Local restaurateurs react to growing industry

May 27th, 2016 | By | Category: Pocatello News, Restaurants

By Cydney McFarland
Cmcfarland@Journalnet.com 

Cydney McFarland/ Idaho State Journal ~ Owner of The Bridge, Lisa Willmore and her newly hired baker Cristasha "Bug" Reardon are confident that their unique food and dining experience will allow The Bridge to hold up to the competition.

Cydney McFarland/ Idaho State Journal ~ Owner of The Bridge, Lisa Willmore and her newly hired baker Cristasha “Bug” Reardon are confident that their unique food and dining experience will allow The Bridge to hold up to the competition.

CHUBBUCK – As fast food and chain restaurants flood into Chubbuck along Interstate 86, local restaurants are taking the new competition in stride. Chubbuck Mayor Kevin England said all the new businesses are a sign of good things to come for both Pocatello and Chubbuck.

“These bigger outlets wouldn’t be coming here if they didn’t think the Pocatello/Chubbuck area is poised for growth,” said England. “Most of the local businesses recognize that competition is a good thing.”

Lisa Willmore, owner of The Bridge restaurant and lounge in Pocatello, is one of those who are looking forward to taking on some competition.

“If you’re good, you’re good,” said Willmore. “Instead of going out to dinner and getting in and out, we invite you to sit down and really enjoy the dining experience. You could just go get fast food, but we just need to show people there’s a difference in culinary experience.”

Willmore, like many local restaurant owners, focuses on providing a dining experience and has found ways to separate her food from the competition. At The Bridge, that means locally grown, never frozen food and fresh breads and desserts courtesy of baker Cristasha “Bug” Reardon.

Newly open Nosh Mahal, that now occupies the once empty space next to Fred Meyer, is relying on a lack of competition to keep them in business. With a packed menu of roughly 80 dishes, the new Persian/Indian fusion restaurant brings something new to the area.

“There’s no competition in the area,” said Nosh Mahal owner Sohail Ahmed. “We’ve created a space for families with food, live music, culture — everything is here.”

While Pocatello’s high-end options like The Bridge and Nosh Mahal have welcomed the competition, more casual establishments like the Red Poppy in downtown Pocatello are a little more concerned.

Gina Stucki, owner of the Red Poppy, said the opening of Panera Bread worried her especially since her menu of soups and salads put her in direct competition.

However, with her location in downtown, a good drive from the Panera location near the Pine Ridge Mall, Stucki said she hasn’t seen any drop in her day-to-day business.

“So far, it hasn’t bothered us,” said Stucki. “I think our prices are competitive, and our regulars see something in us. I think we kind of fill a niche in downtown.”

Pocatello Mayor Brian Blad said the hope is that the influx of big businesses into the area will attract more people to dine out, while not lowering the areas wages.

“We don’t openly recruit these fast food places, they do their own market surveys,” said Blad. “I think part of what everyone wants is the ability to have these different eating opportunities.”

Willmore has the same hope, but is looking for more locally run and quality dining options – rather than the chains and fast food joints currently popping up.

“Wouldn’t it be great to be like Boise or Twin Falls, or even Idaho Falls, with a variety of dining options?” said Willmore.

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