The Bad And Good Of The Chain Restaurant - "It's Only Food" Blog at - 262646

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The Bad and Good of the Chain Restaurant 
Jan. 1, 2012 1:16 pm 
Updated: Jan. 10, 2012 9:14 am
There are a lot of good things to say about dining out in a chain restaurant, and there are a lot of dreadful things as well.  Let’s start with the good.  Let me think…oh yeah-average, lackluster food and automaton service.  Now don’t get me wrong, the service is great in some of the chains, but it is usually because the server is brand new with a personality that hasn’t been tarnished by the banality of the job, is passing through to better things, or a company drone with a 401(k) that is just biding their time until they are fully vested in the company and can one day reprieve themselves from serving the same dull food day after day after day, like a beat cop waiting for the day his pension kicks in.
And then there is the food.  You can’t blame the cooks and chefs for the dreary fare that is taken from box to plate and prepared with all the imagination of a factory worker on valium.  They bake, broil and grill whatever the corporate goons sitting behind desks 300 miles away decide.  And it is usually a trend or three behind the culinary curve.  If anyone remembers the great pesto obsession of the early 90’s then you know what I am talking about because it is probably on some chain restaurant’s menu right now..  They don’t create food trends they just copy them, and the chef should not be blamed for that.  Most chain restaurants are a great training ground for those just starting out in the culinary field, a boot camp for those out of culinary school who believe they will be an executive chef in Switzerland with a six figure income at a 5 star hotel when they graduate.  I know quite a few that ended up at Applebee’s or Denny’s to learn how the real world works because it wasn’t explained to them in school that there are long hours and you might just get your chef coat dirty while waiting for a phone call from the Food Network.
I recently moved to an area in Minnesota that has one of the largest malls in the metro area, and there are chain restaurants far and wide.  My wife and I have eaten in our share of them, because it is difficult to find a unique restaurant or bistro, and convenience is always a huge factor.  But we are bored and almost in tears to find a place that will excite us and make a distinct impression.  After eating breakfast at a place that must have had a job fair at the local trailer park, we both said “enough” and are on a quest to find decent digs at which to eat.  Hence I am writing this story to exorcise the demons.
Give me a chef driven restaurant that uses local produce and out-of-the-box ideas in the kitchen, with servers that labor for their tips out of love for the industry and the food.  Give me a ponytailed chef with tattoos and a lip ring that has figured out a new way to prepare calamari or a tapenade, and can make caramelized onions and a béchamel sauce without looking in the standardized corporate cookbook.  Give me a chef that has worked 12 days in a row, but still comes in to work because this is where they belong.  Give me a server that loves their customers and can do their job well without the benefit of the company manuals to show them how.  All of us would benefit greatly.  Especially the culinary field.
Jan. 1, 2012 3:16 pm
Hi John... I laughed out loud at your pesto comment. My in-laws gave us a gift card to The Elephant Bar last year so we finally broke down and went a few weeks ago and guess what I had? A grilled chicken sandwich with tomatoes, mozzarella and pesto! It was horrible by the way... overcooked chicken, soggy bun and a barely-there cheese. We generally don't eat at chains for all the reasons you mentioned above and more, but sometimes they do surprise us. We went to The Yard House last week (another gift card) and it was actually pretty good!
Jan. 1, 2012 4:00 pm
It's hard to go out to eat when you can make something better at home. We are older now, so we enjoy having breakfast when we do decide to go out. Happy New Year!
Jan. 1, 2012 5:13 pm
Try these two if you haven't already.

Lucia's is our favorite but you do need a reservation. Menu changes weekly. Hells kitchen is really good and unique.
Jan. 1, 2012 6:06 pm
I am blessed to live in a town that has limited itself to 5 Guys Burgers by way of chain eateries. There are 3 independently owned/operated diner - luncheonette type places and easily a score of other independent restaurants. Some do provide great food with great service and have thrived. Others have started off well but soon deteriorated to something a rung below a chain run place. I will say, if you are in an unfamiliar place and have nobody to steer you to a good local eatery, the chain usually will offer few surprises.
Jan. 1, 2012 6:11 pm
Up here in Canada, we have a couple of really decent chain restaurants. One is even better than most of the type you idealize and it's called Milestones. Excellent food, atmosphere and the fully visible staff are laughing a lot. The other is in the food court and is called Sizzling Wok, the food is simple japanaese and I love it, have it every time I go to the city, a jumbo chicken rice bowl, healthy tasty and oh so satisfying. Great blog subject!
Jan. 3, 2012 8:18 am
Do not post work from home offers and links here as they will be deleted and the user banned from this site
Jan. 3, 2012 8:19 am
Some chains are okay, as long as they are chef driven and use fresh product, and don't try to be too hip and trendy, because usually they are a decade off
Jan. 3, 2012 8:21 am
TGIF is a good example. Other chains just make bland and tasteless food, hich is their option. Some of them even make money, and employ people-so I am all for that, and some of them make a good training ground for future jobs
Jan. 10, 2012 9:14 am
my neighbor's mother-in-law makes $78 hourly on the computer. She has been out of a job for 10 months but last month her pay was $8425 just working on the computer for a few hours. Read more here...
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John Politte

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Leavenworth, Kansas, USA
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Coon Rapids, Minnesota, USA

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Oct. 2009

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Grilling & BBQ, Stir Frying, Slow Cooking, Asian, Mexican, Indian, Italian, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Vegetarian, Kids, Quick & Easy, Gourmet

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About Me
I have been a professional restaurant person for 30+ years. I started out as a dishwasher and worked my way up the ladder. No schooling except for hands on experience in locations around the USA. I am now starting my own business as a consultant and food writer.
My favorite things to cook
Everything-except baking and desserts
My favorite family cooking traditions
Gravy, my side of the family is mostly French , so we love the sauces and gravies.
My cooking triumphs
Starting my own public access cooking show-"It's Only Food". Did 33 shows in 3 years as the chef and producer. It certainly opened up a lot of doors and paved the way for changing the way I look at food.
My cooking tragedies
Missing my family growing up and working 80 hour weeks, but I can say that it paid off. No regrets.
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