Do you think we are influncing the food quality in the Chains--I'm seeing a lot of posts reconsidering their position on Chains...
Absolutely NOT. Never!
NewDude has the most thorough explanation - lowest possible costs to please the lowest common denominator / largest customer demographic. In smaller communities, add the risk aversion factor of a new restaurant owner - being 'different' is a huge gamble that most won't take.
Getting a 'quality' product is the luck of the draw. I agree that somewhat due to competition but mostly improved automated food processing, the threshold level of 'disgusting' has slowly escalated over time.
My experience regarding 'authenticity' in a fast food chain is that management and their consultants come up with a formula and slavishly stick to it. New items are usually just combos of the existing industrial ingredients. Anything approaching authenticity is coincidence combined with luck; an EPL taco al carbon is one example that comes to mind.
I wish, but sadly no. In fact, I'm off the PF Chang's bandwagon. The past two times I've been, it's been expensive and not good at all. I don't know what makes them think their sesame chicken and Chang's spicy chicken (which is supposed to be their General Tso's chicken) are what they say they are. They're just so bad. That being said, I do still love the orange beef and chicken lettuce wraps.
The major influence on fast food these days is cost. All food costs have spiked very sharply as a result of conversion of agricultural fields for the production of biofuels. As a result, less land is available for actual agriculture; this, along with growing populations and therefore higher demand, leads to extremely high prices.
This leads to inventive ways of disguising higher food costs, such as reducing portion size or offering "value item sandwiches" you can fit on the head of a pin...
Quality varies tremendously, depending upon:
1. how new the franchise is (newer store, sloppier work)
2. the time when you buy (lunch hour rush leads to fresher food, off peak leads to fast food under heat lamps)
3. how slovenly or demoralized the staff is: some chains attract and recruit older workers who are more professional and keep younger employees in line, others are staffed by burnouts who can't be bothered to pick their noses when they have to
Will add to the "NO" vote regarding CH influence on quality.
However, I think it's possible that other factors might influence reviews. I'll offer myself as Exhibit A.
Got a gift certificate from our accountant for CF. I've had a few meals at CFs outside my region, none memorable, and always thought the price/value ratio was whacked (perhaps because I was on the road and couldn't appreciate taking home the leftovers).
Anyway, wife and I went with the express purpose of ordering for leftovers, knowing we'd take home a doggy bag.
To give props where due, my wife's chicken with caper sauce was pretty good. Actually, you can say it was very good considering the $15.99 price. I had an avocado "eggroll" or whatever they call it for an appetizer and it was pretty tasty too (I ate the whole app, but only about 1/4 of my entree). The rest of the food was good, not great and the leftovers made an easy dinner the next day. We set our expectations accordingly, had two apps, two entrees, couple of soft drinks and got out for $50, including tax and tip. That's a win.
Not that I'd choose it with my own money, but anytime someone wants to gift us with a dinner at CF, we'd go. That's one less chain on my hit list. Am I going to recommend it over a good indie for a little more scratch? Probably not. But neither am I going to say it's one step from hell.
Because one step from hell is McCormick & Schmick ;-)
There may be posters from areas where the local restaurants are terrible. I think a lot of people on Chowhound assume that every city has a treasure trove of independent restaurants, when in fact some are really limited. If you are from a city with limited independent options or really atrocious non-chains, a chain is not going to seems so bad in comparison.
Like others have said, chains are not bad when traveling as well. Many times, I don't know when or where I am going to stop, and chains are typically reliable and at least provide edible food.
I think most people appreciate Chowhound because it is a source of information about local places to eat as OPPOSED to the chains. Chains are good because travelers know what to expect when they walk in. You just never know what you will find in locally-run restaurants unless someone has helped out with information in advance.
I think you can get good food in chains though. Just yesterday my husband and I had a very delicious, quick lunch at Panera Bread in Bowie near Washington, DC. We would have rather gone to a locally-run restaurant though if we had known about a good one on our route.
Chains are sometimes great. They are usually clean and attractive and have large, very informative menus.
My teenaged daughter is a Chowhound, too, and we were both starving and stuck in an outlet mall in the midde nowhere (AppleBee's was the best option available, and even though the food wasn't very good, they did have steamed veggies on the menu - the only healthful option, and they weren't overcooked, surprisingly. We wouldn't go to the AppleBee's close to home, but in a culinary desert, it saved us.
I agree with alwayscooking. The people who for the most part are interested in good food don't read the chain board and don't speak on this board regaridng chains. And the people who are interested in chains don't bother with the other boards as much.
However, let someone try to praise a chain on a local board and you get this ...
And please, if you are enamoured with Cheescake Factory, report on the chain board. That happens to be a new one that opened locally and basically lots of people offered better suggestions about places to eat in that area.
That was actually an awesome thread that you referenced - it was a gorgeous example of how you can use the boards to educate people about the local cuisine.
I might just start a bogus one based on the location of my new workplace - I'm having a hell of a time finding decent chow -- That looks like the way to do it!!
Nope, not at all.
If, and that's a big IF, the food is getting better at chains it's because there are more and more chains popping up and others are forced to up the ante.
I've seen nothing to suggest the quality is improving and since food decisions are generally made while looking at the bottom line, I'd say no way.
I doubt it. I suspect people who read and post here constitute only a tiny percentage of chain restaurants' customers. And in fact, I think overall the food quality is rapidly getting a lot worse, as cost-cutting measures implemented by corporate bean-counters become ever more evident on the plates of the dining public.
In trying to keep an eye on my family's expenses for eating out, I'm one by one eliminating the chains where I've had unacceptable food and/or service. The list of ones I'll still visit is getting pretty darn short these days.