Local business owners take steps to prepare for slow growth ahead  

. Two chefs prepare for incoming guests at Market restaurant on 17th Avenue.“People are still coming in, they are just spending less.”

Restaurant owner Vanessa Salopek is keeping a close eye on the current economic climate, concerned with how her restaurant is fairing. 

Salopek founded the family restaurant Market in February of 2013. Located on 17th Avenue S.W., Market offers fresh, locally bought and sourced food.

“When we first opened back in 2013, oil was at a all time high and the economy was booming then so it was a really good time to open and 17th Avenue S.W. was the place to be,” said Salopek. “I am all about supporting our local farmers and I have a passion for local and sustainable food. That’s how I came up with Market.”

Restaurant industry in flux

Vanessa Salopek visits High Country Bison Farm, one of the supplier farms for her restaurant.Vanessa Salopek visits High Country Bison Farm, one of the supplier farms for her restaurant.
Photo courtesy Bryce Myers.
Salopek is finding that people are shopping around for restaurant destinations that suit their budgets. Because of this, she has implemented specials during the week and dropped her prices. These precautions help Salopek engage with her customers and gauge what they are willing to spend. 

“They are sharing items instead of getting their own,”said Salopek. “Or they are not going to premium liquors; they are going for more of the generic brands. We find people are searching for value. I just had someone call me the other day asking what specials we had going on during the week so they could figure out what day to eat out on.”

“Being proactive is key,” she added. “Listening to what your customers want is important, and on the other side talking to your partners, so your suppliers and negotiating pricing.”

Ryan Parks, an associate professor of strategy at the Bissett School of Business at Mount Royal University, has insight on what local businesses, specifically those in the restaurant industry, should be doing. 

“There is a high rate of failure in the restaurant industry in particular,” Parks said. “It is a difficult industry in the best of times and of course Calgary is not the best of times.” 

Differentiating your brand 

Differentiating between your brand and other local and chain restaurants is vital for small restaurants companies to attract customers. However, doing it can be expensive.

“The only option for a small restaurant is to differentiate,” said Parks. “They can’t be a cost leader because they don’t have the economy to scale. They’ll never beat the large chains. But what they can do is attempt to differentiate.”

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