St. George Food: Recession means upswing in cheaper, lower-quality food

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Fast food joints, coffee houses and an array of foreign cuisine options are sprawled along both sides of Bluff Street and St. George Boulevard, and more options may arise soon.

Ever-changing demographics give aspiring eatery owners more to mull over when planning marketing schemes, menus and location.

 Economy shifts establishment planning

 Lennart Erickson, Utah Small Business Development Center director, said economic issues go into account when entrepreneurs invest in an eatery but in unexpected ways. Businesses spring up even in a poor economy because there is always a demand.

“You will always see new [restaurants and cafes], and they’ll always try bigger things,” Erickson said. 

However, downturn often determines whether a modest building in a promising location becomes an extravagant steak house or a $5 menu frenzy.

Erickson said a boosted economy spurs an increase in the prominence of high-end restaurants. During recession, most people’s budgets force a shift downward in regards to food quality and price; those who enjoyed high-end establishments spend money in mid-level eateries, and a large portion of the population choose burgers and fries over gourmet sandwiches and succulent soups.

Certain menus—predominantly barbecue—are more expensive in the first place, which decreases the odds of time and money investments in those areas. Erickson said clogging the area with similar establishments eventually weeds many out; expect a decrease in sandwich shops soon. 

 Minorities, move-ins bring taste of opportunity

A small demographic within DSC student population can create more success for potential eatery owners willing to listen: minorities and people from drastically different regions. 

Tia Matthews, a sophomore communication major from Las Vegas, said for those far from home, comfort food feels like more than face stuffing out of necessity; dishes linked with culture are a portal leading to memories and home.

In addition, Erickson said demands in services often change, and once patrons try new things, investing in a foreign menu may pay off.      

However, some common groups are still worth paying attention to. Nancy Pratt, a freshman music major from Payson, said certain people always play a role in the area.

“St. George is either newly-wed or nearly dead,” Pratt said.

Managers’ efforts must also center around the idea of cheap food, though.

DSC students enjoy popular, expensive restaurants in the area but say they can’t regularly eat at such places because of budgeting.

“There’s good places, but they’re expensive; managers need to come up with cheaper menus,” said Kayla Massa, a sophomore criminal justice major from Delta.

 Eatery managers old school in digital world

Social networking sites and advanced polling techniques work well in attracting  customers but aren’t a proper substitute for one thing: ears.

Preston Johnson, general manager at 25 Main Café, said communicating with customers makes 25 Main Café successful. Finding middle ground opens many doors. 

“We’re not big enough to be too big and not small enough to be too small; we’re somewhere in-between,” Johnson said.

Communication ushers in stability, but students say sweet deals also help.

Heather Calder, a sophomore pre-pharmacy major from Idaho Falls, Idaho, said she anticipates more student discount marketing schemes.

In conclusion, DSC students have a large influence on social and economic factors in the St. George area, and the state of eatery is no exception. Both Erickson and Johnson said establishments that reach the student population have more opportunities to expand business than those that don’t.