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Why are chains so big with younger people?

I am a college student, and like most college students, I use Facebook.

One Facebook group demands bringing "Chipotle, Noodles and Company, and Panera Bread to Duluth!!!" along with Cheesecake Factory, Buffalo Wild Wings, and Fuddruckers. And most kids I know go to a chain restaurant, like Applebee's or Olive Garden, when going out with friends.

Why is this? Do they really think chain restaurants offer better food than comparable local restaurants? Is it the atmosphere? The advertising? Most people say they'd prefer to go local over corporate, so...

I wonder...

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  1. To Duluth? I love Duluth but I agree they need more non chain restos. We lived 4 hours north of there for 25 years we never ate at chains unless we were tolling into town at 1 am after riding our bikes 300 km to get there.

    Duluth has so many great non chains

    India Palace
    Amazing Grace
    That Mexican Place
    This really great chinese food place that looks totally divey but is great

    I say no to more chains in Duluth and I don't even live there.

    1. I was a college student. Long ago. And unlike most people my age, I have heard of Facebook.

      Sorry, I like my little jokes. But really, I don't think that chain restaurants are more popular among college students or other people in their 20s than they are with people in their 30s, 80s or anywhere in between. I don't like chain restaurants. At their best all they can aspire to is a minimal standard of standardness. But a lot of people would rather play it safe and choose The Red Lobster than take a chance on a real restaurant especially when all you can eat shrimp is in play. And, I really hate to admit this, but where I currently live, your chances of getting a satisfying belly full of warm, greasy chain restaurant fodder are better than your chances of getting a good meal at a non-chain restaurant. I think most people most of the time just want to go out with their friends and have some drinks and some acceptable food. They would choose better food than chain food if they could but they are not going to search for it. They are certainly not going to fight for it.

      1 Reply
      1. re: inuksuk

        Ditto this.

        Chains are chains because they are popular with the GENERAL populace, regardless of age.

        We, as Chowhounds, often lose sight of the fact that we are MINORITIES. Sure, on these boards here we are amongst friends, but in the real words (ha!) we are far, far outnumbered.

      2. I think one of the reasons is cost. Generally you can get a burger, fries and drink for less at McD's than at a greasy spoon.
        There's the fact that they'll go out en masse and need common denominator food. Or places that offer diversity.
        There's the fact that, it seems, chains are being visited more by parents on the go. So it's what they grew up with.

        Just a few thoughts.

        DT

        1. Obvious. Chain food targets children--with energy dense, high fat, salty foods with no challenging tastes.

          1. I think it mimics the general population. Big boxes are the way most people tend to shop and chains are where people eat, outside of large metropolitan cities. Though there are people who don't, most people where I live rarely consider a non-chain. I was complaining that the only place I could get coffee was from Starbucks and no one understood what my complaint was.

            8 Replies
            1. re: chowser

              I agree, chowser, I think its reflective of society generally. Something like 80% of the US population bought something at Wal-Mart last year. Chains, big box stores are a part of our fabric right now.

              One other reason I can think of, though, that college students might want particular chain restaurants (or, I bet if you look, want a Target in their town if they don't have one...etc) is that they're likely communicating with friends at colleges all over the place. Its fun to talk about food and the only common food people in different cities can find is chains. (In this case, by common I mean purportedly the same food; that is, not just burittos but a Chipotle buritto with whatever on it).

              1. re: chowser

                Chowser, I was amazed when my daughter went to college. Her friends thought nothing of spending $5.00+, 4-5 times a day for Starbucks coffee drinks or lunch/snacks from Panera bread. I offered to chip in a but a espresso machine for the common areas of the suite but they others weren't interested.

                My daughter is now a Jr and she is getting more interested in cooking for herself as they will be living in college owned apartments this year.

                I agree that they like chains for the safe tastes that remind them of home.

                1. re: Kelli2006

                  I'm confused. Don't people who post on CH make food at home that is unlike what is found at chains?

                  1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                    Sam Fujisaka,
                    My daughter is unusually willing to try new foods, but she usually ends up at chain restaurants when she goes out with friends. I tried in the past to interest her in cooking, but she was more than willing to allow me do all the cooking in our home.

                    Now that she will not be eating her all of her meals in the dining hall, she has decided that her culinary skills are lacking. Her room mate is from Hong Kong and is very inventive and talented cook, but Amanda (my daughter) wants to do her part in the kitchen, and misses the tastes that she grew up eating.

                    I am not teaching her individual recipes, but cooking methods and how to assemble ingredients in a manner that they will enjoy. She is studying architecture, and the "Cooking for Engineers" website is amazingly suited to her personality.
                    http://www.cookingforengineers.com/

                    I am sorry for any confusion my initial post caused.

                    1. re: Kelli2006

                      K6, between your teaching Amanda techniques and the Hong Kong room mate, I think your daughter just about might be set for life. Lucky girl.

                      1. re: Sam Fujisaka

                        Sam. Her roommate Cynthia ( she doesn't use her Mandarin name in English) is living with us for the summer. She couldn't afford to go back home for just 3 months, and found a good paying summer job working with Amanda. I am teaching them both how to make typical American fare, plus the European peasant foods/desserts that I grew up eating, and in return, Cynthia is teaching me to make authentic Chinese and other Asian cuisines.

                        2 more months of Cynthia's instruction and the local Chinese take-out restaurant will forget my name and address. She makes it seem so simple.

                        1. re: Kelli2006

                          Kelli- I had chinese roomates in college, and it was the best cooking education I've ever had. You and your daughter are very lucky.

                          and, I love the cooking for engineers site- his recipe matrix alone is excellent. I've employed it many times when writing out a recipe for others.

                          1. re: Kelli2006

                            K6, would you please relay to Amanda and Cynthia how lucky I think you all are for having the summer of cooking together--from an Asian-American friend of yours in Latin America.