Live Love Local

outside the shop front of Fettle

Choosing to spend your pennies locally is beneficial in more ways than you may think.

We all love Wagamama’s or Nandos to treat ourselves a little too often, but have you thought about giving your local gastro diner or brunch-time cafe a chance recently? Well here is why you should… 

Independent restaurants and eateries are at the heart of the economy in Leeds. Believe it or not, the UK thrives off of independent businesses to create trendy, unique and vibrant areas such as Camden in London or West Yorkshire’s very own, Call Lane. 

Leeds Business Review’s Leisure and Tourism correspondent Rebecca Tee, visited an independent Leeds restaurant, Fettle. Owner, Simon Hawkins, explains why Fettle is different to chain cafes and restaurants: “We want to be a place which is comfortable and relaxing, we don’t allow laptops, we want people to take a timeout and enjoy themselves. Read a book or talk to people”.  

Simon Hawkins, the owner of Fettle
Simon Hawkins, owner of Fettle.

There are countless benefits for our community if we choose to eat at independent restaurants over a chain branch. Local eateries are usually family-run and operated by a team of individuals who know each other and the business well. Their survival is dependent on customer loyalty, therefore excellent customer service is usually easier to come by. The teams and venues tend to be smaller, therefore they have more time to focus their best service on your table. “Small businesses may not be able to offer the incentives that larger companies can, for example, discounts and loyalty cards, but we do love to give away freebies to customers who are friendly and kind”, Simon says. 

Franchises, such as TGI Fridays and Pizza Express must follow strict rules in all aspects from food to decor. There are benefits to this of course, so that the customers receive the same treatment in every place and that they know what to expect, but you can’t help but notice how monotonous and boring the venues can become. Fettle is the opposite of boring, Simon ensures that his restaurant is covered in real, fresh flowers and he also bakes all his own cakes: “I love to tweak the recipes, and we use seasonal fruits and vegetables in our kitchen so that our menu changes all the time, rhubarb just came into season, so now we have a lot of rhubarb dishes, we use what is available”. 

A cosy corner of Fettle, with 2 seats surrounded by fresh flowers.
Simon ensures his venue is filled with real flowers and plants.

Research by SmallBusiness.co.uk shows that £10 spent locally, rather than at a chain, means that up to an extra £50 goes back into the local economy. This is because the owners will then use that money at local pubs, shops, and markets, circulating that money back into the system allowing the communities to thrive. 

Local businesses are not only beneficial for the economy in Leeds but also for the customers. There are often no boards, head offices or customer service hotlines to deal with. If you have a problem or a query, chances are you can have a face-to-face chat with the owner yourself, and that issue is likely to be resolved a lot faster. 

Another advantage, that benefits not only Leeds but the world, is the positive environmental impact of choosing an independent business. Most of the local hot-spots are within walking distance of nearby towns: such as the LS6 Cafe or Hyde Park Book Club, for Headingley and Hyde Park. This reduces vehicle traffic and air pollution creating better air quality for the residents and visitors of Leeds. This is important as Leeds has one of the worst air pollution problems in the country. According to the International Council of Clean Transportation, Leeds has more air pollution-related deaths than Shanghai and or New Delhi. 

“When we first opened three years ago, we charged the same price for takeaway coffee as we did staying in drinks because we wanted to discourage people from taking out. Just take two minutes out, you’re going to enjoy your drink much more sitting here than you are walking down the street”, Simon tells us, “but now we do offer a discount for people who bring in their own reusable cup, for sustainability reasons of course”. 

a shelf displaying ceramic bowls, teapots, cups and mugs that Fettle sells
Fettle sells a range of sustainable ceramics and kitchenware.

Employment is another reason why choosing to eat at a local independent restaurant is better for our economy in Leeds: “These large companies in the hospitality sector are awful for trying to get away with paying people as little as possible. Most employees for chain venues are only making minimum wage, whereas here, no-one is earning under £8.50 an hour”, Simon says. “It means our staff don’t feel like slaves to the customers and everyone respects each other much more, which is a hard thing to come by”. Making this important decision helps to boost jobs in our community and makes for a healthier, wealthier and thriving city for us all to enjoy. 

The benefits of choosing independent over chains are clear,  to customers and our local economy. Find your new local, your new hotspot or hangout to meet your friends. You never know, you may find a hidden gem. 

About the Author

Rebecca Tee
Leisure and Tourism Correspondent for Leeds Business Review. Final year student at Leeds Beckett University.

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