Chart of the Day: Metro Restaurant Trends, Chains versus Locals

Via Slate, Yelp has some fun new charts that break down restaurant ranking data according to type of establishment. They chart broad trends over time that show online reviewers are more and more likely to be critical of chain restaurants and positive about local or independent restaurants.

Here’s are the Twin Cities trendlines:

The point that Yelp is trying to make, if there is one, is that people are more often eschewing chain food:

There has been a tremendous rise in independent restaurants over the last five years. … Fast-food chain restaurants have seen a notable decrease in average ratings over the last five years, by about one-third of a star, on a scale of 1 to 5 stars — equivalent to a loss of about 16 percent of their average rating. Similarly, fast-casual chain restaurants have experienced a decline in ratings, by about one-tenth of a rating point on average between 2012 and 2017.

More interesting to me, they also include a break-down of city data across the country showing what the overall Yelp-reviewed restaurant markets look like. This measures quantity of restaurants — the overall “share” — rather than the quantity or food or revenue or anything like that. But it does give you a handy way of comparing Minneapolis’ metro area against other cities in the country.


The chart re-affirms my suspicions. I would have thought that post-war / sunbelt cities are much more likely to be suburban and therefore chain-oriented than pre-war / northeast cities, which would tend to have more walkable diverse cores. The Minneapolis/Saint Paul metro would therefore lie somewhere in the middle, and lo and behold, that’s what we see looking at the chart. The Twin Cities has after all pioneered a great number of suburban retail models, like Target and the indoor shopping mall, that have managed to coexist alongside our more traditional small business streets in the walkable parts of the Twin Cities. That might explain why we have so few independent fast food places, but lots of independent “casual dining” locations?

Tl;dr; Olive Gardens are going out of business, but Marilyn Hagerty still thinks they’re pretty cool.

Bill Lindeke

About Bill Lindeke

Pronouns: he/him

Bill Lindeke has writing blogging about sidewalks and cities since 2005, ever since he read Jane Jacobs. He is a lecturer in Urban Studies at the University of Minnesota Geography Department, the Cityscape columnist at Minnpost, and has written multiple books on local urban history. He was born in Minneapolis, but has spent most of his time in St Paul. Check out Twitter @BillLindeke or on Facebook.