Sunday, October 18, 2009

Wafflin' Around: A Dining Experience (Now with Social Capital!)

For our lab, we decided to dine at both a chain and a local breakfast restaurant in Winston-Salem. Little did our unsuspecting waitresses know, we were actually investigating as to the social capital of these two businesses and hopefully coming to a decision as to which is more beneficial to the community. Hijinks ensue!

First stop: International House of Pancakes (IHOP)

Just skimming the cluttered menu at the chain restaurant, IHOP. (Perhaps you've heard of it?)
Trina found the pictures helpful in selecting her delicious and nutritious(?) breakfast.

We couldn't help but wonder if the logo printed on our coffee mugs was there to further advertise the restaurant we were already eating at, or if IHOP simply attracts forgetful diners.
Though we arrived late in the afternoon, which are not quite prime hours for breakfast, business at the House of Pancakes was far from booming. The one woman sitting near us was Senegalese and though quite friendly and tolerant of our teenage angst and antics, did not appear to be expanding her social capital. We also noted the juxtaposition of American imagery into the blatant self-advertising; we felt this subtracted heavily from the hominess of the joint.

The bathrooms were clean but quite plain. I certainly did not feel at home.

Endorsing the NFL heavily contributed to the national feel of this chain.

There was definitely bang for the buck (I could barely stand up as we were leaving) and the waitress, Toya, a Winston-Salem resident, was a joy(a). Upon interrogation, she claimed, though she was only in her 6 month of employment, that lots of folk brought the whole family along (perhaps to utilize the extensive children's menu) and she had several returning customers. Overall, we found IHOP to be delicious, reasonably-priced and quick, but also deserted and definitely not a staple to the Winston-Salem community.

Second Stop: Mary's, Of Course!

Right from the start, we noticed drastic differences in the local restaurant, Mary's, Of Course! The place was packed, the service was expedient yet relaxed and the food was phenomenal. It felt like paying for a homecooked meal with distant relatives.

No two cups or pieces of silverware were the same. I was enthralled!

The sanitation score was great, despite the clutter and the kitchen was open and visible.

The wall art provided both ambiance for customers and support for local artists.

Posters for upcoming town events, local concerts and newspaper articles covered the window.

Nothing says community like a good old fashioned clothing swap, like the one at Mary's this Sunday.

Upon arrival, we recognized college students from UNCSA, who are pictured behind me. We also bumped into some friends from Salem Academy. It seemed like a hot spot for hip teens hankering for a breakfast fix.

The bathroom was not only spotless, but had cool artwork as well. It was quite homey.

All the family photos and Christmas cards showed that many families support the establishment, including Winston-Salem's own Errol Milner.

We couldn't help but laugh at this hilarious and surprisingly relevant picture. It reminded us of IHOP's sugary and greasy menu, not to mention how unhealthy some of the patrons and waitresses appeared. After all, a healthy community is a happy one.

The chuckle we had after receiving our check was a great way to end our breakfast at Mary's. The food, service and atmosphere seemed like that of a family reunion; between this and actually bumping into friends of ours, it felt like we knew everyone. Overall, we had a great time here and it was obvious what an impact this restaurant has on the community.


The difference between the local and the chain business in our investigation was quite clear in most aspects. Though neither restaurant had poor service, facilities or food, there was a great distinction to be made between the two in terms of social capital. Where IHOP had some regular customers, and supported the NFL, Mary's was brimming with laughing families, chatting couples and hip teenagers. Mary herself was even present during our meal; Al and Jerry Lapin, the founders of IHOP were nowhere in sight. All of this evidence points to the fact that a chain businesses simply can't be as in tune with the community as local businesses can and in the case of IHOP and Mary's, that seemed to make one hell of a difference.

1 comment:

  1. Looks like a fun time! Hey, next time you go out for breakfast, you may want to keep in mind that the IHOP was exposed for cruelty to animals in its supply chain. Check out the undercover footage of IHOP's egg supplier here: