Expanded Menu: Enid tries to recruit new restaurants

Restaurants are doing well in Enid. So well, in fact, that there are always lines out the door, said Marcy Jarrett, Visit Enid director.

“There are just more people coming here and wanting to go out to eat,” she said.

Besides the workforce, the city has attracted more people from outside its city limits with its new event center and convention hall. Since it opened in June 2013, more than 120,000 people have gone through the venue, and 40 percent of ticket purchasers were from outside Garfield County. Jarrett said people from outside Enid also come to the city for doctor’s appointments or to shop. While the city has more people coming to its attractions, it’s having difficulty getting enough restaurants to keep up with demand.

“What we’re up against is people looking at the community of 52,000, and what they’re not looking at is the reach we have, and the market that comes to Enid that wants these restaurants,” she said. “There are owners that are overlooking Enid and they’re missing an opportunity.

” In fact, the city is losing $35 million in restaurant sales, according to a retail gap study by Rickey Hayes with Retail Attractions LLC. Jarrett, Enid Regional Development Alliance Executive Director Brent Kisling and Hayes are trying to recruit restaurants to the city.

The restaurant deficit is the highest amount in Hayes’ study, with clothing and accessories stores falling closely behind, with $34.2 million in sales leakage.

Hayes has worked with the city of Enid for four years. He said the market is unique because it is a stand-alone economy. Many retailers see Oklahoma as two cities, Tulsa and Oklahoma City, yet Enid has retail demand.

“A lot of times outlying areas are underserved,” he said. “Enid has proven that a micropolitan economy is a strong contender for retail investment.”

Kisling said he and other officials often have to convince potential retailers that, unlike in the 1980s, Enid’s economy is built on more than the energy industry.

“The price of crude (oil) doesn’t affect our economy nearly as much as it used to,” he said. Yet getting businesses to relocate employees to Enid can affect the economy, which is why Kisling said recruiting these restaurants is important to the city’s quality of life.

“The most important thing in quality of life is having a place where people can buy things and hang out,” he said. “We have more jobs than we have people right now, so workforce recruitment is a big deal to us.”

Kisling said the restaurant companies the ERDA has met with have been interested, but they need to find locations. Hayes said there will need to be more development in the city’s western corridor in order to put in restaurant pads.

“There are a number of sites available and great locations,” Kisling said. “It’s just a matter of making it fit for that particular retailer.”

Over the last few years, the city has recruited some national restaurant chains, including Jimmy John’s, Jimmy’s Egg and Starbucks.

“The ones that go out there and take a chance – even though it’s not really a chance – they’re doing well,” Jarrett said.