Wingstop, Penzey’s Spices coming

Tsunami of franchises head to SoCo

Are we in a franchise tsunami?

Is anyone else feeling like we’re being hit by a franchise tsunami, lately?
There’s the new In-N-Out (we hear it’s October and has the number 8 in the date), El Pollo Loco in RP, and now word of a Wingstop (chicken wings ‘n such) franchise hiring in Santa Rosa along with Penzey’s Spices (a Milwaukee-based spice and herb retailer well known to foodies) soon to take up residence at Montgomery Village.
And while it feels like a bonanza of pending culinary openings after a relative dry-spell in these parts, the news is bittersweet as many local businesses continue to struggle to make ends meet. While it’s nice to see storefronts come back to life, are we losing some of our homegrown Sonoma County personality?
What’s your take?


35 thoughts on “Wingstop, Penzey’s Spices coming

  1. If you are upset about new franchise stories in your area, you have a sad life. Can’t you find something better to do with your time than fret about franchises? While you in your infinite wisdom know that non-franchised stores are morally superior to franchised stores, most people couldn’t care less whether a store is a franchise or not as long as they offer a good product/service at a reasonable price. Get a life, please.

  2. I think it’s funny that we’re comparing fried chicken wings to the French Laundry and Santi….Come on folks, they’re two TOTALLY different things.

  3. Wake up Sonoma County-this area is really lacking in quality, affordable restaurants. I just moved back to the area after living in Portland, Or for the past 9 yrs. I am stunned that people here think SC is some wonderful food mecca. Very little innovation going on, overpriced, subpar quality. And chains are not the problem for the locally owned places-it’s the owners of those establishments. Prepare interesting, quality food without gouging your customers because we live in ” wine country”. Take a trip to Portland and you will be amazed at the restaurants there- so many exciting chefs turning out fresh, quality dishes mostly using local, organic ingredients for great prices. I wish this area could step up to it’s dining potential.

  4. Porter St. on Mendo was a turn-off without setting foot inside – filthy windows are NOT appetizing. I’ve been in the food biz for 30 years and there are some good restaurants around here but if I had to list one that is “to die for”, I would be stumped. The Stark restaurants are good, occasionally great, but the food is consistently too rich (and I am NOT fat-phobic). I don’t have deep enough pockets for Cyrus or French Laundry and most of the time, when I do eat out, I find the food to be okay but not as good as my own cooking. I will say that Redd in Yountville was the last truly fantastic meal I’ve had in a very long time. However, hope springs eternal and I do get sick of doing dishes at home so I do continue to patronize the local spots. Rosso is lively and fun for a neighborhood meal as is Flavor Bistro. Jackson’s is sometimes good, bordering on very good and I’ve had some tasty food at the bar at Jack and Tony’s. Goji Kitchen has clean, light, flavorful food and is worth visiting. Nothing else is screaming “go there right now” and have your socks knocked off!

    1. Last great meal I had (and the 10 other people with me all agreed theirs were great too) was at Santi–you might give it a try.

  5. Sonoma County is known by travelers from around the world as a restaurant wasteland. You don’t realize until you travel and see what other areas of similar size have to offer. We have always disconnected ourselves from the Bay Area, even though we live in that proximity. So no rapid transit, no amazing dining at fun places, no downtown excitement, no amazing buildings downtown, just sleepy retirement and a lot of golf.

  6. I think the problem with some of the new local places is cAndonsistency. Sorry, but Porter Street was MEDIOCRE AT BEST. Take some dried up tri-tip and drench it in BBQ sauce? I guess some consider that real bbq.
    I have no problem with a chain if it’s good. Sure, we don’t need another McDonald’s or BK but places that are tried and true like In N Out (Yeah Michael, they DO make a quality burger) and WIngStop are welcome additions. Something doesn’t have to break your wallet for it to be “good” no matter what some of you “SoCo” d-bags think. If you’re an indie local establishment and you have quality food on a CONSISTENT BASIS, then you will make it here. Most of the good places gain attention by word of mouth. You can blame the city all you want about how hard it is and I’ll agree somewhat, but let’s call a spade a spade. 90% of the new places that open FAIL because their food sucks.

    1. Very good point. Consistency is a real big issue. I may go and have an amazing meal somewhere and then hear from readers that the food is only so-so (or vice versa — I went somewhere last night a reader raved about and nearly puked the food was so bad.)
      I will absolutely agree that when it comes to my dining dollars, I hate spending money on a meal that’s just average even if it’s local versus going somewhere that’s a chain and knowing I like a particular dish that will taste exactly like I had it the last time. Then again, there’s nothing quite like going out to eat at a restaurant where the food just amazes you. That’s not something you find with any regularity at chains. It’s good or fine, but rarely exemplary. So, like most of you — I welcome everyone to the table.

      1. Hey there!
        Not to toot our own horn here, I work for the owner of Montgomery Village and I have to say we have some pretty nice restaurants here in the Village. We just opened a new restaurant called “Crepevine” next to Ross on Farmers Lane. The food is fantastic huge portions and for under $10 you can’t go wrong. I also think our Sea Thai Bistro is a pretty great Thai restaurant the owner Tony has been awarded best Thai restaurant in Sonoma County. I like Monti’s they have a mac and cheese to die for. We are currently looking into bringing a nice sea food restaurant here to Sonoma County so if you have any suggestions???? I know what some of you are saying about the quality of food here in Sonoma County, I come from a restaurant family (my family owns Alioto’s on Fishermans Warf) we can never be compaired to restaurants in the city hello!!! You have to get out there let the people know where to find good food, good prices. I think we have pretty nice restaurants here in Montgomery Village. We all just need to boost the economy and get out there and EAT!!!

  7. People like franchises because they know the name and the food because it is the same everywhere they go. The problem it creates is that when a small mom and pop opens and trys to make a name for itself and then a franchise opens up nearby, that makes it extremely difficult for the little guy (example: Denny’s in Windsor). With the current state of the economy mom & pops are shutting down left and right and the franchises are taking advantage of that. It really sucks.

    1. I used to own a business in Santa Rosa that made food and drink. However, the cost of doing business, coupled with the fact that the palate of Sonoma County cannot sustain quality food. Costco has become the litmus for quality in Sonoma County. Bakers who make horrible bread and pastry, cafes that make horrible coffee, places overloading with beans and rice, infuse this or that so you can charge more, andmissing the understanding of the difficulty i making a quality product consistently.
      People in Sonoma County don’t even know quality so how can they expect it. Mom and pop shops open because they watch too much Food Network, but lack the expertise to make a quality product. Since people are used to variety, the smaller places try to accomodate that and in do so set themselves up to fail because they don’t do one thing spectacularly, but rather, everything mediocre. I’m sorry but spending 30-40 just to get a decent meal in Sonoma County is crazy when I can go to San Francisco and get the same meal in multiple places for half the price. Food culture is a sub group of General Culture and since Sonoma County culture is centered around chain everything, so too will the food. When was the last time you went, had a great meal, left satisfied ,left suprised at how cheap it was, suprised the size was perfect, and the quality matched both the portion and price? Monte’s, Willis, Syrah, Rendez-vous, Bistro 29….I’m sorry but they can keep their cool plates and oversized glasses. Just give me a meal of quality with of both appropriate size and price and I’ll return regularly. I don’;t need to be stuffed, just fed but I want to enjoy it.
      Support mom and pop for sure, but demand that they also are consistent and offer quality. Unfortunately that isn’t goign to happen so Sonoma County will continue to embrace the chains. Might was well put a red dot on costco as Sonoma County’s top culinary hot spot!!!!!!!

      1. In reply to John. Sonoma County is one of great foodie places around (if you really knoe good cuisine). I don’t know anyone in the area who goes crazy for franchises. People here know good quality food in all price ranges. Places like Monti’s and Willi’s are higher quality with higher prices that go with that quality and expertise. They are not overpriced for what they offer at all. My husband and I are big time foodies that enjoy a great burger from In and Out as well as a great meal at the French Laundry. To say people on Sonoma County don’t know quality food is a first. This area is very highly respected for the chefs and cuisine that we have and should be appreciative for that. If you’re too cheap to pay for a fine dining experience, that’s another thing. If you read the San Francisco Chronicle’s restaurant reviews for many places in the area, your comments would be laughed out the door. You need to get out more and stop eating the samples at Costco.

        1. Marcia, I’ve eaten at many places that use high quality foods and are affordable, unfortunately a lot of those places don’t exist in Sonoma County.
          We’ve become a tourist town with tourist prices and many of our locals, including myself, just can’t afford to pay $15.00 for an appetizer of 3 Oyster Rockefellers just because your at a “Fine Dining” restaurant.

          1. For a fast-food burger? Uh, yeah. For a haute-burger? Probably not. They’re solid burgers, my friend. And Consumer Reports, along with a lot of fans can back that up.

      2. There are plenty of well-educated foodies in Sonoma County, but there are also those who don’t know good food from mediocre.
        There are chains that produce consistently good food (In-N-Out, for example) and those that produce consistently mediocre food. The same can be said of any dining establishment, whether it’s a chain or not.
        There is room for everyone here!

    2. Some chains are franchises that are owned by local business people ( like the Wiindsor Denny’s) Can I support local business even though it’s a chain concept?

  8. The reason the franchise business in Santa Rosa is so large is because the small guy can’t afford all the rules and regs to run a small business. We all remember Porter Street BBQ on Mendo. They just couldn’t afford all the taxes and costs. Enter Jamba juice. Shop the small businesses. You will pay a little more and wait a little longer but be a part of our local businesses to keep them afloat

  9. This isn’t either/or Jon – you can have a robust local food scene and also places like El Pollo Loco, Wingstop and Subway. And these fast-food places don’t typically pull the same clientele as Bistro 29 or Willi’s.
    Frankly Sonoma County does a pretty good job with going local – all you have to do is hit every farmer’s market in the area to see for yourself.

  10. Many ways to shop local~
    Support local independent businesses as much as possible.
    And if you do shop at chains, shop in your county, so the money stays within your county which provides the many services to the community.

    1. Franchises are most often locally owned. They are not “national” chains. Coldstones is a locally owned franchise as is several name brand pizza parlors, BIG 5 Tires, and many other “franchises”. They, as well as National Chains, employ locals, pay local taxes, and often make huge donations to local causes, and are an asset to the community!

  11. I have to say I was pretty appalled the other day when I went to Trader Joe’s and found apples from Washington (the previous couple of weeks prior they were from freaking CHILE!) when we have apples rotting on the trees in Sebastopol. I make a huge conscious effort to spend as much of my food money locally as I possibly can. But sometimes I want what I want. I feel a little irritated at times when I can’t buy Coca-Cola or Oxy Stain remover or one of a few dozen things that many small local purveyors don’t carry. I deal by making an extra trip somewhere else.

  12. KEEP IT LOCAL… now if just the city council could understand.. open up free parking downtown for 2 hrs and all those local restaurants will be swamped!

    1. B-I-N-G-O Jimmy. One or two hour free parking is essential or the downtown businesses will NEVER be able to compete with everywhere else in Santa Rosa or in Petaluma. Healdsburg, Windsor, RP, etc.

  13. Sonoma county residents love to tout the “Go Local” slogan on the rear ends of their automobiles, but when it comes to putting their money where their mouth’s are it is a different story. Has anyone heard of Community Market or Bistro 29? Probably not if you are shopping at Safeway and dining at McDonald’s.
    Goooo Wal-Mart!!!!

  14. Penzey’s is a great store to add to the foodie culture of our area. I am from Wisconsin and every trip home requires a visit to Penzey’s.

    1. Why is Penzey’s going to add to the foodie culture?
      Savory opened up a few months ago downtown, and they are amazing. My husband and I love going in there, and talking to the owners and employee’s about what we’re going to do with what we buy. The actual store is really cute also. The prices are right (for our budget at least). Sure, Penzey’s may end up being a little cheaper, but I think you’ll get more from Savory for a few cents more.

      1. You can go to Penzey’s without paying for parking and standing in line to use those infernal parking machines.
        Penzey’s is a family-run business, offering a quality product. The Spice Shop is fine but it’s just a franchise too. It’s not morally superior to Penzey’s.

        1. Actually, Penzey’s is not a franchise operation. All of the stores are owned and operated by the company. And I agree with you that they have quality products. Good customer service, too.

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