I'm not sure when the separation of chain vs. sole or small number location restaurants took place. I think there can also be a separation between the selection of restaurant-of-the-day and the forum, where chains have their own section.
There is definitely a different 'feel' between a single roadfood place, where the owner works in the building, and a chain restaurant serving the exact same menu, and managed by someone trying to boost his numbers.
However, eating at In-N-Out in California reminded me of eating at the also-reviewed All-American Hamburger Drive-In of Massapequa, Long Island, New York. Freshly cut french fries. Single and double hamburgers. Shakes. Sodas. Reasonable prices.
The reality of the situation is that if a chain is not national, a visitor to their area doesn't know if this is the only such restaurant or if it is a regional chain.
I think the reason the FF chains get such a bad rap today is that, over the years, they have tinkered with the formula so much it is now industrial food. How many burger chains use fresh beef today? Any chain that serves mashed potatoes, dirty rice, frozen scrambled egg patties, etc. is not preparing the food from fresh ingredients. In-N-Out did not leave me with that "industrial food" impression.
<message edited by David_NYC on Tue, 12/15/09 3:18 AM>