Chainophobia

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Scorereader
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2006/05/17 13:37:12 (permalink)

Chainophobia

I understand that this site is for finding those unique restaurants that don't get heralded as much as a big conglomerate of restaurants, probably because advertising isn't in the budget, and the local eateries get most of its recommendations by word of mouth, or from a nod in the Stern's book.

But, lately, I'm really confused why some people hate ALL chains? Or even the philosophy of a chain.

I've made it clear that I'm no fan of Arby's and Waffle House, but why are all chains getting slammed?

Some chains, do a lot of good in their communities and do lots to help local groups, and promote and sponsor local events. For example, some chain restaurants sponsor baseball and softball teams, support the Lions and Rotary clubs, support the local school, allow non-profits to hold monthy meetings at a table free of charge, etc.

Do those who simply hate all chains also hate chain grocery stores, like a Wegman's or Publix? Do they only go to the mom and pop grocers where the can of soup is 50% more than the cost of the same soup at said chain grocer? Do all independent restaurants, grocers and assorted businesses give scholarships to their employees for college or business school?

The Stern's themselves have reviewed many chain restaurants as a roadfood spot, some are here on this site. Should those places be subject to extreme criticism simply because they are part of a larger chain?

I was under the assumption that most chains are franchises, therefore, many of those establishments are owned locally.

I buy my camping gear at Walmart. They sell Coleman and other nationally known outdoor products. The guy at one Walmart in particular, who sells the fire arms, has been incredibly helpful to me to pick the right equipment for my needs. And he didn't always suggest the most expensive item. I never bought a gun either.

Are all workers there that knowledgable? No. Are all Wal-marts full of experts? No. But then neither are all local places. For example, in DC, there are two locally owned hardware stores that have been around forever that I have frequented. One in Dupont Circle (I won't print name), and Fragger's on Cap Hill. While the Fragger's employees are always excellent and helpful no matter what I need, the one near Dupont Circle was not overly helpful on my last two visits.

I think you see where I'm at and going with this one.

Why the chainophobia?
#1

42 Replies Related Threads

    joanie41
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 17:59:33 (permalink)
    I agree that the infective aimed at chains on this site borders on ridiculous. And what really makes me perplexed is the most vehement chain-haters always post on the threads about chains! Somewhat counter-intuitive, but I guess they have a lot of free time on their hands.

    Here in Columbia, the land of big-box stores and numerous chain restaurants, there's a real dearth of good mom and pop places. (I've lamented about this on other threads so I won't belabor the point here.) And, between having kids, and a real lack of time to search out far-flung alternatives, we end up eating at franchise restaurants more often than I'd like. But, really...the service is usually excellent, the stores are clean -- cleaner than most privately owned restaurants I've been in -- and although the selections may be mediocre, there is something for everyone. I just can't bring myself to get worked up about this. There are so many other things that get me pi$$ed off that I can't waste my time worrying about -- gasp! -- franchises!

    It seems that the logical solution would be for those who hate the idea of franchising and having more than one restaurant with the same name (the horror!) should stick with the appropriate threads. But whatever...I've got bigger things to worry about!
    #2
    BT
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 19:49:09 (permalink)
    The invective stems from the belief that chains drive independents out of business. Too often it's true. I've seen it happen any number of times. Unfortunately, a Subway opened up next to my favorite little mom/pop sandwich place in a strip mall near my AZ home and "poof", the mom/pop joint folded even though they made great Chicago-style (complete with flourescent green relish) hot dogs.

    Nevertheless, you will generally not find me among those making snarky remarks in any thread about chains because, in the absence of other choices (too often the case, especially in smaller communities), I admit I often patronize them. Sometimes I even patronize them because I enjoy their "formula". Like I said recently in another thread, I love Arby's sandwiches--I just don't think of them as "roast beef". I think of them as bland mystery meat that makes a good foundation for buckets of Arby's and "Horsey" sauce.

    I do, however, especially resent chains that are unrestrained in their attack on the independents. For example, Starbucks and Subway, in their relentless attempt to put up a franchise on every developed block in America, not uncommonly plop themselves down directly next to (or across the street from) an independent selling, respectively, coffee or sandwiches. That, I find offensive and unnecessary.
    #3
    dreamzpainter
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 19:57:23 (permalink)
    If you are what you eat, then, I'm fast, cheap and easy!

    McD's to Sears and Home Depot, chains are a fact of life in this day and age. I enjoy nonchain eateries but the fact is they are far outnumbered and it's easy to stop at Sonny's for a take out of pulled pork when leaving HD or Sonic's when leaving the OTHER nearby HD. And sometimes there's just a craving for a sackfull of Krystal sliders.

    Personally I think the biggest chainophobs are actually closet chain bingers but thats just MHO...
    #4
    wanderingjew
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 20:20:12 (permalink)
    Now that we have the separate chain threads, I rarely post or reply to those threads.

    What pisses me off are people who "personally" take offense to my slamming of chains, see it as an insult to "them" and then they slam me in return. In fact others on this forum have replied to those people and have said "wait a minute, he's not insulting you, why are you getting so upset"

    I know many will disagree with me but I don't like chains because
    A- They put the local restaurants out of business. Just ask many of the former restaurant owners of the eatieries in the past Roadfood books. I spoke to a few of them and there response was that they could no longer compete with the new strip mall down the road or the new series of chains off the interstate. The food quality never changed, but I guess chains through advertising make people think that "they're like everyone else now that an Applebees is in town"
    B- The Food Sucks. Perfect example, on my business trip to Austin last September I went to mostly local restaurants and a local chain where the food quality ranged from average to outstanding. I went to two chains (not by choice) Dave and Busters and Hard Rock Cafe and one chain came to me (the bigwigs ordered pizza) from Papa Gatti's. The food sucked. Period. I can compare the quality to eating a nuke'd stouffers lean cuisine
    C- They have destroyed the regional individualism and uniqueness of our country. Kansas City Fried Chicken houses have been replaced by Applebees, NY Kosher Delis are being replaced by Subway, BBQ pits in Tennessee are being replaced by Sonic. I could go on but you get the picture. Some may say that these regional restaurants are a thing of the past and that the new regional cuisine are the pho parlors in Minneapolis and the Burrito Wagons in Charlotte- wrong! Pho parlors have been around a long time in San Franciso and Seattle and The Burrito Wagons have always been there in Santa Fe and San Antonio.
    I'll take a Lutheran Church Basement Scandinavian Dinner in Minneapolis and a Meat and Three in Charlotte anyday- now that's the way it should be!

    #5
    UncleVic
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 22:18:27 (permalink)
    I think the quality and presentation is all you need to make your decision on chains. (And if all you want to do is stuff a chunk of whatever in your face, ignore my post here).

    Yes, I hate them now, and have for several years now. Main reason, as you mentioned is them destroying the Mom and Pop shops. They can afford to be in the red, having rest of the chain support them. While the couple trying to make an honest living get bumped out of business. I admit, I do stop in the drive thru, Arbys being about the only one anymore. Oh, and the chains that used to be fast for drive thru (and walk in for that matter) have totally forgot what fast food is... Sitting in a line for 10 minutes to get a 99 cent burger? I dont think so. I'll spend the extra few bucks to get a sandwich with bread thats made fresh, and cooked to MY order. Well worth my wait.
    #6
    UncleVic
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 22:20:46 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by wanderingjew

    Now that we have the separate chain threads, I rarely post or reply to those threads.

    What pisses me off are people who "personally" take offense to my slamming of chains, see it as an insult to "them" and then they slam me in return. In fact others on this forum have replied to those people and have said "wait a minute, he's not insulting you, why are you getting so upset"

    I know many will disagree with me but I don't like chains because
    A- They put the local restaurants out of business. Just ask many of the former restaurant owners of the eatieries in the past Roadfood books. I spoke to a few of them and there response was that they could no longer compete with the new strip mall down the road or the new series of chains off the interstate. The food quality never changed, but I guess chains through advertising make people think that "they're like everyone else now that an Applebees is in town"
    B- The Food Sucks. Perfect example, on my business trip to Austin last September I went to mostly local restaurants and a local chain where the food quality ranged from average to outstanding. I went to two chains (not by choice) Dave and Busters and Hard Rock Cafe and one chain came to me (the bigwigs ordered pizza) from Papa Gatti's. The food sucked. Period. I can compare the quality to eating a nuke'd stouffers lean cuisine
    C- They have destroyed the regional individualism and uniqueness of our country. Kansas City Fried Chicken houses have been replaced by Applebees, NY Kosher Delis are being replaced by Subway, BBQ pits in Tennessee are being replaced by Sonic. I could go on but you get the picture. Some may say that these regional restaurants are a thing of the past and that the new regional cuisine are the pho parlors in Minneapolis and the Burrito Wagons in Charlotte- wrong! Pho parlors have been around a long time in San Franciso and Seattle and The Burrito Wagons have always been there in Santa Fe and San Antonio.
    I'll take a Lutheran Church Basement Scandinavian Dinner in Minneapolis and a Meat and Three in Charlotte anyday- now that's the way it should be!



    AMEN!
    #7
    BT
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 22:42:57 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by dreamzpainter

    If you are what you eat, then, I'm fast, cheap and easy!

    it's easy to stop at Sonny's for a take out of pulled pork when leaving HD or Sonic's when leaving the OTHER nearby HD. And sometimes there's just a craving for a sackfull of Krystal sliders.



    It's possible to be selective, even among chains, and the two you mentioned are IMHO among the better ones. Frankly, the quality of the BBQ in the Bay Area is so pathetic that it would be improved if Sonny's would open (but Fat Boy's would be even better--once I was a regular at their Gainesville establishment: http://www.fatboysbbq.com/ ).
    #8
    joanie41
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 23:07:35 (permalink)
    Listen, if I had a lot of good "real food" choices around here, I'd use them. I don't, but in this area, the chains that came in didn't force out smaller restaurants. They built these shopping centers, and the houses, and so on, on farm land, for the most part. Fifty years ago, my county was a sleepy farm community. I'm sure a few mom and pop places closed, but it's not like the chains came in and wiped everyone out. More often, what I see is a chain going out of business (like the Friendlys around here) and replaced by another chain.

    And there's no way a mom and pop could afford to come into this area without a huge amount of capital anyway. It's just too damned expensive. So I do my "roadfooding" up in Baltimore, where small, good places abound.

    #9
    mr chips
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/17 23:41:48 (permalink)
    This is a topic that used to discussed ad naseum with much fire and anger. Wj's post is a very good intellectual encapsulation of the arguements about why chains are bad and why they should be opposed vigorously. Wj has expressed these opinions for many years and I respect him and agree with him for the most part.
    Yet I feel most of the arguements about chains on this site were more emotional and quasi-religious than intellectual. Posters such as Meowzart and Chezkatie hightailed it over to Roguefood with vigorous blasts against our supposed love and preferences for chains and with a fury that suggested folks who ate at chains were less intelligent, less sophisicated, and less tasteful than the people who eschewed chains. Ultimately eating at chains was an immoral act and people who said anything remotely nice about chains were acting in an immoral manner contrary to the purposes of this site.
    I hope this is a fair assessment of the people who left and their opinions and no disrespect is intended.I will eat at some chains but prefer the local product when possible. BT can speak with some knowledge of my dislike of Wal-Mart so I am not perfectly consistent.
    I enjoy the opinions of most who post here( and most who post on Roguefood) and look forward to continuing our conversations.
    #10
    Tony Bad
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 00:47:48 (permalink)
    I too think WJ's comments are excellent, but as I have pointed out before, local places can and will survive if they have something special to offer. I can (and have) listed many examples of places that have thrived in the face of chain invasion and have outlasted some of the competition!

    I had also read a point/counter point discussion regarding the evil empire of starbucks. It pointed out that many of the "mom & pop" coffee places supposedly put out of business by starbucks only existed because of starbucks. Before starbucks brought the "coffee house" to places they didn't exist, these mom & pop places didn't exist. They came about because they saw a good idea, and closed up when the big pusher of that concept finally caught up with them. Not passing judgement on whether this is right or wrong...I just found it interesting.
    #11
    BT
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 05:10:11 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Tony Bad



    I had also read a point/counter point discussion regarding the evil empire of starbucks. It pointed out that many of the "mom & pop" coffee places supposedly put out of business by starbucks only existed because of starbucks. Before starbucks brought the "coffee house" to places they didn't exist, these mom & pop places didn't exist. They came about because they saw a good idea, and closed up when the big pusher of that concept finally caught up with them. Not passing judgement on whether this is right or wrong...I just found it interesting.


    Nationally, this may be true, but in my hometown, San Francisco, it absolutely isn't. There have been "coffee shops" here since the first Italian immigrant stepped off the boat to look for gold. This book lists over a hundred independents:



    And many of them still thrive, but Starbucks has made it tough for a few and I regret the loss of any. It's true, the independents are mostly in residential neighborhoods where they function as auxilliary living rooms and study halls with warn furniture and a homey atmosphere whereas Starbucks has mostly established itself in the downtown business district where its "clean as a whistle" glitz makes the office commuters feel more at home. But in a few places they compete directly and I wish they'd pack up and go back to Seattle where that's the case. Even downtown, I (and most people here) prefer the local chain, Peet's.
    #12
    Davydd
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 08:00:22 (permalink)
    All Wal-Mart stores are company owned. They are not locally franchised. Same with Target and Home Depot.
    #13
    -Tricky-
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 10:49:30 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Tony Bad

    I too think WJ's comments are excellent, but as I have pointed out before, local places can and will survive if they have something special to offer. I can (and have) listed many examples of places that have thrived in the face of chain invasion and have outlasted some of the competition!


    There's a lot of evidence that this really isn't true as often as it is false. Chains, by their very nature, can offer their food less expensively than an independent. They have buying power that one restaurant can't have. Independents pay more per pound for meat, seafood, produce than corporations. To too many people today, the price is the most important factor. Mom and Pops get forced out of business even if their product is special, even if its superior because it's too expensive. That's a part of my "chain-hate".

    My bigger "chain hate" (although I'm not a pure hater) is that consistency always outweighs quality in a multi-location operation. That's why the food at most chains is consistently mediocre. It's better to be consistently mediocre than for one location with a fantastic prep cook to be great and another be mediocre because the prep cook is only mediocre. That's why most chains don't make their own sauces or soups; one restaurant in the concept just couldn'tget the sauces or soups right and because that one location wasn't as good, all of them had to go to pre-made, cryovacked soups, that come out of the bag and go into the kettle.

    I'd rather take my chances on a local independent or small chain than go to even PF Chang's, California Pizza Kitchen, McCormick & Schmick's. All of those use high quality ingredients, do a decent job, but could be fantastic if consistency wasn't so freaking important. I'd almost rather eat an awful meal that was obviously home-cooked than a mediocre meal that was "Open the cryovac, throw it on the grill, slap it on a plate."

    That's why I'm not as bothered by the chain groceries and department stores. The products they sell (for the most part) come out of the cases they were delivered in, go on a shelf, go into my cart and onto my shelves. There's little manipulation to them - I get the same moisturizer whether I buy it at Giant Eagle, Walgreen's, Target, or the Shur-Save near me. (I won't buy it at Wal-Mart even though they'd be cheapest; I don't shop there.) When possible I'll go to that Shur-Save since it's owned by a neighbor, even if it's a few pennies more per item, but I won't buy produce from him. The produce is crap compared to Giant Eagle... He can't afford to buy the same quality stuff the larger chain can buy...

    For me it's the quality. If a chain restaurant supercedes the consistency pothole (and there are a few that do) I'm happy to eat there. But if the food is mediocre, what's the point? I'm not as politically opposed as many of the other "chain haters" but I don't particularly like them either. I've seen the wrong side of a restaurant becoming a chain and it's not pretty.
    #14
    Greymo
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 12:00:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by mr chips

    Yet I feel most of the arguements about chains on this site were more emotional and quasi-religious than intellectual. Posters such as Meowzart and Chezkatie hightailed it over to Roguefood with vigorous blasts against our supposed love and preferences for chains and with a fury that suggested folks who ate at chains were less intelligent, less sophisicated, and less tasteful than the people who eschewed chains. Ultimately eating at chains was an immoral act and people who said anything remotely nice about chains were acting in an immoral manner contrary to the purposes of this site.
    I hope this is a fair assessment of the people who left and their opinions and no disrespect is intended.I will eat at some chains but prefer the local product when possible.


    I have never read a post from any poster that ever suggested what you are saying. I think that you are a very unfair person in your evaluation of other people's posts. But opionions are like a------s; eveyone has one.
    #15
    Tedbear
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 12:22:35 (permalink)
    Scorereader--I think that you may be "comparing apples & oranges" if you are relating chain retail stores to chain restaurant operations. If I buy a box of, let's say, Oreos in a chain store (whether it is Kroger, A & P, Wal-Mart, etc.) those Oreos are the same product that I could buy at the Mom & Pop grocery store or the local bodega. The only likely difference is the price.

    On the other hand, with food preparation, a well-run independently owned and operated non-chain restaurant has the ability to create the level of quality with a product (lets say..a hamburger) that they desire. It would be possible for them to serve hamburgers that are of lower quality than McD's, for example, or--more likely, for them to serve a superior burger. The McD's quality may be fairly consistent from one location to another, but that quality is not exactly going to be mouthwatering.

    I believe that most people on this board seek out the non-chain eating establishments because of the higher quality of the ingredients and the more personalized food preparation that they are likely to find at the non-chain places. I am one of those people.

    However, I will go to the chain retailer of food (Kroger, Shop-Rite, A & P, etc.) because of the greater selection and the invariably lower prices that these establishments charge for the exact same packaged products that form the bulk of their business.

    For bulk of my supermarket purchases, a chain has no downside that I can perceive, versus the Mom & Pop grocer. (Or conversely, the Mom & Pop place has no significant advantage that I can perceive.)

    Now, of course, if anyone wants to get into another discussion of Wal-Mart specifically, then we can all go off on that tangent again.
    #16
    -Tricky-
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 12:28:49 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Tedbear

    Now, of course, if anyone wants to get into another discussion of Wal-Mart specifically, then we can all go off on that tangent again.


    Let's not and just say we did.

    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader

    Some chains, do a lot of good in their communities and do lots to help local groups, and promote and sponsor local events. For example, some chain restaurants sponsor baseball and softball teams, support the Lions and Rotary clubs, support the local school, allow non-profits to hold monthy meetings at a table free of charge, etc.



    Even local franchises put less money back into the local economy than an independent business owned by local community member. The percentages are shocking - I'll see if I can find the stat.

    Still, I do understand that it's part of the way of business, and I'm not mortally opposed to the concept of a big-box store/restaurant. But if the product is inferior, or the company is so bottom-line driven that they are willing to skirt laws or behave in an ethically dubious manner, I dislike that individual "big business"...
    #17
    Pwingsx
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 12:44:42 (permalink)
    I think a lot of it is what's termed "The Homogenization of America".

    Is this such a bad thing? Consistency is good. What's bad is this isn't even GOOD FOOD. Is there anyone who's eaten in a chain like McDonald's who wouldn't agree that 25 years ago, the food was much much better? Does anyone believe that quality hasn't been sacrificed for quantity and the bottom line, lo these many years?
    #18
    Scorereader
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 12:49:01 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by -Tricky-






    Still, I do understand that it's part of the way of business, and I'm not mortally opposed to the concept of a big-box store/restaurant. But if the product is inferior, or the company is so bottom-line driven that they are willing to skirt laws or behave in an ethically dubious manner, I dislike that individual "big business"...



    that sounds fair
    #19
    BT
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 13:19:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Pwingsx

    I think a lot of it is what's termed "The Homogenization of America".

    Is this such a bad thing? Consistency is good. What's bad is this isn't even GOOD FOOD. Is there anyone who's eaten in a chain like McDonald's who wouldn't agree that 25 years ago, the food was much much better? Does anyone believe that quality hasn't been sacrificed for quantity and the bottom line, lo these many years?


    Trouble is, when you start with a range of quality, the achievement of consistency usually results in a product at the low end of the range because the better outlyers have been eliminated.

    One possible reason quality has suffered in chains is that they have been relentless in the search for fool-proof product so that they can hire people capable of producing little else and pay them as little as possible. Does anyone think the nice kid behind the McD's counter whose only English consists (if you're lucky) of "big Mac" and "diet Coke" actually knows how to COOK? Of course not, but he she might have to to produce good food. To follow the chains "recipe for production of cow-based (or, as rumor would have it, kangaroo-based) hocky pucks" though, they don't.
    #20
    mr chips
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 13:28:59 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Greymo

    quote:
    Originally posted by mr chips

    Yet I feel most of the arguements about chains on this site were more emotional and quasi-religious than intellectual. Posters such as Meowzart and Chezkatie hightailed it over to Roguefood with vigorous blasts against our supposed love and preferences for chains and with a fury that suggested folks who ate at chains were less intelligent, less sophisicated, and less tasteful than the people who eschewed chains. Ultimately eating at chains was an immoral act and people who said anything remotely nice about chains were acting in an immoral manner contrary to the purposes of this site.
    I hope this is a fair assessment of the people who left and their opinions and no disrespect is intended.I will eat at some chains but prefer the local product when possible.


    I have never read a post from any poster that ever suggested what you are saying. I think that you are a very unfair person in your evaluation of other people's posts. But opionions are like a------s; eveyone has one.
    Meowzart(Debbie) referred to this site as"chain road food. com" in her farewell post and chezkatie spent most of her last 6 months'posts complaining that people were talking about chains and how this was contrary to roadfood principles. I mention this history because a number of the people who have posted in this forum were not around for these debates
    #21
    saps
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 13:59:10 (permalink)
    Here are my thoughts-

    Chains arent't inherently evil. They are a result of consumer demand and lifestyle. This may sound crazy, but most smart businesses will locate in an area where they will succeed. I fully support the rights of any business, either chain or individual, to operate in a marketplace.

    Chains don't drive out the Mom and Pop places directly. It's a by-product of demand. It makes more sense to be angry at the perceived ignorance of those who consistently support chains then to be angry at the chain itself. The chain (or those running it) isn't doing anything wrong by operating a business. In the end, you vote with your dollars. That's it. The chain isn't driving anyone out. People are making a conscious choice to leave one place and go to another. So they must want that. Chains don't put a gun to anyone's head.

    Competition in business is healthy. It raises the overall quality of product and keeps prices lower. A good example is the U.S. car industry. The entry of better built foreign cars into the marketplace has resulted in increased quality of U.S. built cars at a more cost-effective level. I can give you tons of other examples if you'd like.


    Chains may not be always of the highest quality, but it is the "consistency of the quality" that brings people in. They know what they are getting. If it's crap, they can be pretty much be sure that they will get the same crap at another outlet of the same chain. But if it's operating, there obviously is a demand for said crap, and business is all about taking advantage of a niche. So deal with it.

    Part of the reasons that chains flourish is that quality and price vary within the local mom and pop places. Unfortunately, there are a lot of mom and pop joints that suck, and serve low quality food. I would say that in most towns, the crappy and mediocre local joints outnumber the good ones, and the stellar ones are few and far between. Any competition that drives out crappy places, whether or local or chain, is good.

    If you are that angry about dining chains, at least be consistent and avoid the following chains- gas stations, department stores, Home Depots and Lowes, national banks and financial chains, etc. The by-product of the existence of all of these has been to eliminate the local purveyors as well. By patronizing these places, you are then supporting the very entity and activity that you claim to abhor. Although the products may differ, the execution and results are the same.


    #22
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 14:05:57 (permalink)
    I appreciated the history lesson Mr. Chips, having been on for less than a year.


    I agree that we don't need to discuss places like McDonald's, BK , et. al, but some chains are regional, so one may not know the merits or lack there of for places like DC's Silver Diner. And the Sterns, who founded this whole thing, have several reviews of restaurants that are a part of a chain.

    Tedbear, I wholeheartily disgree with your apples to oranges theory. Most restaurants on this coast all get their food from the same supplier: Sysco. And sundries products isn't the only thing that a grocery store sells. They also have meat departments, seafood departments, delicatessens, etc. Jobs were lost when the butcher, fish market, deli, etc were combined in one store. The mom and pop store supplied personal service that large grocers didn't do. The fact that you don't see the problem of chain grocers taking over mom and pop or locally owned grocers, is because it's not a concern of yours. But it's a concern for some people.

    You say: For bulk of my supermarket purchases, a chain has no downside that I can perceive, versus the Mom & Pop grocer. (Or conversely, the Mom & Pop place has no significant advantage that I can perceive.)

    So, you've drawn a line. In this area chains are bad, and here chains are good. But that's for you. That's your mark in the sand. You point out the differences because those are the things you rely on to help you fell comfortable and at ease with your decision. But it's not fact for everyone.

    William's grocery in North Syracuse NY was a mom and pop store. But it had the largest floor space of any grocery store for years. It had the best butcher, the best baker, the freshest seafood and fish. they knew you when you walked in, at the counters, and in the check out lines. You usually even knew the bagger. And their prices were always lower. But Williams is gone. I'm sure the family with disgree with your idea that it's apples and oranges. Why did they fail after 70 years? Because they didn't advertise as much as Wegman's and P & C. They didn't havethe money to advertise as much as the chain places, and they lost business. No matter that the deals and quality was better than the competitor.

    Now, don't get me wrong...I LOVE Wegman's. They have changed quite a bit. Their philosophy is not the same. They've actually improved their products and services. Today, it's a better grocer than back then. But they (along with P & C) did manage to kill off William's and Sweetheart Grocery Store (which was across the street from Williams)

    So, it's really about where you draw your line. I know people who live in the Village of Liverpool (NY) who only shop at Nichol's, because they don't want to lose Nichol's the same way Williams and Sweetheart fell. I'd like to know if those same people eat at chain restaurants, or just go to the independent restaurants in the same village. It would be an interesting statistic.

    You can rationale your decision, and that's fine, we all have to place our threshold somewhere, but it's not apples to oranges for everybody.

    And, I understand that we, on this board, are here to seek out local places that are unique and not replicated. That's why I'm here. But if the Sterns can review an In-N-Out, Original Pancake House, Dairy Queen, Five Guys, and Steak-N-Shake AND Whole Food Markets why can't others at least talk about it without molestation?



    #23
    -Tricky-
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 14:22:40 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Tedbear
    On the other hand, with food preparation, a well-run independently owned and operated non-chain restaurant has the ability to create the level of quality with a product (lets say..a hamburger) that they desire.

    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader


    Tedbear, I wholeheartily disgree with your apples to oranges theory. Most restaurants on this coast all get their food from the same supplier: Sysco.


    I actually have to disagree with you here. While I do agree that many restaurants (Mom and Pop or chain) order from Sysco, it's a matter of what they order. And then what they do with it. Sysco sells a lot of "buy it and drop it in the fryer" sort of foods, but they also sell meat, they sell produce, they sell seafood, they sell soda. They're a full-line distributor. The quality of a lot of their "actually must be cooked" products is fine. But often chains order the "buy it and drop it in the fryer" foods rather than the "actually must be cooked" products. That's consistency.
    #24
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 14:40:54 (permalink)
    His point of apples and oranges had to do with restaurants vs. grocery stores. Your point falls right in-line with my points. Choice of products. Not all grocery stores sell the same exact product.
    The restaurant has a choice, the grocer has a choice. The customer has achoice.
    Shoot, some Home Depots don't sell the same crud. I had my floor picked out at one Home Depot but tried to buy it at the home depot closer to my house and it wasn't sold there. It wan't out of stock, they simply didn't sell that particular floor. arrrggh! I was piping mad. (can you tell?)

    #25
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 15:22:32 (permalink)
    Most grocery stores do sell basically the same products.

    I believe Ted was saying the same thing I'm saying. That IF he wants Oreos, it doesn't matter where they come from. They're Oreos. They require no manipulation.

    But, when he wants to go have a hamburger, he doesn't want McDonald's because the product ordered is a pre-formed soy/beef patty thrown on a flat-top. He'd rather have a hamburger that is hand-formed from real beef and grilled. That requires manipulation - and doesn't happen often in chain restaurants because the more an ingredient is manipulated the less likely there will be consitency across locations. So, while the two burgers ultimately came from the same "store" they aren't the same product. Those two burgers are not like the oreos.

    I do see the apples vs. oranges thing, and that was actually my point in my original post. My big issue is quality and if you're buying Oreos they're the same "quality" whether you buy them at a Mom and Pop grocery or at Wegman's. Grocery stores don't manipulate their products much, so chain or family-owned, the products aren't a lot different. Consistency (of quality) is a non-issue. The quality of the product is going to be the same whereever it's bought.

    But in a restaurant, it is the main issue. If there's one location, an owner doesn't have near the worry about consistency and is completely comfortable buying all raw ingredients and manipulating them. But in a multi-location concept, an owner does have to worry about consistency. It's his main concern. Then quality often ends up suffering.

    If quality is your main reason to dislike chain restaurants, Ted's "Apples vs. Oranges" absolutely applies.
    #26
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 15:44:07 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by -Tricky-

    Most grocery stores do sell the same products.

    I believe Ted was saying the same thing I'm saying. That If he wants Oreos, it doesn't matter where they come from. They're Oreos. They require no manipulation.

    But, when he wants to go have a hamburger, he doesn't want McDonald's because the product ordered is a pre-formed soy/beef patty thrown on a flat-top. He'd rather have a hamburger that is hand-formed from real beef and grilled. That requires manipulation - and doesn't happen often in chain restaurants because the more an ingredient is manipulated the less likely there will be consitency across locations. So, while the two burgers ultimately came from the same "store" they aren't the same product. Those two burgers are not like the oreos.

    I do see the apples vs. oranges thing, and that was actually my point in my original post. My big issue is quality and if you're buying Oreos they're the same "quality" whether you buy them at a Mom and Pop grocery or at Wegman's.




    I go to the grocery stores for more than prepackaged food.
    Meat, Seafood, Deli, Poultry, Dairy, Vegitables, Herbs, Spices, raw foods. It's not the same stuff in each grocer.
    And maybe they do all sell oreos, but not all grocery stores sell the same salsa for example. Ever take a coupon to a store that doesn't sell the product your looking for? It's damn frustrating when you travel from grocery store to grocery store so that you are able to use your coupons. And, the grocery store sells different levels of food quality. The "president's own," the "national brand" the "gourmet," the "store made" and the ingredients to make your own. And every grocery store does not have the same levels. The "store brand" at Wegman's is a completely different level of product than the "store brand" at Safeway. Mom and Pop grocers, are often a bit smaller floor space, therefore, are more choosey about which products make it to the floor and which don't.Their selection is smaller, ye, usually geared more to the clientel they serve daily. One make a request for products and they'll likely start stocking it. One request at a Safeway won't usually make them start shelving something.

    One can rationalize why it's ok to go to a chain grocery store and not a chain restaurant. That's one's line. That's where one make his/her stopping point. I don't care. I go to chain grocery stores and chain restaurants and independent grocery stores and independent restaurants. But keep in mind, the argument over large grocery stores vs. your local butcher, fish market and deli, was held years ago, and we know who pretty much lost that one.

    And the topic is changing to avoid the question, why can't people talk about chains? Especially (an no one has answered this) when the Sterns have reviewed chains in their book and on-line, they even reviewed food a Whole Foods Grocery Store! This point seems to get completely lost.

    I know what you're saying. And perhaps I'm streching a bit. But the point is not so far off base.
    What about the people who hate Wal-Mart, but shop at Target and/or Costco? Somehow, one big box chain is better than another?
    But, that's off topic too...I can't help myself sometimes.

    Anyhoo, sure, I can see why talking about McDonald's is a little pointless no matter what food site you're on, since they're EVERYWHERE, but some people get upset over Five Guys.
    #27
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 16:18:18 (permalink)
    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader


    I go to the grocery stores for more than prepackaged food.
    Meat, Seafood, Deli, Poultry, Dairy, Vegitables, Herbs, Spices, raw foods. It's not the same stuff in each grocer.
    And maybe they do all sell oreos, but not all grocery stores sell the same salsa for example. ...And, the grocery store sells different levels of food quality. The "president's own," the "national brand" the "gourmet," the "store made" and the ingredients to make your own. Even in the grocery store, eveyone has their own stopping point from when they buy the processed instread of making it home made. Diced tomatoes is a good example of that.


    But, that's not my issue. My issue is with the quality of the food I can make. I rarely care about brand names. I rarely buy jarred salsa or prepared foods. I've got no beef with a big box grocery, because whatever I'm buying there is not manipulated. I don't buy store made XYZ. I don't buy pre-diced tomatoes. I buy ingredients and take them home and make food with them. So, I've got no beef with the grocery store. I get better quality (on produce, poultry, meat) at a big box store than I can at a family owned, so why wouldn't I shop there? (I admit that I do like to support the little guy when possible, so if I'm buying pre-packaged stuff I'll buy it from him even if it costs me a little more, but it's not a disdain for the big box, it's more the "liberal" cheer for the underdog part of me.) I don't get better quality food at a chain restaurant, for the most part, so why would I eat at one?


    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader

    Ever take a coupon to a store that doesn't sell the product your looking for? It's damn frustrating when you travel from grocery store to grocery store so that you are able to use your coupons.


    I use coupons on the occasion that I buy something for which I have one, but I'd never, ever, go to another store because I couldn't get the coupon brand at the store I happened to be shopping at. The sheer gas usage would eat up any savings.

    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader

    You are rationalizing why it's ok to go to a chain grocery store and not a chain restaurant.


    I don't really think it's rationalization. It's a matter of whether or not the food tastes better at a chain or not. In my experience it doesn't, so I choose not to return. I don't avoid chain restaurants as a matter of course, but if it's up to me, I will generally choose the independent restaurant because in my experience, the food is better. It's the same reason that I choose a chain grocery for some things. For anything prepackaged, it's the same no matter where it comes from. For most other things, the quality is actually better at large grocery stores than at small Mom and Pops. (If you can find a real butcher shop, he's definitely going to be better than a grocery store butcher case, but as you've pointed out, there aren't many left.)


    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader

    And the topic is changing to avoid the question, why can't people talk about chains? Especially (and no one has answered this) when the Sterns have reviewed chains in their book and on-line, they even reviewed food a Whole Foods Grocery Store! This point seems to get completely lost.


    I guess for those people who don't want to talk about chains, chains don't fit their definition of road food - the title of the site. I, personally, think you can talk about anything you want. I don't have to like it, and if you say that "Cracker Barrel has the best food" I reserve my right to tell you that you must be smoking something. But, in general, if chains stay in the forums where they "belong" I'm not bothered. I'm also not going to begrudge someone a review of McCormick & Schmick's, but I'd be annoyed by a review of Cheesecake Factory. (There are far more of the latter than the former... By now, most of the US is near enough to a Cheesecake Factory that it's no longer a new thing, a novelty, a "Wow!") Either way, I'm fine with making my lack of interest in chains known without responding to the chain threads with a snarky comment.

    quote:
    Originally posted by Scorereader


    What about the people who hate Wal-Mart, but shop at Target and/or Costco? Some how, one big box chain is better than another?


    Guilty. My issue with Wal-Mart isn't that they're a big box store. It's that they have some specific business practices of which I don't approve. Those specific things that I don't like about Wal-Mart, by all reports, are not things that Costco and Target do. They do things I don't like, by choice, that are reprehensible to me. Certainly anybody can understand why someone wouldn't choose to give money to a business that they believe behaves unethically?

    #28
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 17:47:57 (permalink)
    I don't have time to pick apart another email, besides, you and I are agreeing on the chain restaurant thing, just from different angles.

    Still though, no one has responded to the fact that the Sterns have reviewed chains. Which leads me to believe, they occasionally (maybe even rarely) eat at chains. But, it's a relatively small percentage compared to the indie's, so certainly less gabbing about chains is a good thing.

    I beg to differ on my shopping experience that all grocery stores' produce, meat, poultry, etc is the same. And that all chain grocers are better in those departments than an independent. And, the fact that there's even a discussion about why people can loathe chains in one field but not in another is proof that some level of rationalization is going on. You can take it to the level of hardware stores, electronic stores, and other places, Where the chain has taken over the little man. The difference is, you and I grew up on the chain electronic store and the mom and pop restaurants. So when our mom and pop restaurants are threatened, we get frantic. I know I do. If Mother's of Liverpool ever closed and a Romano's Macaroni grill popped up, I'd have a conniption. I'm talking deep end, and I'm going over it.

    And lastly, I've been around the country. For some places, the chain is all there is, because before that, there was farm land. And the independent places that are there, are not good. I mean, I'd like to say all mom and pop places are good, but this sadly isn't true. So, sometimes the chains are it for heading out. I've been in towns where the "restaurants" were a Perkins and a Dairy Queen. They had it all, fast food AND sit down. Imagine THAT world!

    Thanks for everyone's ideas on the subject. And I'm glad we are talking about chains and no one is throwing insults. Makes me feel all warm inside .

    And hey, Tricky, it's ok to be hypocritical when it comes to Wal-Mart and Target...heh, you should see what I've written about Waffle House. Yet, I'm a Five Guys believer!
    #29
    Tedbear
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    RE: Chainophobia 2006/05/18 18:09:18 (permalink)
    Quote from Scorereader: "The fact that you don't see the problem of chain grocers taking over mom and pop or locally owned grocers, is because it's not a concern of yours. But it's a concern for some people."

    I re-read my post, and I really can't imagine how you formed this impression from what I wrote. In fact, I do see a problem for local economies everywhere when local businesses are driven out by chains (be it Starbucks, Wal-Mart, Burger King, etc.) even though I didn't specifically say so. But then again, I also didn't say that I don't see a problem with local businesses being driven out by chain operations. I actually said nothing on that particular tangent of this topic.

    What I stated (as Tricky did comprehend) was that most of the products sold at chain grocers are exactly the same as those sold by Mom & Pop's little corner grocery store. The prices may be different (and the service is undoubtedly different), but the merchandise is the same. I don't buy convenience foods, as they are a poor value, and the staple items that are available are identical from one store to another. That was my point in terms of differentiating from chain supermarkets and chain eating establishments.

    If you feel that this philosophy is inconsistent, so be it. My point (just to beat a dead horse), is that people usually seek out independent eating establishments for the better quality that they usually offer. And, those who are interested in saving money on mass-marketed staple items will usually go to a chain food store, rather than the independent. This is just a matter of choosing what is in one's own best interests in various purchasing situations, rather than setting up rigid personal rules of either steadfastly avoiding all chains or, conversely, patronizing only chain operations.

    I like to be able to vary my spending decisions, based on what I am specifically seeking at that moment. My decision of where to eat or to shop is predicated on several factors, including perceived quality, value for my dollar, and also the known business practices of the particular merchant. Is that a bit more clear?
    #30
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