Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Chains >
Mar 11, 2011 11:37 AM

Reality of the Chain and Fast Food World

I often notice alot of bashing of certain chains and fast food operations. I am not a firm supporter of chain restaurants and do think fast food operations are not in societies best interest. However, I think alot are unfairly judged by unrealistic criteria. Of course a Chipolte, Taco Bell is not going to be the same quality as your locally sourced 1st generation mexican family own restaurant. Just as McD's , Bk, 5guys, probally will not match up to the local pub in your area , killer burger.

It is almost unavoidable that most of us will be forced to eat (even frequent) some type of these chains. My challenge is to come up with a POSITIVE that these places bring to a community even if its not thier food. (possibly a hard task )

For me its like this:

Texas Road House (in my location) does an outstanding job with steaks and ribs. The price quality ratio meets my expectaions 20 fold. They also make a valid effort to help out the community at hand..

Olive Garden, has become my arch rival. I live in an area with some very very good quality Ital food, but yet OG has lines of over an hour EVERY NIGHT.... Thier salad and bread stick are very good, wont lie. I just hate that these kids will grow up thinking that OG is how it shoud taste.

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. I think many bash chains for the sake of, instead of judging them for what they are.

    My top reason for liking chains, as it relates to here, is that they're really the only thing that connects food lovers everywhere. We all know, or can easily find out, the food there and can have fun discussions on them - Everything from trying to fancy them up to mixing and matching for that totally out there bite. If I say, "this place has fries that are better than McDonald's," that means something and we all know what it means. That's a good thing.

    1. Hi all,

      Good, bad or indifferent, chain food is, for the most part, dependable.

      Helpful especially when traveling or in an unfamiliar location.


      P.S. Sometimes a person just HAS to have fries and a greasy burger... :)

      1. One thing that I love about fast Food is that (for the most part), no matter where in the world, they all taste the same (or at least a close approximation). A Hooters in Interlaken tasted like the Hooters in Fairfax, the Wendys in Florence was just like the Wendys in Chester, etc. Sometimes when away from home it's nice to the familiar, no matter how lowbrow it is.

        1. I think Texas Roadhouse is a good example. Most steak houses are incredibly expensive and TR makes a nice griddle top Ribeye. Unfortunately the best one is about 2 hrs from us, but you get the point. (I make my steaks at home).
          Italian food: chain is the antithesis of Italian food which is all about local fresh ingredients prepared simply based on what's available. antithesis. so none of the Italian chains are passable imo. no, not even for italian-american food.
          The problem in general with chains is the amount of salt and sugar they add to their foods to the please the average american palate. A full meal at the cheesecake factory for 2 and a child will set you back $80, and will be incredibly unhealthy and really, inedible if one is not starving.

          this is not to say i dont think chains have their place, fast food more so than "upscale" chain dining which to me is a very slippery slope in american culture.

          4 Replies
          1. re: fara

            who says the local restaurants aren't adding just as much sugar and salt. There is a reason why it tastes so good...

            1. re: spinachandchocolate

              I've eaten at least two local restaurant meals (one Italian and one French, if memory serves), that were incredibly salty, and I love salt.

            2. re: fara

              The amount of salt in chain food isn't for taste. Chili's, TGIF, Olive Garden, etc. don't cook their food. It's cooked in a central facility and trucked in to be reheated in the restaurant. The heavy amount of salt is the preservative used because of the transportation time. At Chili's, most stuff is cooked in a plastic bag and then plated. Which is why I think all food at Chili's has a slightly similar smell and taste no matter what you order. It's the plastic you smell and taste. I call it the "Chili's funk".

              1. re: achtungpv

                Ugh! Thanks for posting this achtungpv! Not sure that cooking in a plastic bag is good for you either. At least fast food doesn't set you back so much money like the upscale chains do. I have a good Baja Fresh near me, I think the manager takes some real pride in his eatery, and there are two McDonalds near me that are different because of the management and people who work there.
                When my friend was on a gluten free diet we were both grateful for Chipote's gluten free option. We just wanted an inexpensive fast meal and they really did a good job.

            3. Someone tore down a decrepit, likely condemned building about a year ago and there is now a Subway in its place. While I've never been inside it, it sure looks better than what was there and it gave a little more activity to the area. It also gave a couple of people some jobs.

              I guess chains can be part of a revitalization of an area, in turn opening the door for more local places.

              Chains can also be of benefit to those with special diets, in areas which are otherwise not particularly geared towards that. I live in a pretty meat and potatoes area, a chain might be the only place I'd ever have the opportunity to eat a veggie burger, for eg. For anyone with allergies, they can access ingredients online ahead of time, alleviating some of the Q&A otherwise when you're in a rush.