Local Restaurants Hope Co-Op Can Lower Costs

By Randy McIlwain
|  Friday, Sep 2, 2011  |  Updated 12:28 AM CDT
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Some Collin County restaurants are trying to leverage their collective buying power to lower food costs.

Randy McIlwain, NBCDFW.com

Some Collin County restaurants are trying to leverage their collective buying power to lower food costs.

Locally owned restaurants in Collin County are banding together so they can better compete with corporate chain restaurants.

Jim Brevard, who owns Reel Thing Catfish Cafe in Allen is trying to get independent restaurants across the county to join a co-op and leverage their collective buying power with vendors to lower food costs.

"That will put us basically on the same footing as the chains when it comes to buying power," said Brevard.

His mom-and-pop restaurant serves up home cooking away from home.

"We have customers that have been coming to dine with us for years," he said. "We know them on a first-name basis. We know their family; we know the history of the family."

Hibatchi Rock is down the street. The cuisine is Asian, and the restaurant strictly mom and pop.

"You're closer to the customer -- that's what the customers want," owner Manas Chaisupakosol said.

Both independent restaurants have been in operation for about a dozen years each, but their existence is threatened by a vastly growing number of chain restaurants and the rising cost of food.

"We make less, because the cost is higher," Chaisupakosol said.

Even fuel costs can drive up food prices significantly. While corporate restaurants have deeper pockets, mom and pops are often faced with weekly decisions weekly about whether they can afford to stay open, Brevard said.

"It can really drain you literally," he said.

The co-op idea has only been floating around for about a month, but eight restaurants have already pledged to join, and more are expressing interest.

Brevard said the decision for most independent restaurants is simple: Raise menu prices to keep pace with rising food costs and gradually lose customers, or fight a market being gobbled up by corporate chain restaurants.

Without a co-op, the days of mom-and-pop restaurants are as good as cooked, he said.

"It will be extremely difficult unless you have extremely deep pockets and can be in it for quite a while," Brevard said.

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