Jump to content
  • Welcome to the eG Forums, a service of the eGullet Society for Culinary Arts & Letters. The Society is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit organization dedicated to the advancement of the culinary arts. These advertising-free forums are provided free of charge through donations from Society members. Anyone may read the forums, but to post you must create a free account.

Why New York City has the worst examples of fast-food chains


Fat Guy
 Share

Recommended Posts

On another topic, LPShanet observes that the New York City outposts of the national fast-food chains are often disappointing. I must agree. I've been on the road for about a week in Virginia and North Carolina. We've had about 1/3 of our meals at chains like Subway. In the towns where we've visited these places, they've been uniformly pleasant and clean, with upbeat service. Not so in New York City, where these places seem to thrive despite being depressing and, in many cases, not very fast. What's the deal?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

In NYC, sheer numbers mean you can run a business without a tremendous amount of repeat business. Whereas in a suburban or semi-rural area, it's the regulars who'll make your profit. You need the 8-and-under soccer team's parents to approve of your establishment, or they'll stop taking the whole team out for pizza/subs/fro-yo after the big tournament.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And maybe there are plenty of places where you can get a better meal than at a fast-food place at fast-food prices. So they don't have to care.

That is, you can have a great bowl of wonton soup with roast pork for probably the same price as a burger/fries/coke at Wendy's. Or 5 dumplings for $1. Or a decent to good slice of pizza for $2. Or a lunch special at, say, Tang Tang for $6. Or chicken over rice with hot sauce/white sauce for $5. And on and on.

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

And maybe there are plenty of places where you can get a better meal than at a fast-food place at fast-food prices. So they don't have to care.

That is, you can have a great bowl of wonton soup with roast pork for probably the same price as a burger/fries/coke at Wendy's. Or 5 dumplings for $1. Or a decent to good slice of pizza for $2. Or a lunch special at, say, Tang Tang for $6. Or chicken over rice with hot sauce/white sauce for $5. And on and on.

My hypothesis in the other thread was pretty similar. I also cited the fact that many of the people eating there were either out-of-towners or recent transplants who preferred familiarity. When I was a kid, none of the national pizza chains could get a foothold because their products were so inferior. But with the large number of recent college graduates from out of town now living here, even Papa John's and Domino's seem to do pretty well.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Except that this is also true, at least in my experience, of postal service in post offices in New York (much slower and surlier in New York, even by USPS standards), cable service, and other sorts of services that don't have the competition that food services do. I don't think the "It's all out-of-towners" argument goes very far, either, since you tend not to get high concentrations of them outside of certain areas. Domino's was so inferior to what, Ray's? Really? The chains have grown in New York for the same reason they've grown everywhere else: massive marketing and favorable local government support (yeah, I'm looking at you, Rudy Guiliani).

"I think it's a matter of principle that one should always try to avoid eating one's friends."--Doctor Dolittle

blog: The Institute for Impure Science

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Astonishingly enough out here in the wilderness there are many other choices to dine at as well. It would be pure speculation for me to comment on reasons for the condition of NYC fast food establishments. Around here most of the franchise holders are small business owners who are fairly hands on operators. Could it be that in NYC they may be owned by individuals or companies who are not activly involved in the day to day operation? As I say, pure speculation

Link to comment
Share on other sites

I'm not sure the non-natives explanation cuts it.

New York has long been a city where a lot of people come from somewhere else. Even when I was a kid in the 1970s it felt like so many people were from Texas, etc. This is nothing new.

I also don't think it's necessarily accurate to say that only non-natives are eating at the fast-food chain places.

It may also be that various shortcomings of local establishments have opened the door to the chains. Domino's is a great example. The quality of average slice-shop pizza has been declining my whole life and is now quite low. Delivery can be hit-or-miss. Domino's, by comparison, has stayed level or even improved slightly over the past however many years Domino's has done business here (15? 20?). Delivery times are excellent. And it's cheap.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

Link to comment
Share on other sites

It may also be that various shortcomings of local establishments have opened the door to the chains. Domino's is a great example. The quality of average slice-shop pizza has been declining my whole life and is now quite low. Delivery can be hit-or-miss. Domino's, by comparison, has stayed level or even improved slightly over the past however many years Domino's has done business here (15? 20?). Delivery times are excellent. And it's cheap.

Exactly my theory with the addition of the "predictability factor".

For many years my sister (who has since graduating college always lived in large cities) considered fast food establishments and some of their more-upscale formula cousins like Chiles, Red Lobster, Olive Garden, Outback Steakhouse etc. to be the only viable options for eating out. Her reasoning was that she knew the meals were never going to be anything special but it was unlikely to get anything really horrible either. These places were almost certain to be reasonably clean, with passable service and edible food. For her, predictable mediocrity tipped the risk-reward assessment away from independent restaurants and toward anything with a national logo.

This was quite a while ago and she slowly grew and evolved her tastes and now is quite the adventuresome eater. That may be because, as this thread points out, the chains (in NYC at least) have deteriorated so considerably and are no longer a "sure bet".

The Big Cheese

BlackMesaRanch.com

My Blog: "The Kitchen Chronicles"

BMR on FaceBook

"The Flavor of the White Mountains"

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Except that this is also true, at least in my experience, of postal service in post offices in New York (much slower and surlier in New York, even by USPS standards), cable service, and other sorts of services that don't have the competition that food services do.

What?

Proliferation of Korean salad places I suppose have made it less desirable for fast food chains to invest in NYC.

What?

Mitch Weinstein aka "weinoo"

Tasty Travails - My Blog

My eGullet FoodBog - A Tale of Two Boroughs

Was it you baby...or just a Brilliant Disguise?

Link to comment
Share on other sites

One thing worth noting: McDonald's hamburgers in New York don't come with mustard on them, only ketchup, because, according to a McDonald's spokesperson, "New Yorkers don't like mustard on their burgers."

Many local branches don't even have packets of mustard so that you can add it on yourself.

This detracts immensely from the depth & flavor balance of the hamburger.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

  • 4 months later...
 Share

  • Recently Browsing   0 members

    • No registered users viewing this page.
×
×
  • Create New...