A new chain restaurant opened last week on the Square, and some Oxford residents are questioning what this could mean for locally-owned businesses.
Last Wednesday, Panera Bread opened on Jackson Avenue. While some residents are excited about the new business, others are wondering how adding more chain restaurants could impact local businesses on and around the Square. Wingstop is also scheduled to open next week.
“Wingstop had the best fries in Round Rock, Texas,” said Ole Miss sophomore Harris Ormesher. “I cannot wait to have them again.”
Many students welcome chain restaurants that bring comfort and familiarity in a new environment. However, some of the town’s citizens are less enthusiastic.
Some believe national chains make it more difficult for smaller businesses to survive. Mississippi- and locally-owned businesses like Bottletree Bakery, Newk’s and Coop De Ville help maintain the small town Southern charm synonymous with Oxford.
“There is nothing special about chain restaurants,” said Oxford native Cody Thomason. “You’re eating the same food as thousands of other people across the nation. A local restaurant offers food that you cannot get anywhere else, and I think that makes it special.”
Some, like Thomason, say chain restaurants detract from the long tradition of culinary excellence in Oxford.
“Why go to Chili’s when I can have great Southern food at Ajax,” said Thomason. “Local restaurants put more care into the menu, food, and the establishment as a whole.”
Thomason said small town eateries can experiment and edit their menus often with new and interesting dishes.
Some say the luxury of having local restaurants should not be taken for granted, and with each new chain, it becomes increasingly more difficult for Oxford’s shops to survive.