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Why are chain restaurants closing in Rochester?

January 4, 2019

With Perkins and Bakers Square each closing Rochester restaurants in recent days, people are asking, “Why?”

Experts say there is usually more than one reason for any business closure. However, the growing popularity of original, non-chain restaurants in Rochester could be a factor.

“I think people are maybe tending toward local places and good food. … It’s kind of the reverse of the Walmart Syndrome, where people didn’t support local stores,” speculated Rochester Restaurant Supply owner Tom Fleming.

Longtime Med City restaurateur Tasos Psomas thinks there is something to that theory.

“I think it is a market shift. … Independents, like me, can change quickly, can adapt and be different,” he said. “I can just turn to servers, ask what can we do to make it better, they make a suggestion and we’re off and running. Chains can’t do that.”

Psomas owned the popular Dutch-flavored Pannekoeken restaurant that was inside the former Days Inn hotel at 6 First Ave. NW. The restaurant was forced to close in November and the building was demolished, but Psomas said he hopes to open a new Pannekoeken in Rochester sometime this year.

Whether it is adaptability or the food, Psomas has seen success as the owner of an independent eatery in the Med City.

“We were having a record year before we had to close. We had three straight record years,” he said. “So when I see these guys failing, I’m kind of surprised.”

The struggles of restaurant chains, particularly family-oriented ones, are being played out beyond Rochester.

International House of Pancakes, Outback Steakhouse, Applebee’s, Chili’s and Sonic have all closed locations in the past two years.

“Eating habits have changed,” Psomas said.

Rochester diners have been flocking to local restaurants, such as Cameo, Pasquale’s Pizzeria, Bar Buffalo and Taco Jed as well as longtime favorites like Newt’s, Victoria’s Ristorante & Wine Bar, Pappy’s and Pho Chao.

For Fleming, of Rochester Restaurant Supply, a shift toward local restaurants means more opportunities. Chains typically have their own suppliers.

“From my standpoint, a trend toward local is good news,” he said.

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