Monday, May 05, 2008

Chain of fools

What happens when a variety of New York Times restaurant reviewers go to chain restaurants to review what the average folk eat? Some hilarity, some snobbery and a lot of surprised satisfaction.

The two best things about chain restaurants are quality control and predictability. Quality control has more than one aspect -- there's the fact that each restaurant must meet specific levels of quality in the food preparation and the fact that each restaurant is rigidly inspected and reviewed by the brand or regional managers to ensure that specific standards are met in operational efficiency, cleanliness, timeliness, etc. Predictability means that when I go to a Chipotle in New York, I'll get the same burrito bowl I get in Dallas if I ask for the same ingredients.

Ultimately, for efficiency, practicality and quality, chain restaurants are generally good. Even the restaurants on the lower end of the scale, like TGI Fridays, Saltgrass and The Olive Garden, have improved the taste and variety of their offerings, and they've done so because they compete with slightly more upscale chains like Chili's, Outback, or Romano's Macaroni Grill.

All to the best, I say.

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