The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

October 19, 2012

Eating out

Beckley continues to draw restaurants, hungry diners

— Beckley has become a destination not only for hungry patrons but for the restaurants themselves.

Whether it’s just for a quick grab, a zip through drive-thru, or a relaxed evening of dining, it’s available here.

And becoming increasingly more available.

With the recent openings of Cheddar’s, Boston Beanery, Olive Garden and Five Guys Burgers and Fries, our food choices have been amped up.

Even more eateries are under construction or being planned, such as Panera Bread and Dicky’s Barbeque Pit.

Folks are lining up, ready to spend their money and fill their belly.

Is the economy weak? Sure. But you couldn’t tell it at most restaurants.

We’re lining up, waiting for available tables.

Willing to stand in line 30-45 minutes for a 30-45 minute dining experience.

That’s what it really is. An experience. It’s one of our forms of entertainment.

It seems that we all have a little bit of restaurant critic in us.

Within a week of an opening of a new establishment, it’s not hard to find someone who can give you their “review” of the place.

On the streets, in the beauty shop or barber shop, in the mall — you’ll hear folks going on about their burger, steak or pasta dish — and the service they received.

And social media has increased this phenomenon a thousand fold. Anyone with a Facebook page, Twitter account, Urbanspoon or Instagram on their mobile phone can upload photos and comments before they leave the parking lots.

Beckley has been very vocal over the years in its wishes for certain chains to locate here — and it appears someone is listening.

Our hope is that our great locally-owned restaurants don’t get swept away in the chain hoopla.

But it’s a competitive field. Some locally owned or small establishments may need to step their game up.

Restaurant patrons are a very loyal group. The businesses that serve up quality food with exceptional service need not worry.

The ones that offer unique dishes and experiences and are deeply rooted in the community will be fine.

Those qualities are not easily replaced or dismissed.

We all have a choice where we spend our discretionary funds, our entertainment dollars and our food allowances.

And now, there are more choices than ever.

So when you come to Beckley, bring your appetite and “bon appétit!”