When is a chain not a chain?
It happened here in Toronto. A great wings & beer place called St. Louis Bar & Grill was a single location with another restaurant called the Bistro owned by the same guy, offering the same menu of fantastic wings and salads. Food was CONSISTENT – exact same every time which is good because they made fantastic wings.
In the last 2 years, at least 6 St.Louis Bar & Grills have opened in the city. They all have the same menu but they are located in sterile locations so right off the bat they lose the ‘Bar’ part of their ambience. The wings used to be consistently good, now it’s a crapshoot.
I don’t think multiple chefs working in multiple locations for a large company can possibly maintain the consistency of one or two restaurants known for good food.
If the lady that waits on you has cat-eye glasses, her hair up in a bun and calls you "Honey" or "Shug" …… You ain’t in a chain resturant !!!!! [:D]
In my opinion, there are chains and then there are chains. Some small businesses achieve success and open up another location in a city, or, in the case of a place that done good in a rural area, they may open another location in a town nearby.
If they aren’t run by a huge corporation and have a policy about how to flip the eggs for an order of over-easys, then they ain’t a chain.
If the eggs look the same in San Antonio as they do in Portland, Maine, Like Perkins, then they are a chain.
We have a few places that fall into this hazy realm. There are several hot dog stands, for example, notably <h ref="http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Overview.aspx?RefID=1138">Ted's</a>, but also Louie’s, that have several locations. <h ref="http://www.roadfood.com/Reviews/Writeup.aspx?ReviewID=1139&RefID=1139">Anderson's</a>, reviewed for its frozen custard, but also notable for excellent beef on weck, also has several stores. I’d say that once a place jumps to a new city, it has become a chain in the negative sense– places like Ted’s (or the Mighty Taco– also great) are local restaurants with several locations.
When 80% of your staff has no intention of continuing in "the food service industry" when they graduate—or pay for the second car—then—"its just a job" and itsa chain,not a resteraunt! When managment doesnt really care whether they get paid to run a restaraunt or a clouthing store or a oil company—its a chain. General Foods doesnt care whether you buy thier food or their ciggeretes—as long as you buy and any real italian who has eaten at the Olive Garden will agree! I prefer eating in places where the staff cares more about making sure that product lives up to the standards of whoever was responsible for the menu—be it executive chef or the owners grandmother,then they do to the corporate stockholders!
Chains are run by companies,not people, and when I brought money home from restaraunts as i cooked in them,I preferred cooking for a person then a company and now that LEAVE my money there as a customer i,d rather leave it with a person then a company! If someone can manage to own 200 places and not lose that attitude then imho they are not a chain—just a damned busy resteraunt owner!
The long-awaited answer to this thread is contained in the following letter-to-the-editor from this week’s Style Weekly (Richmond, Virginia), see also http://www.styleweekly.com/.
A chain is not a chain when it can escape letters this like this:
Where Are the Real Restaurants?
I just wanted to say, bravo! It was great to read Kendra Bailey Morris review of Firebirds (Food & Drink, Oct. 15). She nailed it. After my husband and I ate there a couple of weeks ago, I referred to it as Applebee s on steroids. (By the way, Applebee s is just McDonald s on steroids.)
I m afraid it is part of the sickening trend in this country to serve everything from a frozen, prepared menu and I m not even talking about the food. Service has become a canned commodity. Manners are taught as a matter of good business practice rather than as a way of life, and that s why we can t get it right anymore. It is the difference between Pop-Tarts and homemade cream puffs. I am so sick of teenage hostesses with their placid faces and glassy, glazed-over eyes who say things like, We treat you like family. Give me a break. The truth is that the only restaurant in town where they really treat you like family is Mama Zu. They don t exactly have the best reputation for service but at least they are genuine. They don t smile and they don t apologize for the wait. If you don t like it, go home and make your own damned dinner. That s family & and the food & is love.
I don’t know Ms. Whaley but AMEN !!!!!
Hi All –
Perhaps this conversation has already taken place, but I’ll ask the question anyway. When does a group of restaurants become a chain? And what are the qualities of a chain that makes people exclude it from "roadfood?"
I’ve been checking out some of the Culver’s restaurants in the Milwaukee area recently. It’s decent food: they have better than average burgers and the places are carpeted, clean, well lit, kid friendly, and their employees wear white dress shirts with ties and paper hats. It’s fast food in the sense that you get in line and order at the counter. But the cashier gives you a number and an employee brings your order to your table.
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