Chain restaurants expand in Chico

As another semester of school arrives, so do several new restaurants, primarily chains, that have never before been in Chico. For many students and locals, there is an appreciation for the community, especially for downtown where there are one-of-a-kind places to eat.

Chico is known for being a small town with a population of about 88,000, and the downtown vicinity is full of locally-owned stores and restaurants. Popular picks for eateries include The Naked Lounge Tea and Coffeehouse, Madison Bear Garden and Upper Crust Bakery are all downtown, just blocks from campus.

There are also many changes to downtown dining such as Burgers & Brew’s new location and the closing of Spice Creek on Third Street, which is to be replaced with an Asian fusion establishment.

As new chain restaurants come to Chico, there is question about the impact on they will have on local businesses and restaurants, if they will pose any threat and if these new chains will thrive.

Melanie Bassett, Executive Director of the Downtown Chico Business Association, welcomes new businesses to Chico and does not believe that the chain establishments will have a negative effect on already established local businesses. Photo courtesy of Melanie Bassett.

Melanie Bassett, Executive Director of the Downtown Chico Business Association, doesn’t think the new chains will affect local business because they are all outside downtown, she said.

Pizza Hut, a chain restaurant, was one of the first to open about two and a half months ago on Mangrove Avenue.

Buffalo Wild Wings opened its doors in Chico on Aug. 9 in the North Valley Plaza near Tinseltown. Photo credit: Lauren Anderson

Buffalo Wild Wings opened on Aug. 9 in the North Valley Plaza, home to Tinseltown. The sports bar which originated in Columbus, Ohio is a lively place to grab some beers and famously-known wings while watching a game on one of the many TVs.

Panera Bread is planned to take the place of Marie Calendar’s on East 20th Street. With the anticipation of its arrival, locals ponder the effect it will have on local eateries such as Tin Roof Bakery and Upper Crust. Panera Bread is a popular US chain known for serving salads, sandwiches and baked goods.

Being a college student can make life feel hectic at times, making it easy to gravitate toward the convenience of eating out. Chain restaurants have some advantages compared to local restaurants, like the familiarity of the same dishes and same service— a “safe choice” for many.

So far, Buffalo Wild Wings and Pizza Hut have had steady business with generally positive reviews. Paul Manansala, Buffalo Wild Wings employee, is proud to work in a family-oriented restaurant.

“The employees have gotten compliments about how we have an enjoyable place to eat, drink and have a fun time with friends and family,” he said.

Fortunately there are resources available in Chico to encourage eating locally. The farmer’s market and Thursday Night Market, where locally-grown foods are readily available for purchase by cutting out the middle man, ensures the money spent goes directly back into the farmer’s pocket.

Eating locally also means more revenue for the local economy. Shopping local supports neighbors, friends and the community by enjoying local cuisine.

Some wings from Buffalo Wild Wings or a quick soup from Panera Bread on a cold day won’t be an end-all, but according to Bassett, choosing to more often support local businesses and restaurants not only keeps Chico’s local economy booming, it ensures a vibrant and lively downtown shopping center. Local businesses tend to be unique and thrive off customers, like the Made in Chico store, which showcases unique handmade items related to Chico, she said.

Chico has an all-around good vibe and is focused on growing the downtown and filling empty spots, Bassett said. There is less room for concern about competition with local business, and a sense of anticipation as Chico awaits its new eateries.

Lauren Anderson can be reached at [email protected] or @laurentaylora on Twitter.