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Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Foodmomiac Philosophy on Chain Restaurants

Today was my sister-in-law's birthday. Not the one I'm super close with - the other one. The one that I'm not super close with. I'll leave it at that.

So, ANYWAY, in the Wiley family, the birthday person gets to choose the restaurant, and every year Melissa chooses Olive Garden. Sigh...

I am not a fan of chain restaurants. Yes, the food is fine. Not great. It's fine. The salad is nice. It's endless. Endless salad is lovely. But... why the love affair with the chain?? Why are chain restaurants so ubiquitous and popular?

An anecdote for you: We have a GREAT local BBQ place in Toledo called Shorty's. I love it. It has been open a few years now, but earlier this year, two BBQ chains opened up within 1/2 mile of Shorty's - Smokey Bones and Famous Dave's. These two places are packed every night. PACKED. The business at Shorty's has suffered. Why America?? Why do you do this?? Why on earth would you patronize a chain, non-locally owned restaurant in lieu of a high quality, locally owned place?

In my mind, the one redeeming quality of the chain restaurant is the focus placed on children. he chains are very consistent with the kid love. They have those great sling things to hold the infant carriers. They have endless high chairs. They have CRAYONS. It seems to me that the small local places are going to need to start doing some of these things if they want to compete. Not that it will always help. Shorty's has a great kids menu complete with crayons. And it hasn't helped them any. (The very best kid diversion, by the way, is at Filippi's in San Diego. They give the kids pizza dough! How cool is that?)

Is there anything else, though, about the chain? What am I missing? Why does Carrabba's have a three hour wait for dinner, but locally-owned Gianno's have empty tables? Why does Melissa choose Olive Garden every year?


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Baby A does pretty well in restaurants most of the time. I won't promise quietude, or lack of motion, because that never happens (unless she's sleeping, and that doesn't happen much, either). But she can usually manage to keep... [Read More]


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