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Olive Garden in decline?

"Underperformance at Olive Garden, Darden's full-service Italian restaurant operator, which has 792 eateries, delivered lackluster results in three quarters of 2012. Olive garden will likely pose a threat to Darden's bottom line" - http://tinyurl.com/d242ueg

Is John Q Public finally seeing through the OG menu?

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  1. Lower than low?

    3 Replies
    1. re: L2k

      Lower than low's basement.

      1. re: L2k

        It should be entirely possible, using Flickr, Google Web Stats, Amazon AWS & other Web tools, to map out its pitch and decline, and -- more importantly -- determine *exactly when* was its height, what were the images made online during this peak time of Olive Garden apex and dominance...

        1. re: bkarger

          maybe not -- lot of OG's dominance was long before the intarwebs.

      2. Quelle horreur!!! Oh the humanity!! ;)

        1. Big surprise! People must be getting sick of alfredo sauce over cheese sutffed prefried chicken and pasta.

          1 Reply
          1. re: libgirl2

            Don't count on it but I would say there is more competition which is driving people into other restaurants. Even though there is a movement away from sugar and white starch I don't think the average visitor to OG is among them.

          2. Every location of the Olive Garden in my environs have started to have competition from one or more of Carrabbas, Macaroni Grill or Johnny Carinos. All three of which are marginally to greatly preferable to Olive Garden.

            I really do need to try Olive Garden again though, it's been 3-4 years since we have been.

            4 Replies
            1. re: kengk

              you aren't missing much. I still remember when they started out.... it was quite yummy. I miss my linguini with white clam sauce.

              1. re: libgirl2

                That was the dish that opened my eyes to what a fraud OG was. I know it's a popular dish, but the first time I ate at an OG, I ordered it, and was presented with overcooked pasta and gluey sauce, not at all what good linguini with white clam sauce should be. I chalked it up to a bad night at that restaurant. The second time I went to an OG, in a different state, I ordered it again and was presented with overcooked pasta and gluey sauce. There was no third time -- the few times since then I've had to eat at an OG, I ordered something else and filled up on the salad.

                1. re: Bob W

                  The last time I ordered it I had your experience, but the first couple of time.... it was good. My parents stopped going when they nuked my mom's soup and gave her sticky pasta too.

                2. re: libgirl2

                  <I miss my linguini with white clam sauce.>

                  It's really very easy to make yourself. ;)

              2. Maybe the CEO should bad-mouth some minority like the Chik-Fil-A CEO. It was horrible PR but at least it grabbed everyone's attention. And maybe other people who agree with him or her will create an Olive Garden Appreciation Day.

                Maybe that's not such a good idea after all.
                http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07...

                1. The demand for fast-casual Italian-American fare is probably the same, but the supply has increased significantly.

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: ipsedixit

                    That is a very good point. When OG started out in my area, there really weren't many casual chains, let alone Italian ones... it really was a novelty.... Now I have two other places to chose from and several other chains that feature pasta (for better or worse)...

                  2. Wow - if it weren't for the financials, I can't see how anyone would even be able to tell that "Olive Garden" was in decline - lol!!!!!

                    1. I had never been there until recently. Being well aware of the hype in their commercials, I wisely chose the chianti braised short ribs with portabello risotto. It was really quite good.

                      9 Replies
                      1. re: mucho gordo

                        I've not been to Olive Garden, so I can't comment personally on their portabella risotto. But I'm impressed that is was good. Even fine restaurants par-cook their risotto, but inexpensive chain restaurants generally pre-cook them almost all the way, and they end up being served rather gluey. Maybe Olive Garden has identified a source of particularly robust arborio that allows risotto to be offered in a restaurant focused on foods with a lot of pre-preparation.

                        1. re: drongo

                          I found it good, drongo, but I'm not that familiar with what a good risotto should taste like. I don't recall it being gluey. It may not have met your criteria.

                          1. re: mucho gordo

                            Should we be upset? I mean is this a culinary icon that fell off the cliff!? A lot of so called nuevo Italian chains think they cook authentic Italian but only do an average to a mildly good job at pulling it off. Now the Italian American places seem to connect more with American diners, who swear it's real Italian cuisine. I think Olive Garden fits that niche. Memories of Mom's quick Italian meals at home as a child. But even their versions are average at best

                            1. re: keithlb1

                              I'm not sure what you mean by Italian American, keith. Chains like OG are American serving an American version of Italian food. I don't know of any Italian chains serving authentic Italian dishes; maybe Buca di Beppo. I think the only true Italian places are Mom/Pop type operations.

                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                There isn't a lot of those so called Mom and Pop places left, and most of those are what Olive Garden attempts to imitate, with the basic Itailan American menu. Now if you go to an urban area you will find more chef driven places that have learned to cook real Italian. Not just spaghetti and meatballs, Linguini clam sauce etc. Although good in their own right just not a good representation of real Italian cuisine.

                                1. re: keithlb1

                                  Go to any seaside Italian town, say Naples, and you'll find a noodle with clams (vongole) at nearly every restaurant. It is absolutely representative of Italian cooking. But the "realness" gets lost in translation.

                            2. re: mucho gordo

                              If it was gluey you would have noticed!

                              1. re: mucho gordo

                                And there's the rub. People not familiar with Italian food may find Olive Garden passable, even good.

                                1. re: fame da lupo

                                  But, I am quite familiar with good Italian food prepared by good friends I grew up with back in the 50's in CT. Families that had recently come to this country from Italy. One mama would prepare the best dinners while her sister, who sang professionally in the New Haven area, would entertain us. OG, while it can not be compared to home cooking, does serve up a reasonable enough facsimile to evoke fond memories.

                          2. people need jobs to go out to eat.

                            1. I didn't think it could get any lower.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: wincountrygirl

                                Uh, I don't think the "decline" is referring to food quality (or perhaps more accurately, how you feel about the food).

                              2. i'll bet 75% of the people grousing here about OG have never eaten at one. I always laugh at these chowhound pile-ons.

                                14 Replies
                                1. re: alkapal

                                  Only three times - three strikes....... Not sure why I returned a second time. Guess I couldn't believe how bad it really was. The third time, I was trapped within a group. Thought I could stay "safe" with the soup, salad, bread sticks. Wrong yet again......

                                  1. re: Clams047

                                    i was in a "group" both times i've been there. it wasn't horrible, and it was perfectly fine for the occasion (decent food, more about the company we were in) but it isn't a place we would choose to go. we'd much rather have thai or chinese, or persian kabobs….or eat italian at a small local place.

                                    many people don't have so many options as we do in our area (nova/dc). in many towns across america, this may be one of the only restaurants that serves "italian" food.

                                    i try not to be a snob about food. i know good food and i know average food. OG is average food. but i think a certain chowhound/foodie snobbery always rears its head when ANY CHAIN is mentioned. it is like a reflex with some people. i've come to expect it. it is pretty funny to observe, though pathetic in a way.

                                    1. re: alkapal

                                      well said.

                                      1. re: alkapal

                                        For many places around the country, OG is the only place to go out for dinner that's not a drive-though. It's not great. It's not horrible. It's dinner that you don't make yourself.

                                        1. re: alkapal

                                          I live in a modest-sized, non-suburban city (pop in the 50-80K range) and the recently opened OG is probably on par or better than the handful of Italian restaurants.

                                          I could drive 30 minutes down the highway for better (and more expensive) Italian food, but I don't believe in going that far just for dinner.

                                      2. re: alkapal

                                        Have eaten at OG dozens of times (never by my choice; always either someone else's pick, or the only option for whatever reason).

                                        High prices for incredibly mundane food that no more resembles real Italian food than a peanut butter sandwich.

                                        The business is the only thing that could possibly decline -- the food couldn't go much beyond where it already is. Their pasta has been cooked to death and beyond -- and when did the concept of "al dente" become mainstream -- 20 years ago? OG either didn't notice or chose to ignore it.

                                        I can only hope that the decline is because the American public is waking up and realizing what a hot mess the place is and taking their business to where they get their money's worth.

                                        and it's not because I dislike chains -- and not even because I dislike *Darden* chains -- but Olive Garden has never been anything except high prices for mediocre at best.

                                        1. re: sunshine842

                                          >>> incredibly mundane food that no more resembles real Italian food than a peanut butter sandwich.<<<

                                          i guess hyperbole is the order of the day.

                                          http://www.olivegarden.com/Menu/Dinner/

                                          1. re: alkapal

                                            I know what's on the menu at OG.
                                            I know what I've eaten in Italy (several regions) -- or at any of a number of Italian restaurants around the US -- or at the home of my Italian-born friends.

                                            Little resemblance, little doubt as to which one is more "real Italian", and no doubt at all as to which has the better taste and texture.

                                            1. re: sunshine842

                                              oh gee, you think?

                                              1. re: sunshine842

                                                And you really can't see a closer relationship to food found in Italy or Italian Americans homes than to a peanut butter and jelly sandwich. LOL!

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  It's a lot like saying that "Ernest Goes To Hollywood" can be compared to "Gone With The Wind" or "Casablanca". Well, they're all movies...that's about all you can say.

                                                  Yes, OG is pasta. That's about all I can say.

                                                  I didn't die from eating there -- but I have never enjoyed it, and would never choose to go there if there were any valid options or a way out of the social situation. I don't complain or behave inappropriately -- but I don't rave about it, either.

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    who is raving about it? you think we equate OG with authentic italian dining? you have a pretty low opinion of us. you just went too far in saying it has nothing to do with "real" italian food.

                                          2. re: alkapal

                                            I think you underestimate the number of people who are forced to eat at OG b/c of relatives, friends, other events that you cannot decline.

                                            1. re: fame da lupo

                                              ITA with that...last time I ate at an OG was for a funeral lunch; the time before that was a business lunch where the guest insisted on OG.

                                              In neither case was I in a position to exert influence.

                                          3. Was never really impressed with O.G. , more of a convenience thing. Given the time, always went across the river to South Philly (Little Italy) and got the real deal from a small row house BYOB restaurant.

                                            1. I worked there in college. If you saw behind the scenes you wouldn't eat there. Servers graze freely on peoples plates. No gloves when making salads. The clientele is cheap as well. I was a smiley, fast, efficient server. I won sales contests and tons of great service comment cards. It was nearly impossible to get the 20% I worked my butt off for. I knew it was going to be a tough shift when people asked for paper napkins, thinking the linen was a place mat.

                                              6 Replies
                                              1. re: BiloxiFoodie

                                                These points are unique to Olive Garden? I think not.

                                                1. re: tommy

                                                  There are a lot of key positions in the restaurant business that really don't pay a lot ( By the Hour). Over time I think chains often get to big to properly manage and the overall quality of product & service slips / becomes inconsistent.

                                                  Most restaurant owners I know live and breathe their business..... can't say the same for folks I know who have managed chains.

                                                  Also there is often little purchasing flexibility. I remember trying to sell same day locally caught #1 grade fish that would be served in a places like Le Bec-Fin or Striped Bass to Seafood Shanty. My price was cheaper than their regional suppliers and the manager said it was the nicest fish he had ever seen but he did not have the authority to purchase it. Like many other chains, they spiked, fizzled & faded away.

                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                    These points are unique to Olive Garden? I think not.

                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                      I do not believe I indicated they were!

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        The claim that chains are less managed and consistent flies in the face of everything I understand about the restaurant industry. The issues noted by the poster above are not unique to OG.

                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                          I am not the poster above........ and my post referred to problems associated with "CHAINS"..... specifically low hourly wages for many key positions, lack of direct owner interest & inflexible purchasing policies and how these shortfalls often become more problematic as the size of a chain grows.

                                                          I will concede the consistency issue in ONE AREA......I have yet to leave a large chain with that "Wow that was great" feeling. (excluding high end steak houses)

                                              2. I'm curious.

                                                For those that are dissing Olive Garden's food, can you give me your point of reference?

                                                What other places have better (or even comparable) food at a similar price point (approx. $10-15/entree)?

                                                People always say local or "mom-and-pop" places are better. Ok. Fine.

                                                Please name them. City, State and location please. Website if possible.

                                                (And remember these local joints, or mom-and-pop places, better have garlic bread sticks, never ending salad and/or soups).

                                                Thanks.

                                                67 Replies
                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                  The level of food of the local "mom and pops" in north jersey is so low as to be laughable. Hard to dismiss OG in that light, especially since they serve alcohol, which is a selling point for many.

                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                    Then I do not want to hear any vitriol directed at Olive Garden from the fine residents of Northern NJ, unless the same is directed at those local, mom-and-pop joints.

                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                      Good luck with that. :)

                                                    2. re: tommy

                                                      That is a shame your area lacks good "mom & pops", however, I do not feel that a lack of good independent pizza shops in a given area in any way elevates the products produced by domino's.

                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                        Oh there are plenty and plenty of people think they are really good. But they're not.

                                                        1. re: Tom34

                                                          Zing.

                                                      2. re: ipsedixit

                                                        Never ending salad and garlic breadsticks do not a good Italian restaurant make.

                                                        They might make a McPasta joint bearable, but they are hardly a criteria to be considered for rating a restaurant as superior to mom and pop places.

                                                        1. re: PenskeFan

                                                          Bread sticks & salad ingredients are some of the cheapest in the walkin as is the labor to prep them. Their never ending supply is to make up for the lack of expensive high end ingredients and the skilled labor to properly prepare them.

                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                          In the SF Bay Area there is a local chain called Pasta Pomodoro, 18 locations. They serve a similar menu, although their food (fresh-tasting ingredients, recipes, actual cooking) is miles above OG. Their price point is similar, but they do not have any of the AYCE specials.

                                                          When I am working my company's office, there is one nearby and it's a common choice for lunch. Their food even holds up fairly well if it is ordered for take-out and delivered to the office for a group. The lunch "express" special is $8.95 and includes soup or salad, choices of pasta or panini. Instead of breadsticks they serve a warm, house-baked foccaicia with an herb dipping oil. While none of this is unlimited, for most people it's going to be a filling lunch.

                                                          http://www.pastapomodoro.com/

                                                          Unfortunately they do not list prices for everything on the web menu. As a matter of interest, I just looked at the on-line menu for the San Francisco OG. Except for the heavily advertised specials, e.g., Never-ending pasta $9.95, prices are a bit higher than I would have expected (appetizers around $10, entrees $12-18, desserts $7-8). This is probably due to the high cost of doing business in SF and average prices are probably lower in other parts of the US.

                                                          I have not yet dissed OG's food on this board, but here goes: I have eaten at OG three times. The food was less than fresh, especially salads. The pasta was about the same taste and texture you would get in a Stouffer's frozen dinner and the service was indifferent.

                                                          1. re: pamf

                                                            Thank you. That's certainly a most very helpful and informative post.

                                                            By any chance is your gift for insightful gab a communicable condition?

                                                            1. re: ipsedixit

                                                              Glad you mentioned the never ending salad and breadsticks. We have a local Italian place run by Johnny Carrabba, yes Carrabba's, but it is one of only two non-chain location, both here in Houston. A large salad is slightly over seven dollars, and feeds the wife and I plus leftovers. I think that qualifies as all you can eat. Local Olive Garden, according to their website 5.65. Bread, we've never been denied all we could eat of their fantastic bread, with my wife pouring on copious amounts, extra from the staff, good olive oil. Win Carrabba's. Lasagna, fresh, maybe a dollar more, same for basic pasta dishes, just a buck or two more. Fettucini Alfredo is out of this world, made with fresh pasta. Higher end dishes are up to five dollars more. We sit at the food bar where all dishes in the place are made fresh, right before our eyes. Olive Garden boasts in bold lettering that all meats and Italian sausage is sauteed fresh, really. What about everything else? I guess we're lucky where we can eat fresh food, at a non-chain, locally owned. Here is the website, unfortunately I can't get the menu to link, as they are going through an expansion and I'm guessing that's the reason.

                                                              http://www.carrabbas.com/restaurant/l...

                                                              The bottom line is, we're lucky to have a restaurant with far better salad and bread, much better food, all for maybe five bucks more a head. No Olive Garden for me.

                                                              1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                Um, you mean this Carraba's? http://www.carrabbas.com/home

                                                                It's a chain dude.

                                                                I think many on these boards would equate Carraba's with Olive Garden.

                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                  Uh no, you failed to read and or comprehend the start of the post where I stated it was one of two non-chain places still run by original owner Johnny Carrabba. Maybe I wasn't clear enough in stating that it is a non-chain, one of only two, both here in Houston. Please read the post again, I was doing some edits at the end and you may have missed some, especially the website, where unfortunately I can't get the menu to link, as explained above. It is different from the chain menu in many respects, and a few bucks higher.

                                                                  1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                    Don't they have the same or similar menus to all of the other locations? I'm a bit confused at why these two locations would be so much more exceptional than the others, even if Johnny is boiling the pasta himself.

                                                                    1. re: tommy

                                                                      Similiar menus, but the Kirby location chef has been there over twenty-five years, the other cooks fifteen to twenty plus. Johnny C is in there virtually every day but does not cook. The difference is quality control. Think about it, how many places have expanded into chains and the quality fluctuates wildly? Do you really think the original Kentucky Fried Chicken resembles KFC, or McDonalds wtih all their pre-cooked food and mystery shakes? On a smaller scale, we have a local fried chicken place, Frenchy's which is light years above the franchise places. Come to Houston and try the original Carrabba's before you try to compare it to some outpost in Florida or Idaho, or wherever, or the Olive Garden.

                                                                      1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                        Do you really think the original Kentucky Fried Chicken resembles KFC, or McDonalds wtih all their pre-cooked food ansd mystery shakes?

                                                                        _____________________

                                                                        Not sure I understand. But, yes, I do.

                                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                          If there's one thing that chains excel at, it's quality control. There's only so much quality control is going to make the food on that menu taste that much more exceptional than other locations.

                                                                          But, since I've never been, and probably won't ever go, I'll defer to you on this. I do know that the Jersey Mike's Subs in the town in which it originated, is still owned by the franchisor, and it is markedly better than the other, franchised, locations I've been to. Or maybe it's just in my head.

                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                            Tommy, I'm going to agree and disagree here. I will say some chains excel at quality control, the prime example being MCDonald's same food, every place every time. I don't happen to like it other than an ocassional fish, had one last week, double filet, no cheese. Think about it, and I know you've been around awhile because I've read, and admired, many of your posts. Think about all the posts you've read about a place, Applebee's, Friday's, Chili's, take your pick of any chain where reviews have varied wildly from place to place across the country. Think of the times where somebody says the Lee's Summit, Mo. place was great, but the Tokeka, Ks. was horrible. It happens all the time and must drive corporate types crazy. I look to local management and staff to be the problem in most places. I work retail, and have been in stores where a new manager takes over a struggling store and turns big numbers. That's my point with the locally owned Carrabba's here, it's not the menu, but the experience of the chef, cooks, staff, low turnover, and a local, hands on owner.

                                                                            1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                              I can totally appreciate what you're saying. But I can't say I've read about people pointing out differences in Applebee's or Friday's location to location. They've all been the same to my memory. In fact the I don't know if I could tell you the difference between a Friday's or Applebee's if you sat me down at the restaurants and showed me the menu. :)

                                                                              There's nothing admirable about my posts.

                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                Actually, I've never eaten at those two places, just using them as an example. Maybe they're bad examples. My first, and only ex-wife was always trying to drag me to Friday's but I prevailed. Maybe we'd still be married if I had succumbed to her Friday's seductive ways. Good thing I didn't. Hey, don't sell yourself short, you're no slouch as a poster.

                                                                                1. re: tommy

                                                                                  I will give you consistency with Applebee's. The few times I had steak there I was thirsty for hours afterward. Friday's has consistently served me well done burgers that would have performed better sliding across ice.

                                                                                  On the other post, no tone intended.....Just a "very unique" opportunity to compare and contrast 2 chain restaurants.....assuming ingredients being equal ....corporate vs private.....long term employees vs short term employees.

                                                                                  1. re: tommy

                                                                                    Applebee's sucks here. Applebee's in the town 2 hours away is good.

                                                                                    1. re: wyogal

                                                                                      Since I don't spend much time on the Chains boards where people might be discussing these issues, could you explain what has been different about these restaurants?

                                                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                                                        The food is crappy here. Not prepared properly (the soup was as if they dumped a can of congealed soup into the bowl and brought it out cold, another time, about two small slices of meat on a sandwich, like the size of the pinky finger). I was admonished by the server on bother occasions. Yes.
                                                                                        The other one, better food, prepared as one would expect, and great service.

                                                                                  2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                    Agreed....I think its preposterous to compare the variables involved in consistently preparing a full chain restaurant menu VS perfectly placing 2 pickle slices and a measured squirt of corporate special sauce from a caulking gun on a Big Mack.

                                                                                2. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                  Same Chef for 25 years & same line cooks for 15 to 20 years and an owner on location every day and the food is consistently better the the Corporate Clones with all their corporate quality control measures & nomad cooks who float from one chain to another for a 50 cent an hour raise. Any insight into how this could be TOMMY?

                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                    Your tone is disturbing. Thanks.

                                                                                3. re: tommy

                                                                                  Don't they have the same or similar menus to all of the other locations? I'm a bit confused at why these two locations would be so much more exceptional than the others, even if Johnny is boiling the pasta himself.

                                                                                  __________

                                                                                  That was my thought.

                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    I give up, enjoy your chain McDonalds and Carrabba's, similiar menu with high school kids cooking, or a staff cooking with over twenty years experience. McDonalds, freshly made food back when, or the precooked stuff now. I gues you don't get it. My orignal response was to your challenge to show a local place comparable to the beloved Olive Garden.

                                                                                    1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                      Do you really think the original Kentucky Fried Chicken resembles KFC, or McDonalds wtih all their pre-cooked food and mystery shakes?

                                                                                      [skip]

                                                                                      I give up, enjoy your chain McDonalds and Carrabba's, similiar menu with high school kids cooking, or a staff cooking with over twenty years experience. McDonalds, freshly made food back when, or the precooked stuff now. I gues you don't get it. My orignal response was to your challenge to show a local place comparable to the beloved Olive Garden.

                                                                                      ____________________

                                                                                      You ate at the original McDonald's that was opened in 1933 in San Bernardino CA? And which has been closed since 1940?

                                                                                      If so, can you tell me exactly how different the food was (or is) from that original McDonald's in San Bernardino to the ones that exist now all across America? I will even let you pick the current McDonald's you want to use as your point of reference.

                                                                                      The floor is yours.

                                                                                      1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                        Like I say, I give up. No mas.

                                                                                        1. re: James Cristinian

                                                                                          Don't give up so easily.

                                                                                          I understand your point about over-expansion.

                                                                                          What I am puzzled about is your reference points of McDonalds or KFC. I think most fast-food chains TODAY are uniformly equal in terms of quality (or lack thereof depending on your perspective).

                                                                                          And to tether this discussion back to the OP, I think Olive Garden is also true in this respect.

                                                                                          It's one of the amazing attributes of chains -- and it's really how they survive.

                                                                                          1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                            Ok, I'll nibble. I think that the original Mcdonald's and Kentucky Fried Chicken had to have been better, and your right, never went to an original McDonald's, they didn't even come to Houston until circa 1970, I'm 55 for reference point. I gave McDonald's high marks for quality control in a reply to tommy. I also pointed out, again to tommy, in my opinion, local management and staff are the big difference in quality at many places, with the local non-chain Carrabba's having mostly 15-25 years cooking staff, not to mention front of house, and Johhny C. there most days.. I must admit, I admire both McDonald's and KFC for their consistency, it's not easy. As for chains varying from location to location, I see it on Chains, (I'll point out the next one I see) and on a local site that talks about big swings in quality at places here in town all the time. Please don't make me research this, but I'm off tomorrow so who knows.

                                                                                        2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                          ipsedixit: "You ate at the original McDonald's that was opened in 1933 in San Bernardino CA? And which has been closed since 1940?"

                                                                                          Then that qualification must apply to ipsedixit also.
                                                                                          Unless ipsedixit ate at the original McDonald's, then ipsedixit is not qualified to tell us that McDonald's food today does resemble, is not different than the original.

                                                                                          But you don't have to have eaten at the very 1st McDonald's to know McD's is not the same and in many ways not as good as they once were.
                                                                                          Off the top of my head & based on my experience:
                                                                                          McDonald's fries don't taste as good since they changed to frozen fries and healthier cooking oil.
                                                                                          McDonald's lowered the fat in their shakes. Changed from milk to some sort of milk like product.
                                                                                          McDonald's now puts 1/2 slice of cheese on fish filet. Used to be full slice.
                                                                                          Didn't the filet used to be bigger?
                                                                                          Big Macs didn't used to be quite the squishy mushy amalgam they are now.

                                                                                          McDonald's of my youth never forgot the cheese on my cheeseburger. They did the last time I ate 1. And yes. it was in a yellow cheeseburger wrapper. And yes, that is an unforgivable cardinal sin- It's McDonald's for crying out loud.

                                                                                          Col Sanders on KFC gravy post his ownership: "‘My God, that gravy is horrible. They buy tap water for 15 to 20 cents a thousand gallons and they mix it with flour and starch and end up with pure wallpaper paste …’ Once they’ve got the wallpaper paste, they add some ‘ ...sludge... There’s no nutrition in it and they ought not be allowed to sell it ...’”*

                                                                                          *http://www.newsy.com/videos/kfc-finds...

                                                                                          1. re: ilikefood

                                                                                            Funny comment, but it had to kill him just a little bit to see.

                                                                                            1. re: ilikefood

                                                                                              Then that qualification must apply to ipsedixit also.
                                                                                              Unless ipsedixit ate at the original McDonald's, then ipsedixit is not qualified to tell us that McDonald's food today does resemble, is not different than the original.
                                                                                              ____________________________________

                                                                                              When did I say that?

                                                                                              1. re: ilikefood

                                                                                                iloikefood said:

                                                                                                "McDonald's fries don't taste as good since they changed to frozen fries and healthier cooking oil"

                                                                                                I disagree with this statement! Supposedly they used to cut up potatoes and fry them in natural beef fat, then salt the finished fries.

                                                                                                Here they are now:

                                                                                                French Fries :, Potato(es), Vegetable(s) Oil (Canola Oil, Soybean(s) Oil Hydrogenated, Flavor(s) Natural Beef, Citric Acid Preservative) , Dextrose, Sodium Acid Pyrophosphate To Protect Color, Salt, Prepared with Vegetable(s) Oil (May contain one or more of : Canola Oil, Corn Oil, Soybean(s) Oil, Soybean(s) Oil Hydrogenated, with TBHQ and, Citric Acid) , Dimethylpolysiloxane An Anti-foaming Agent

                                                                                                This does not read "healthier" to me than natural fat and salt!

                                                                                                1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                  Agree, at least I know what natural fat is.

                                                                                                  1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                    It's not like we were ever able to see the old ingredients list.

                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                      Do you think it would have been as long?

                                                                                                      1. re: Tom34

                                                                                                        Who knows? Nobody used to make them show it. It could have involved ground dinosaur bones . . . .

                                                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                          Just thinking animal fat by itself made food taste great.

                                                                                                      2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                        True, but I remember reading about their ingredients changes many years ago.

                                                                                                        1. re: sandylc

                                                                                                          That was a joke. But, seriously, were they ever disclosed?

                                                                                                          1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                            My reply was to your reference about seeing the old ingredients....

                                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              Really? You're confused as to why an original location of a restaurant would be different than its expansion locations and/or franchises? Ask any fan of Pepe's pizza in New Haven if its Manchester location is as good. Or Regina's Pizza (Boston North End vs. satellite locations).

                                                                                              Same menu != same food, experience.

                                                                                              1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                Really? You're confused as to why an original location of a restaurant would be different than its expansion locations and/or franchises? Ask any fan of Pepe's pizza in New Haven if its Manchester location is as good. Or Regina's Pizza (Boston North End vs. satellite locations).

                                                                                                ________________________________________

                                                                                                From what I can tell Pepe's is not a chain. In fact, it looks like it's a family-operation. One of those "mom-and-pop" places people wax so poetically about, esp. on the Chain Board.

                                                                                                Never been to Regina's.

                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  Why does being a chain/not being a chain matter for food quality variance across locations?

                                                                                                  1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                    Because the genesis of this discussion is Olive Garden -- a chain -- not some mom-and-pop joint that decided to sprout.

                                                                                                    1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                      So all chains put out the same exact food, same standard of food, same ambiance, same service at each and every of their locations?

                                                                                                      1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                        Obviously not. :)

                                                                                                        1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                          The formula ones (the ones with the same "look" etc that most folks think of as "chains") try to do that. Clearly no two things in the universe will ever be exactly the same, so of course anyone can say they don't succeed, but the whole idea of multi-location formula restaurants is to get as close to that as possible, and I should think that, from their POV, the closer they get to that the better they feel is their "management."

                                                                                  2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                    never-ending anything has no meaning if you're praying for it to end.

                                                                                    Besides...you have no issues with expressing your opinion -- is there some reason that those of us who don't like OG (and have actually eaten there, so know exactly what it is that we don't like and can cogently express those dislikes) are not allowed to dislike it?

                                                                                    If you like it, great. Godspeed, and enjoy your meals. I'll head on down the road, thanks.

                                                                                    1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                      Be sure to pull over every now and again to share how much you didn't like it.

                                                                                      1. re: tommy

                                                                                        tommy, you are hilarious!

                                                                                      2. re: sunshine842

                                                                                        never-ending anything has no meaning if you're praying for it to end.

                                                                                        Brought back a memory. Group lunch with coworkers. The majority chose Cheesecake Factory. I am not a fan. I ordered an iced tea and a salad, oil and vinegar. One coworker looked at me and asked my why I only ordered a plain salad. I told her that I did not care for the food. Her reply..."But they give you so much. You can take it home and have another meal".

                                                                                        1. re: Vidute

                                                                                          I know this is a OG thread, but you brought up CF and I do like to point to Michael Ruhlman being sad that he didn't hate eating at Cheesecake Factory.

                                                                                          http://ruhlman.com/2009/07/cheesecake...

                                                                                          1. re: FoodPopulist

                                                                                            He notes he was sad not because he "didn't hate" it, but rather:

                                                                                            "But I left feeling sad, and not sure why. I think, on reflection it was because of the sense that what we’d just experienced was simply a company responding to the demands of America, and the demands of America were helping us to take our food one step backward rather than one step forward, and I don’t think we have time for backward steps."

                                                                                            Not sure why Ruhlman's blog post matters in the context of anything, but it was a decent read.

                                                                                          2. re: Vidute

                                                                                            Vidute, your post brings me back to an out of town dinner with a group of coworkers. Now, usually when we met in town, it was Golden Corral or Ryan's Steakhouse, a clone of the Golden Corral, not exactly cutting edge. This is a point of reference for those prone to nit pick and argue every written word. Again, we're out of town and going to "splurge." The coworkers chose, with me offering only token resistance, you guessed it, THE Olive Garden. After the meal, everybody, now remember these aren't very adventurous diners, declared how bad the meal was. Bad food, bad service. This was in Dallas, nothing against those fine folks, but I knew we could to better than the Garden.

                                                                                            1. re: Vidute

                                                                                              I've said something similar about a local chain--you gets lots and lots of mediocre food. Friends don't get how that's not a good thing.

                                                                                              1. re: Vidute

                                                                                                Catskills humor:
                                                                                                "The food here is terrible."
                                                                                                "Yeah, and such small portions."

                                                                                                Indiana humor:
                                                                                                David Letterman: "The only thing worse than bad food is a lot of it."

                                                                                                1. re: acgold7

                                                                                                  LOL. I haven't heard those jokes in ages. :)

                                                                                            2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                              Their soups are home made & their bread is fresh baked with a tasty crust. Their shrimp is wild caught with real shrimp flavor, their braised veal shank is rich and tender, their homemade gnocchis melt in your mouth and their sauces actually taste like the main ingredients they were made from. I am referring to small Mom & Pop restaurants in little Italy in South Philadelphia. Yes some may be mob run.....I am not marrying them.....just eating their food! They are more expensive & parking is annoying. Most are BYOB which more than makes up for the menu price.

                                                                                              1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                You must like bland food.

                                                                                                1. re: mrsgfab

                                                                                                  Yeah. Reasonable, rational critical thinkers must like bland food.

                                                                                                2. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                  ipse -----> old monty's, punta gorda florida. http://www.oldmontys.com/page5.php
                                                                                                  sorry about lack of never-ending salad and garlic bread sticks, but i promise the stromboii is well worth the sacrifice (yes, sunshine, i know stromboli is not "italian"). ;-D.

                                                                                                  1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                    While I've been to numerous independent places that far surpass OG for quality at similar pricing, I'll just mention three chains that IMO, also far surpass OG. While they tend to be of mediocre quality, I've found both Bertucci's and Macaroni Grill to have far superior quality vs. OG at similar pricing. Carrabba's also has far superior quality, albeit at a somewhat higher price point, but well worth the few dollar premium to have a decent meal. That said, I do tend to stop at these chains only occasionally - primarily when traveling where there does not appear to be a convenient alternative. If OG was my only choice for Italian, I'd find something else - even simply a McDonalds.

                                                                                                  2. I strongly disagree with the premise that all locations of a chain are equal. The Dairy Queen and the McDonald's here in this podunk town (pop. 3,000) are way better than any of the many other locations I've been to. In both cases it is because the owners are in there working every day.

                                                                                                    In the case of the DQ it is a nice Pakistani family that owns it and if they are open they are in there. The owner of the McD's works breakfast through lunch, every day, they have the added benefit of doing a huge business so the food is as fresh as the model allows.

                                                                                                    Regarding Carrabba's, have never been to the mother store but I have eaten at a half dozen different ones in four different states. Have never gotten a bad meal or bad service at any one. IMO, Carrabba's is the best best managed, best business plan, chain restaurant out there.

                                                                                                    I have eaten at the mom and pops that are competing with the Carrabba's in several locations. Carrabba's wins hands down. I have no doubt that other areas have better choices than we do.

                                                                                                    2 Replies
                                                                                                    1. re: kengk

                                                                                                      We've got two Dairy Queens five miles apart and there is a big difference between the two. A Southern thing, but I'll throw Waffle House in there for quality differences.

                                                                                                      1. re: kengk

                                                                                                        agree about inconsistent chain locations. wendy's is a bad one for this. BK has issues, too. mickey d is much more consistent -- they have it "down". i have found carrabba's to be very consistent (i LOVE their wood-fire grilled pork chops marsala -- some of the best you'll ever have). damn fine sausage lentil soup, too.

                                                                                                      2. In regards to the never ending bread sticks and salad at Olive Garden. Those two things account for most of my dislike of the place. I don't care for either one.

                                                                                                        Bread is very important to me. I eat bread at every meal and have not purchased any in 3-4 years. I became so disgruntled with what was available locally I taught myself to bake.

                                                                                                        2 Replies
                                                                                                        1. re: kengk

                                                                                                          I brought this up earlier. The salad at the mother store, as you called it, for seven plus bucks feeds both of us with leftovers, compared to 5.65 each for the all you can eat Olive Garden. The bread and olive oil is always all we can eat at the original Carrabba's. We've never been denied refills on bread and olive oil, and the quality is vastly superior to Olive Garden, for less money for two, bread and salad.

                                                                                                          1. re: kengk

                                                                                                            Even left over pizza dough brushed with oil & tossed on the bricks in a pizza oven beats those bread sticks. Not good eats!

                                                                                                          2. It's sad that people actually pay to eat there. They're food is horrible!

                                                                                                            1 Reply
                                                                                                            1. re: mrsgfab

                                                                                                              Like most chains they are convenient and have a following for which I am not a part of. If I am going to indulge in cheap ingredients prepared by low skilled line cooks I prefer garlic buffalo wings at my local tavern.

                                                                                                            2. By way of preface, let me note - I have created corporations, defended them,
                                                                                                              reorganized them, as well as helped rebuild them. Similarly, I have gone
                                                                                                              after them, liquidated them, forced them to be accountatble for their
                                                                                                              misdeeds, and realized the problems they are creating for our nation. When it comes to our food supply, I am convinced that they are a significant part of the problem we have on so many fronts. Thus, I ask those who defend the OG and it's approach, where on the spectrum of profit before product do you draw the line? To me, any place where the ownership changes on a minute by minute basis, isn't worth offering my cuilinary cash to. Nevertheless, if you can suggest a kick ass chain where they put the dish befor the dollar, let us know?

                                                                                                              28 Replies
                                                                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                You have a better way of efficiently and affordably feeding 300 million peoiple ? Organic farms ? Mom and Pop stores ? Farmers Markets ? backyard gardens ?
                                                                                                                And I'm pretty sure high end restos don't put food before dollar. Just check out the prices.

                                                                                                                1. re: rochfood

                                                                                                                  You can "efficiently and affordably" feed 300 million people in lots of ways. We're talking disposable spending here, not survival.

                                                                                                                  Face it, until not very long ago, virtually every corporate endeavor in America was focused on the product, with the notion that profit should follow. The idea of maximizing shareholder value is a relatively new one.

                                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                    You mentioned the term "food supply", which to me indicates feeding the masses..not "disposable income".

                                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                      Sorry, not buying that ideal at all.

                                                                                                                      The idea of maximizing value for the owners is as ancient as having profits. Whether it's a king collecting taxes from serfs despite a drought, the Egyptians building pyramids regardless of the human cost, industrialists employing children to work in deplorable conditions, or modern-day slave traders trafficking women and children around the world - whoever owns the production looks to maximize their profit. Upton Sinclair's "The Jungle" is just one of the more modern exposés -- and it's over one hundred years old.

                                                                                                                      Ever wonder about the origin of the word "shoddy"? Look back to the Civil War, when venerable Brooks Brothers supplied uniforms to the Union Army made of cloth that was (quite literally) nothing more than mill sweepings glued and pressed together to look like cloth.

                                                                                                                      Was that product first? No -- that was profit, pure and simple, and tens of thousands of soldiers saw their uniforms actually dissolve the first time it rained.

                                                                                                                      Maximizing profit is an ancient a concept as the word profit itself -- there are, and always have been, folks who are in it for the money and only the money, and to hell with what happens to the employees or the consumers.

                                                                                                                      It's not going to change any time soon.

                                                                                                                      Fortunately, not everyone operates like that -- but let's leave the rose-coloured glasses on the counter.

                                                                                                                      1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                        I think that you are mistaking the corporate governance concept of "maximizing shareholder value," which basically dates to the 1980s, with the idea of maximizing profit on a product. Though there is a degree of universality suggested by your historical examples of greed.

                                                                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                          I'm not mistaking anything. The owners of companies -- whether it's a king, a tycoon, a small group of investors, or a massive group of shareholders -- are interested in maximizing THEIR bottom line, and to hell with what happens to anyone else.

                                                                                                                          There are exceptions, happily -- but the fact that you call them shareholders or owners doesn't change anything.

                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                            "but the fact that you call them shareholders or owners doesn't change anything"

                                                                                                                            It's not a semantic issue. Concepts of corporate governance, like the specific one I am referring to, only apply when the ownership is stockholders. See, e.g., http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sharehol... or http://www.forbes.com/sites/stevedenn...

                                                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                              But "corporate governance" is not "maximizing profit" "Corporate governance" is the legal restraints on what you can and cannot do to "maximize shareholder value"

                                                                                                                              The people who own the company want to make as much money as they possible can -- whether there's one of them or a thousand of them.

                                                                                                                              Some of them have ethics. Some of them don't.

                                                                                                                              And business owners have making stupid decisions in the name of "maximizing profit" or "maximizing [owner] value]" for as long as there have been businesses to own.

                                                                                                                      2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                        I see your point. I think society has changed as well though. Years ago people bought products for the long haul and seemed more willing to wait until a well built product that would last for years was responsibly within their financial reach. I think there has been a significant move away from this philosophy which has influenced corporate production and marketing. I happen to be a hypocrite in this area. I like well made things but I also like good investment returns.

                                                                                                                      3. re: rochfood

                                                                                                                        I don't think chains place the interests of humanity over profits either.

                                                                                                                      4. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                        why would anyone start a business NOT to make a profit? dumb. dumb. dumb. what is the point?

                                                                                                                        1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                          Profit is necessary to stay in business (usually). Enormous profit with compromises to the food or product is not necessary. There are plenty of examples of that in the food industry, especially.

                                                                                                                          1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                            what segments of the food industry have "enormous" profit? aren't restaurants notorious for being low-margin? here is darden's latest report. http://www.nasdaq.com/article/darden-...

                                                                                                                            also, compromises are always a choice between price and quality. choices are always necessary. restaurants cater to different levels along that continuum. those are the same choices i have to make in my own household. i'd love to eat lobster, U-10 shrimp and prime porterhouse every week, but that ain't gonna happen.

                                                                                                                            1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                              "what segments of the food industry have "enormous" profit?"

                                                                                                                              I was answering to "why would anyone start a business NOT to make a profit? dumb. dumb. dumb. what is the point?". This isn't food industry specific.

                                                                                                                              As noted, there are plenty of examples in the food industry where owners put people and product before maximizing profit.

                                                                                                                              I only eat Prime porterhouse. My choice of shrimp is based more on source and purpose, rather than size. I don't compromise.

                                                                                                                              1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                                well, good for you. you must have a lot of discretionary income if you are eating all these things every week.

                                                                                                                                and i am a gulf shrimp fan, only. don't try to outsnob me on shrimp, bro!

                                                                                                                                1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                  ;-)

                                                                                                                                  1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                    I only eat the best steak and wild shrimp from familiar waters. Which means I eat those things about twice a year, because I can't typically afford them.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: fame da lupo

                                                                                                                                      Better to eat well less than eat poorly more.

                                                                                                                          2. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                            In N Out?

                                                                                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                              Does 2 locations (hoping for more in the not too distant future) count as a chain? If it does, then I can whole-heartedly present Bon Fresco, a couple of sandwich shops located just outside of Baltimore. Artisanal breads baked from scratch, quality meats cooked for sandwiches, grilled vegies, quality cheeses and deli meats, delicious soups made from scratch, scratch-made pastries and baked goods and sides. Healthy recipes. Filling portions. The price? Salads and sandwiches (with a side) $6.50 - $6.95, and the prices haven't changed from the day they first opened.

                                                                                                                              Here is a link to their menu.
                                                                                                                              http://www.dinehowardcounty.com/menus...

                                                                                                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                Nevertheless, if you can suggest a kick ass chain where they put the dish befor the dollar, let us know?
                                                                                                                                ________________________

                                                                                                                                Why would a chain, or any business venture, do such a thing?

                                                                                                                                Many supposed local joints pay lip service to such a notion, but at the end of the day it's just lip service.

                                                                                                                                How many restaurants are in the business of losing money? Even soup kitchens have to turn some sort of operating profit.

                                                                                                                                1. re: ipsedixit

                                                                                                                                  Maximizing profit without regard to the acts and consequences necessary to do so is not the same as operating a business in a way that results in profitability. For example, regional, commercial banks were service-oriented businesses that made money for their owners, employees, and communities. It was not necessary to fold all such endeavors into multinational megabanks where the massive profits were driven by the investment arms to the risk and detriment of the commercial side and society at large.

                                                                                                                                  As to the question I posed, it seems Chipotle may provide an example, though honestly I cannot comment on the quality of their food, just some of the business practices they have been reported to employ.

                                                                                                                                  1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                    I know many restaurant chains have been on ICE's radar.

                                                                                                                                    1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                      maximizing profit "without regard" to the acts and consequences? you cannot "maximize" profit if you are not delivering a product at a price people want to pay.
                                                                                                                                      that is the market.

                                                                                                                                      1. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                        I thought I made it clear that maximizing profit is not the only way to be profitable. Perhaps, examples?

                                                                                                                                        We recently worked with a local Italian restaurant owner to redesign his menu. As he has confronted rising food costs, particularly veal, he struggled with how high to raise the price of various dishes for which he was charging $16.99. Though his supplier suggested he go up to $21.99 or more, to be in line with other places in the area, the restaurant owner decided $18.99 was the highest he would go, because, "it just wouldn't be fair to all the guys who've been eatin' here so long."

                                                                                                                                        In another professional service capacity, I recall meeting with partners about certain new clients who would mean massive paychecks for the members of the firm. They came with baggage with which some of us did not want to be saddled. We, on more than one occasion, declined the representations.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: MGZ

                                                                                                                                          but "being profitable" and "maximizing profit" are not necessarily the same thing.

                                                                                                                                          In the case of your Italian restaurant -- he's right, only because he realizes that if he passes along a nearly-30% price increase overnight, his regulars are going to rebel -- long and loud and largely with their feet.

                                                                                                                                          In his case, yes, he's maximizing profit, because he realizes that he'll slide right off of the continuum between price and demand if he jacks the price by 30%.

                                                                                                                                          Would he still be *profitable* at $21.99? Maybe -- how many customers would he lose in the process? The suppliers are too dumb to realize that 100 covers a night at 15% profit is a lot more money than 50 covers at 20% profit....and I hope he wonders about the business acumen of having suppliers who can't figure that out. (those numbers are hypothetical, of course...but the math holds true regardless of what the actual numbers might be.)

                                                                                                                                          1. re: sunshine842

                                                                                                                                            "but "being profitable" and "maximizing profit" are not necessarily the same thing"

                                                                                                                                            That was the point I made in response to ipse.

                                                                                                                                        2. re: alkapal

                                                                                                                                          (small edit to alkapal's post -- You cannot "maximize" profit if you are not delivering a product <<people want to buy>> at a price people want to pay.)

                                                                                                                                          Otherwise -- this.

                                                                                                                                  2. How can they tell?

                                                                                                                                    6 Replies
                                                                                                                                    1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                      bottom line - awful. enjoy the profits, don't enjoy the food..

                                                                                                                                      1. re: Phaedrus

                                                                                                                                        Per the article.

                                                                                                                                        Seems relatively clear, given the text in that article.

                                                                                                                                        1. re: tommy

                                                                                                                                          Someone once explained the benefits of chains to me as being that you could eat the same food, prepared in the same manner and to the same specifications, in Rutherford, NJ, as you could in El Dorado, Kansas, or Omaha, Nebraska. I got his point, although it's still debatable as to whether that's a "benefit."

                                                                                                                                          Having said that, I don't necessarily object to chains per se. I found the Macaroni Grill(s) in north NJ to make fairly decent Italian food for not a ton of money. The soup is powder mixed with water (a waiter conceded this point to us), but it tasted ok. Obviously, one isn't going to go to a chain restaurant for high-end cuisine. I've eaten at Macaroni Grill when I was pressed for time, and hadn't eaten in a good long while. Which, of course, may have had something to do with why I liked it as much as I did (which isn't to say that I enjoyed it a whole lot; simply, that it was marginally better than mediocre, if that makes sense).

                                                                                                                                          As far as Olive Garden goes, my elderly parents brought me there once for my birthday, and I certainly wasn't going to complain, given that they were picking up the tab. However, it was mediocre-- bland and thoroughly unmemorable. The saving grace was the wine, which I drank copious quantities of. Was Olive Garden horrible? No, but I don't intend ever going again.

                                                                                                                                          And, on another point, I find their TV commercials patronizing, and on the verge of being insulting, with Italians fraternizing and slopping up food with each other (I guess to advertise the "authenticity" of Olive Garden as a place that Italian-Americans would choose to eat at as their primary choice) in stereotypical fashion. Maybe not as insulting as the old "Datsa Spicy Meatball!" commercials, but uncomfortably close, at least in my opinion.

                                                                                                                                          1. re: legsdiamond12

                                                                                                                                            >>>>Someone once explained the benefits of chains to me as being that you could eat the same food, prepared in the same manner and to the same specifications, in Rutherford, NJ, as you could in El Dorado, Kansas, or Omaha, Nebraska. I got his point, although it's still debatable as to whether that's a "benefit."<<<<<

                                                                                                                                            IMO it's a little more nuanced than that. The reason isn't simply that the food, surroundings, etc. are the same, but that to the diner there is a greatly reduced risk of experiencing something really bad (whatever that might be to the diner) -- an unknown place could be "good," but may not be, so why chance it? In short, chain places offer relative certainty of what one is going to experience, and it's the avoidance of risk that counts, not the sameness per se.

                                                                                                                                            I think that for most people this is the key factor. Most people aren't pursuing great food -- they want to have a decent meal and then move on. Chowhounds and other adventurous types, not so much, since we are willing to take a chance in hopes of finding something really good. Our way of reducing risk is to read these boards and follow the observations of those who have gone before.

                                                                                                                                            1. re: legsdiamond12

                                                                                                                                              <. Obviously, one isn't going to go to a chain restaurant for high-end cuisine.>

                                                                                                                                              High-end cuisine is subjective. I know people who do consider OG and its like high-end cuising. Also, The Capital Grille, Ruth's Chris, Morton's, etc.

                                                                                                                                              1. re: Vidute

                                                                                                                                                Ha..... I have seen people get dressed up in their Sunday best to go to the $7.99 Hibachi Grill all you can eat. Must have suit pants with elastic waist bands. Definitely subjective.