Can You Have
Good Restaurants
in a Small Town?

Paul V. Hartman

  There is an old joke that a small town cannot afford one lawyer, but any size town can afford two lawyers.
If you don't get it, what can I say...

  Athens is not a small town. With a metropolitan population over 100,000 - not counting 35,000 students - Athens is a small city, not a small town. In fact, it is fifth largest in the state of Georgia.

  In a small city, one good restaurant will go out of business. How many times can a small town patronize its one good restaurant before the activity thins? The fact is, there is a critical mass situation that exists in small towns regarding the success of the restaurant business. One good restaurant is actually helped by the arrival of a second - though the owners of the first might not think so - and considerably helped by the arrival of several. I'm talking about good restaurants - not fast food emporiums.

  It has to do with a small town's inclination to dine out with frequency and variety. Once the experiences of variety have been faithfully rewarded, then the habit of dining out becomes a regular one, and the restaurant business flourishes. One restaurant - no variety. No variety - no frequency. No frequency, and a single restaurant will eventually close.

  Athens is beyond the critical mass point now, and each new restaurant helps the town's business overall. The initial step is the hardest, as the first owner of a good restaurant in a small town is taking a risk - and no small one, as the national average for failure of new restaurants is a whopping 85%!   No small town will keep one good restaurant, but it will keep five of them. The object of a small town with one good restaurant, then, is to immediately encourage the appearance of a competitor!   From this, good things can flow and benefit all. Unlike lawyers.