Article | City & Community | March 2011

Restaurant Organizational Forms and Community in the U.S. in 2005

by Glenn R. Carroll and Magnus Thor Torfason


Recent sociological theory and research highlights food, drink, and restaurants as culturally meaningful and related to social identity. An implication of this view holds that the prevalence of corporate chain restaurants affects the sociological character of communities, as many activists, popular-based movements, and theorists contend. The analysis we report here seeks to identify the ecological niche properties of chain and independent restaurants—which kinds of communities support restaurant chains and which kinds of communities tend to support independent local restaurants and food service providers instead. We analyze data from a 2005 sample of 49 counties across the United States with over 17,000 active restaurants. We argue that demographic stability affects the community composition of organizational forms, and we also investigate arguments about a community's income distribution, age distribution, population trends, geographic sprawl, and commuter population. We find that communities with less stable demographic makeups support more chain restaurants, but that other factors, including suburban sprawl and public transit commuters, also have some impact.

Keywords: Demographics; Age; Supply Chain Management; Culture; Balance and Stability; Income Characteristics; Research; Civil Society or Community; Identity; Theory; Society; Service Industry; United States;


Carroll, Glenn R., and Magnus Thor Torfason. "Restaurant Organizational Forms and Community in the U.S. in 2005." City & Community 10, no. 1 (March 2011): 1–25.