The nation’s cities are peppered with neighborhoods just like it — areas animated in recent years by a huge restaurant boom. In any one of them, the failure of even a few key independent restaurants could spell devastation for their local economies…

“Restaurants are extremely valuable to cities,” said Andrew Salkin, a founding principal of Resilient Cities Catalyst, a nonprofit focused on strengthening cities, and a former official in New York City’s Finance Department. “The benefit of having good restaurants outweighs just their tax benefits. They are the anchors of communities. They support tourism and the neighborhood they are in.”

The danger facing restaurants, which thrive on crowded rooms and get by on razor-thin margins, poses a special threat to small cities and large towns where a robust food culture plays an outsize role in the economy. In places that had been hollowed out by poverty and suburban flight, like parts of Indianapolis, Cleveland and Detroit, they are engines of growth. In other cities with a national reputation for good food that is out of proportion to their population, like Providence, R.I., or Asheville, N.C., dining is both a tourist attraction and a key part of their identity.