Bust or boom: why some Saskatoon restaurants struggle to survive

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WATCH ABOVE: Why some locally owned Saskatoon restaurants struggle while bigger chains thrive – Aug 24, 2017

People in Saskatoon love wining and dining. Data from Statistics Canada shows our appetite for eating out in Saskatchewan grows year over year.

So just how difficult is it to make a go of it as a stand alone restaurant as more fast food chains move in?

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In 2014, Prairie Harvest Café made the cut as one of the top 50 restaurants in the country as selected by a panel of chefs, food writers and industry professionals.

Three years later, the restaurant closed it’s doors for good as fast food chains continue to surge throughout Saskatoon with line-ups out the door.

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“It’s fast, it’s cheap, it’s convenient and they know what they’re getting,” said David Williams, an associate professor of marketing at Edwards School of Business.

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On June 15, Taco Bell Canada opened a location on 8th Street East, with customers arriving at 1:30 a.m. to be the first in line. Police were on-scene to provide both crowd and traffic control.

Now, two months later the chain is setting up a second location on 22nd Street. Meanwhile, Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen has settled into Blairmore.

“It is all about novelty and bringing something new into the city,” Gordon Zello said.

Zello, who is a professor of nutrition at the University of Saskatchewan, said running a restaurant can be one of the most unforgiving businesses around and major chains have economy of scale on their side.

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“A good example is soda, if you buy a small size soda that’s where they’ve made their profit,” said Zello.

“So offering a large size soda doesn’t really matter to them, but from a consumer point of view we think that’s wonderful because for a few cents more you’re going to get something bigger.”

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Eric Beck / Global News

In many cases, as in any market, a restaurant is only as good as the last meal served.

“If your food is good enough and your product is good enough – word of mouth will probably spread out,” said Williams.

So why did Prairie Harvest Café shut down? In a statement to Global News they said because of an unstable economy and decreasing sales.

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“It was no longer sustainable to continue operating without sacrificing our product and commitment to sourcing locally as much as possible.”

Unfortunately, the news doesn’t come as much of a surprise to both experts we spoke to.

“If one has to decide where they can eat and what they can afford it’s maybe not going to be those businesses or those restaurants that serve the healthier menu choices,” Zello said.

Bust or boom: why some Saskatoon restaurants struggle to survive - image

The truth is you are what you eat. Fast food may be cheap but it’s bad for your health and your waistline especially when you can consume as many as 1,500 calories in one sitting.

“That’s the amount of calories a young woman needs who’s not very active – they need about 2,000 calories a day,” Zello added.

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If you prepare your food at home – you know exactly what you’re eating. Of course, treating yourself now and again is OK once in a while, said experts, just don’t gorge or make a habit of it.

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