking and content to live in our Sheffield food bubble?