This is an interesting study by Clio Andries (assistant professor at the Georgia Institute of Technology) and Xiaofan Laing (city planning graduate student). It looks at restaurant “chaininess” across the United States.
To do this, they mapped over 800,000 restaurants and looked for, among other things, restaurants with the same name. If the same restaurant name shows up in multiple locations, it is considered to be a chain.
Looking at the above snapshot of San Francisco, a yellow dot represents what is thought to be an independent restaurant and a dark purple/maroon dot represents a chain.
San Francisco has a very high percentage of independent restaurants. In their study, the city receives a chainess score of 28, compared to the national average of 1,247. (Some cities in the southeastern US are in the 1,900s).
One of the interesting takeaways from this study is that there appears to be a correlation between chaininess and built form. Generally speaking, the study revealed that auto-centric communities tend to have more chain restaurants, versus more independent restaurants in pedestrian-centric communities.
This is perhaps intuitive if you’ve ever driven and traveled across the US, but it is interesting to consider what is actually leading to this food and beverage outcome. Density certainly plays a role.