Outside of going to class, there’s a lot to do in Lawrence: parks, museums, entertainment and plenty of local restaurants to choose from. Unfortunately, those restaurants don’t get as much attention from KU students as they should.
Chipotle and Fuzzy’s Taco Shop get more visitors than Taco Zone. Dairy Queen and Coldstone get more business than Sylas and Maddy’s. Even Starbucks is more popular than some of the local coffee shops in Lawrence.
Outside of Lawrence, local food can be a pretty big deal. So why isn’t it a big deal here?
Chain restaurants aren’t all bad. They’re familiar, they’re consistent and, perhaps most importantly for students, they’re usually cheap. Consumers tend to spend between $4 and $11 at fast food chains.
But local places can sometimes be just as cheap, and have better food. Small restaurants don’t have to send profits to their parent company, so they can put those profits back into the business. They don’t have to cut as many corners to get you a meal at a good price.
Local restaurants also tend to buy local food, which is usually fresher. Local food is better for the environment — other food has to travel 1,500 miles on average to get to you. Locally-sourced produce comes from farm to table in as little as 24 hours. Small, local farms are even more sustainable than larger ones in the aggregate, and by supporting those who buy from them, you’re supporting the farms themselves.
Additionally, buying from local businesses keeps money in the local economy. In fact, almost half of the money you spend at small businesses stays in Lawrence, compared to about one-sixth of the money spent at chains. And — since local businesses in Lawrence employ KU students — you’re helping students at a fairer wage than the competition.
One great example of a cheaper, better-tasting restaurant is The Burger Stand. Their burgers are generally expensive, but they have a $5 burger and fries deal after 10 p.m. every night. That’s around the price of a McDonald's meal, and you get arguably better food.
Lastly, for a nice alternative to Starbucks, Java Break is a cozy place to study with freshly-baked pastries, competitively-priced coffee, and the interesting “free speech room” where patrons can write on the walls.
There are dozens of other excellent eateries in town that serve great tasting food with locally-sourced ingredients, all at a low price. Next time, instead of opting for fast food, why not try something different?
Jack Waters is a Senior from Avon, Massachusetts, majoring in physics and economics.