All About Richland

Chicken and Food Trucks Take Over Local Social Media

28 Jul , 2019  

It seems a strange subject to bubble up to the top of online conversation for Mansfielders in the middle of summer. Nonetheless, chicken and other fare served by food trucks seem to be on many people’s tongues these days.

And, in the early days of a race for public office, and with the two candidates for Mansfield Mayor issuing press releases on varying aspects of that general topic, there is a general campaign-like aspect to what has been taking place. The core issue seems to center on the role of city officials in promoting locally owned and operated businesses.

Here’s a general chronology of what has taken place during the month of July, with links for you to read these items:

On July 2, Mansfield Mayor Timothy Theaker issued a press release which read in part as follows:

“Mayor Tim Theaker is pleased and excited to announce  Chick-fil-A’s Food Truck will be coming to Mansfield within the next few weeks on Thursday’s to operate a food truck in various locations throughout the city. Locations are still under review and will be announced once they are determined. Chick-fil-A’s intent is to test various locations in our city over the next several months to see if there is enough business to permanent locate a facility here in Mansfield…Please join me in patronizing and welcoming Chick-fil-A to Mansfield.” The press release can be accessed here.

This was followed on July 10, July 16, and July 25 by additional press releases announcing additional locations for follow-up Chick-fil-A visits to Mansfield. In the last of those, Theaker added:

“Mayor Theaker is encouraging residents to continue patronize Chick-fil-A in an effort to get them to permanently locate a restaurant here in Mansfield.  According to Chick-fil-A, the last two weeks in Mansfield have broken records with the number of customers served.” That release can be read here.

Also on July 25, a letter to Theaker from Relax, It’s Just Coffee appeared on its Facebook page. It read:

Dear Mr. Mayor:

It is with no small amount of trepidation that I write this post. We have become an increasingly divided nation and I hate to imagine that CHICKEN has become yet another thing to separate us; but here we are.

As the owner of a locally owned small business, I am thoroughly confused by the “full court press” you have mustered in an apparent attempt to lure a non-local, national franchise to our community. For me, the issue isn’t really even about the specific franchise in question; you apparently love them, I do not. The issue is that you, our public servant, have chosen to utilize your time and the resources of your office to promote the interests of a non-local, national franchise over those of new and established local food service enterprises.

Case in point: By my count your office has issued 117 press releases in 2019; four of those releases have been solely dedicated to the non-local, national franchise in question. Of the remaining 100-plus releases, NONE ZIP ZERO NADA even mention any other local food enterprise! This despite the fact several very significant events occurred in this market segment this year.

The REAL issue here, though, is an economic one. According to the Institute for Local Self Reliance (islr.org): “Trading independent retailers for chains weakens the local economy. This is because local stores recycle a much larger share of their sales revenue back into the local economy, while chains siphon most of the dollars spent at their stores out of the community, funneling them back to corporate headquarters or to distant suppliers.”

Numerous studies have quantified the net-positive impact of locally owned businesses over national chains. One such study, conducted in Chicago’s Andersonville neighborhood by the firm Civic Economics, found that “spending $100 at one of the neighborhood’s independent businesses created $68 in additional local economic activity, while spending $100 at a chain produced only $43 worth of local impact. THAT’S 33% MORE IMPACT FROM LOCALLY OWNED RETAILERS!

So, I guess the question is, what’s it going to take to get you to cross the road (yes, I went there) and support the food businesses in your city center with the same energy and enthusiasm with which you have embraced this non-local, national franchise?” That post can be read here.

To date, that post has received Facebook reactions – “likes,” “loves,” and “HaHas,” by no less than 864 people. It has been shared some 318, and has received 351 comments. Those comments have varied in position — some suggesting that the mayoral support of Chick-fil-A visits runs counter to promoting local businesses that provide more impact to the local economy; some noting that franchise and corporate stories and restaurants employ local people and do add to the Mansfield economy; and others remarking on Chick-fil-A’s actions relating to diversity and inclusion (see Wikipedia).

Then, again on July 25, Councilman-At-Large and candidate for Mayor Don Bryant shared his own press release which promoted a local food truck operation and sharing where it would be located on July 26 and July 28. Bryant added in part:

“Councilman Bryant is encouraging residents to continue patronizing and supporting local business. Supporting local business means supporting and boosting Mansfield’s local economy…If you are a local entrepreneur and food truck vendor, reach out to Councilman Bryant. The Councilman and his office is happy to support the people and business community in Mansfield.” Bryant’s press release can be read here.

It remains to be seen whether or not this actually becomes a campaign issue, but as shared above, it clearly has attracted the attention of the electorate.

Statement. As this is the first post which includes information shared by candidates for political office, we would like to emphasize that 1812Blockhouse, and everyone associated with it, will attempt to cover that election with objectivity and candor. It is our policy to publish any prepared statement by a candidate for political office in Richland County sent to us. Importantly, no one with or associated with 1812Blockhouse is affiliated in any way with any campaign on the November ballot. Thanks!

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