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The chain restaurant topic


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Chains like TGI Fridays, Outback and Bennigan's are huge here in Korea. Unfortunately, most of my Korean friends assume that North Americans eat like this every day!

I had never eaten at a chain before coming to Seoul, as my hometown only had fast food chains when I was growing up - to this day, there are only two Starbucks, and they're confined to a national chain of bookstores. That meant there were some great independent coffee shops, and tons of small local eateries. I never appreciated that before I left. I think the main reasons for this was the small population and relative isolation, combined with our university crowd (four universities in town) - kept things quirky and cheap. I remember when a TGI Fridays finally opened up, when I was 25 or so, thinking, $13 for a hamburger? You've got to be kidding! And I never went, preferring to get my grease hit elsewhere.

I can't say I was impressed when I finally tried it in here in Seoul, jonesing for a decent hamburger. But I figured it was due to a lack of appropriate ingredients. One bonus, however, is that they will serve it raw and cold in the middle. Whether you want it this way or not!

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The problem with chains is that people's taste in food is all too often conditioned by them, which makes it a little harder to get some of them to appreciate the really good stuff then they run across it.  But I do not consider chains the scourge of the earth.  Except maybe for the Olive Garden.

You're so right about chains conditioning peoples tastes, and as long as we have Outback Steakhouse with its nasty fried onion and even worse steaks, or Olive Garden, or Subways which is so disgusting and bland i just can't figure out why anyone would go there, or to any of these places which exist not for our delectation but rather to line the pockets of the businessmen/shareholders who own it.....

but i differ with you in that I DO consider chains the scourge of the earth. just so tacky, and the food (even on the rare chance that it tastes good) lacks soul, is bereft of 'chi'.

In the village (in Hampshire, UK) I live in the only two restaurants of any popularity are the mcdonalds and kfc; on friday nights there is a queue out the door of the latter. (thank god for eurostar where there is a wealth of little family owned restaurants to take me into the bosom of their kitchens and feed me gooooood. but france, too has its chains--i remember speaking with a british food writer who said that they always stopped at a buffalo grill when they were travelling in france! i'm still trying to figure out why.......)

back to our village, there is a mighty fine fish and chips place here, family owned and not a chain. but while i like--no,make that love-- fish and chips, i love to eat them about once a year. i'm never hungry for them again until about a year has passed!

and i never ever go to starbucks except that the people there are usually friendly, and they have bathrooms, so occasionally, if i am desperate......but i don't like to support the whole competition against individually-owned cafes.

the main thing about chains to me is that they are all cookie-cutter the same. the food. the atmosphere. very alienating. i hate the taste of the vegetable oils they use. and the food is all the same!!!! (though in some places, having the food reliably the same is a positive thing, esp if the alternative that they are replacing is undependable).

whew. i feel better now.

Marlena

Edited by marlena spieler (log)

Marlena the spieler

www.marlenaspieler.com

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[...]

but i differ with you in that I DO consider chains the scourge of the earth. just so tacky, and the food (even on the rare chance that it tastes good) lacks soul, is bereft of 'chi'.

[...]

the main thing about chains to me is that they are all cookie-cutter the same. the food. the atmosphere. very alienating. i hate the taste of the vegetable oils they use. and the food is all the same!!!! (though in some places, having the food reliably the same is a positive thing, esp if the alternative that they are replacing is undependable).

And you just hit on the Catch-22 in that last sentence of your post.

The reason Howard Johnson, Emmons Wilson (Holiday Inn founder) and Roy Kroc became so fabulously successful as Americans became more mobile in the years following World War II is that they promised patrons a uniform, dependable experience no matter where they went. For an unseasoned traveler not accustomed to taking chances on unknown local places, or even for seasoned travelers who did take chances and got burned, this predictability was mighty reassuring. (Or, as Holiday Inn put it bluntly in their 1970s TV ads, "No surprises.")

There are times when even the adventurous among us don't want to chance a bad experience. And the majority of humans aren't that adventurous; most of us are creatures of habit and largely risk-averse. Until that changes, the chains shall always be with us.

Sandy Smith, Exile on Oxford Circle, Philadelphia

"95% of success in life is showing up." --Woody Allen

My foodblogs: 1 | 2 | 3

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A few years ago I took a group of students to Japan. We gave them money and told them to find their own food in the evenings. While my Japanese colleague and I sought "japanese food" (really, I do love EVERYTHING nihongo) my students were not so adventurous. They repeately urged me to join them at this "great Mexican place" they had found in Ikebukuro. I said "no" mainly b/c I had NOT traveled to Japan to eat Mexican, but I was especially disappointed to find out that it was an "El Torito". :wacko:

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