The Library Springfield-Greene County Library District Springfield, Missouri

Chain Reaction

As Springfield has grown in recent decades, more chain restaurants have appeared (and, in some cases, disappeared).  When we had fewer chains, the pluses and minuses of the chains and their relationship with the independents were more rhetorical than has come to be the case presently.  But now it possible for our mid-major metro to join the spirited national discussion.

So what percentage of the chains is presently represented in the Springfield metro (Christian, Dallas, Greene, Polk, and Webster counties)?  Wikipedia has a list of about 240; roughly a quarter of those chains are found in the Springfield metro, with a few more found relatively nearby.  (Famous Dave's and Joe's Crab Shack in Branson, e.g.)  Restaurants & Institutions, a trade journal, publishes a ranked Top 400 list.  (Contact us at The Library to use our subscription databases to access this list.)  The Springfield metro has thirteen of the top fifteen ranked chains; Dunkin' Donuts (found in Branson) and Jack in the Box are the exceptions.  We have 26 of the top thirty--the recently-departed Denny's is one of the missing.  After the top thirty, there begins to be rapid dropoff, including highly ranked chains such as Popeyes, Baskin-Robbins, Church's, and the long-ago and fondly remembered Whataburger that have been here at one time or another.  Of the top 100, 45 currently don't have a Springfield metro presence.

Industry sources identify about 3,600 restaurant chains, although many of these have just a few locations.  Lambert's Cafe would be a good example; they have two Missouri locations, as well as a location in Alabama.

Consumers are a quirky and paradoxical lot.  While many diners are inclined to be dismissive of chain restaurant food, asserting that independent restaurants have better food, data show that this perception isn't reflected by their purchases--i.e., visits and (ultimately) dollars spent. 

Find this article at