Ever mourned the closure of a beloved cafe or been surprised to find your childhood ice cream parlor replaced by a chain? Mom-and-pop business owners—but especially restaurateurs, who create a sense of community by providing spaces for people to come together and break bread—are the heart and soul of any neighborhood. But in a landscape where profit margins are slim, takeout and delivery are on the rise, and restaurants are subject to the whims of capricious Yelp reviewers, local restaurants have a host of new (and old) challenges to navigate.

As consumers, we have the power to make or break the mom and pop restaurants around the corner from our homes. But why should we support them?

The owner actually cares

Starting a business is risky business—especially in the challenging food services industry. But while chains or franchise restaurant owners have the entire corporation to fall back on in a pinch, an independent owner has no one. Plus, a chain restaurant’s primary responsibility is to drive profits for its shareholders, who are most likely not locals. Whether these local restaurants were born out of a dream or necessity, it’s in the owners best interest to provide the best possible service. Their livelihoods depend on your repeat patronage and good reviews.

Support the local community

Whenever you buy local, you’re putting money back into your community and neighborhood. In fact, every dollar spent locally circulates 2.5 times within the community through profits, jobs, and charities. One study even shows that 73 percent more money stays in the community when spent locally and that by shifting $1 in $10 to locally-owned businesses could create 1,600 jobs.

This benefits you and your neighbors, both businesses and families alike. Plus, the success of locally-owned restaurants is rooted in the relationships, health, and economy of its community.

Promote cultural diversity through food

Let’s face it, global food chains like McDonald’s, Burger King, Dairy Queen and Subway aren’t driving cultural diversity through food. They’re not celebrating different cultures, religions, races and practices with food. Instead, they promote sameness and familiar, which is fine. But what makes a local community truly rich with diversity is the mom and pop restaurants that share the flavours, ingredients and recipes from their heritage. They celebrate our differences and promote a vast array of diverse cuisine.

Support creativity and growth

Kelly Kim, the chef and co-founder of Yellow Fever restaurant shared an interesting perspective with Tableside Magazine on why it matters to support local restaurants. “Many corporate chains will make decisions based on committee-think or focus groups and are inherently averse to taking risks,” Kim says. “Local restaurants are your best source for truly innovative and new experiences.” We couldn’t agree more. So many of the owner-operated restaurants that we partner with are taking risks and having fun with their menus, ingredients, and flavors—and locals can’t get enough of it.

For us, local is so much more than a place. It’s an idea. It’s the people, businesses, cultures, flavors, diversity, values, ingredients, history and foods. It’s a community and collective of voices and ideas. That’s what makes supporting local so special.

Support Joplin’s local restaurants like Club 609 at (417) 623-6090.