Five reasons why reviewing chain restaurants isn't the worst idea in the world

Categories: Jenn in Chains

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Since the recent introduction of Jenn in Chains my reviews/commentaries on what's what in the realm of chain restaurants, I've gotten a slew of questions from readers, friends and complete strangers on my Facebook page about why I'm giving time and attention to chain restaurants. Questions like "Why don't you use your words to promote local restaurants?" Or "Why are you wasting your time shilling for crap-tastic dump sites like Jack in the Box?" Or "Chains have tons of cash to throw at their own PR firms, so why are you working for them for free?" And then there's this searing query: "Don't you have anything better to do with your time than write about f*cking McDonald's?"

Top those off with my two personal favorites: "When are you gonna review Cracker Barrel, huh?" and bonus question "Your boss probably hates you, so that's why you're doing this, right?"

So I have decided to use yet more of my valuable time to answer all of these questions with my list of five reasons why reviewing chain restaurants isn't the worst idea in the world.

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5. "Why don't you use your words to promote local restaurants?"

The answer to this question is a two-parter. One, because we have two kickass food writers, Lori Midson and Laura Shunk, who already handle that end like belted, heavyweight champions, and two, because my writing about chains doesn't mean that I am promoting them, and it also does not mean that I am in any way against local restaurants. It's not a "one-or-the-other" situation.

4. "Why are you wasting your time shilling for crap-tastic dump sites like Jack in the Box?"

Well, crap-tastic is subjective, and even if the popular opinion is that chains like Jack are hovels slinging shit-burgers out their drive-thru windows, then all the more reason to give the general population a heads-up. It also stands to reason that they are not only doing business, but opening new stores, which means that customers are eating there -- chains don't generally do location expansion when business is down.

3. "Chains have tons of cash to throw at their own PR firms, so why are you working for them for free?"

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Yes, chains have access to PR budgets that few, if any, local restaurants do -- McDoo spends more on advertising in one day than I'll ever see in my pocketbook. But I don't work for them. There is a difference between writing about something and promoting something. A big difference. When I see things in any restaurant -- chain or otherwise -- that customers can do without, then it's fair game for me to write about, because that restaurant doesn't sign my paychecks. And I also must note that I don't want a chain to sign my paychecks -- I had about enough of that in my teens/twenties. Believe it or snot, I don't work for companies whose products I can't stand for 100 percent.

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29 comments
jon g
jon g

OK Here are 5 reasons why reviewing chains is the worst thing in the world:

1--Their food is based on the lowest common denominators: dishes repeatable by the least trained, least informed cooks they can pay the least and work the longest.

2--By buying all of their food stuffs in bulk, they chain is geared to maximize profits by feeding you mass produced garbage, from god knows where, at a lower price than a restaurant that has ethics towards where its ingredients come from can possibly offer--covered with sauce and salt to mask that these products have no flavor of their own.  This has a major negative effect all its own: they fool the average consumer into believing that food is cheaper than it is, skewing the idea of perceived value.

3--The enormous carbon footprint created by chains designed to get you fresh looking produce out of season (tomato to CO from Mex, etc), meat cheaply (agro-biz) and without variance in color or presentation which leads directly to

4--GMO's.  Make absolutely no bones about it.  Every single time you or I eat in a chain we are giving license to companies to pursue GMOs.  It's a fact.  If you care about this issue at all, ya can't ignore this.  Now GMO's are pure business and as such, makes crazy financial sense: create plants that yield more, resist diseases, and look the same and you've created a product.  Create breeds that fatten faster with fattier beef at a younger age and a concern can spend less money on raising their animals.  It's ROI.  And it's driven by selling to chain restaurants and larger supermarkets.  Which leads to

5--Chickens coming home to roost, aka health costs.  Heart disease, diabetes.  Sure.  But we are creating a generation of people that can't bake biscuits but want Doritos Shell Tacos.  It's like the MTVing of our palates--a newer, hipper idiot gourmande.  The fact is that food grown for taste: heritage breeds and heirloom varietals have been shown in study after study to be easier on our systems, higher in good fats, lower in bad fats, and higher in all the natural nutrients that we consume things for.  Eating real grass fed, grass finished beef raised in Colorado and prepared properly will knock your socks off.  

Chains sell shit that hurts your health and the health of whoever you're dragging with you there.  Chains sell food out of season.  Chains don't help, use or support local farmers.  Chains hurt the environment with their carbon footprints.  Chains take advantage of our economy, by duping you into thinking "4 of us can eat there and have appetizers and desserts, for the price of 2 of us eating at (fill in name of your fave place here)"--hoping you'll think about a perceived value instead of the damage you're doing to your health and your local economy.  Chains are the new liquor stores.  They are the new cigarettes.  Screwing you and your family's health by giving you 20% off.  And you're reviewing them.

Why not review cigarettes and crack too?

bygr
bygr

Cracker Barrel is not very Colorado-y.  People do not love it here they way they do elsewhere - particularly the Mid-Atlantic and Southeastern US. 

Village Inn on the other hand...

Jon S
Jon S

Reason #6: Reviewing chain restaurants would mean plenty of places for Grand Junction residents to sound off on in Zagat reviews.

Absolute1
Absolute1

* Jenn in chains: great mental image (ooooh - shiver me timbers).

* Meatloaf on a stick? Yes - have some.

* Bohemian chicks rock.

* If you don't like what Jenn writes about, don't read it. Better yet, don't buy the paper. Oh, wait........ 

tropicalchrome
tropicalchrome

A couple of other reasons to review chains:

- they're open Monday nights.- the dish the reviewer mentions is likely (although not guaranteed) to be there in six weeks when you get around to eating there.- so is the restaurant, for that matter.- they don't use fennel in everything.- many of them have parking. I know that by mentioning this it makes me automatically not hip enough to read Westword.- people eat there and would like to know what the food/atmosphere/service is like ahead of time.

I strongly prefer to go to local restaurants, especially when we have out of town guests, or even when I just want a good meal out. A good local restaurant beats the heck out of even the best chain. But like others, my budget - both money and time -  does not always stretch to cover the cost of the places I'd really like to eat. (And that Monday night thing has bit me hard the past couple of weeks when we had folks from out of town who wanted to do dinner and had only Monday night free.)

Bradman
Bradman

Chains are often locally owned and employ our friends and neighbors. I wish i could afford to eat at every restaurant Laura Shunk reviews for 2 or 3 meals every day. But the truth is i find myself in a Panera or Chipotle on occassion. And even though i haven't stepped foot in many fast food chains... If a reviewer i respect clues me in to a new must-have Taco Bell bean disaster or tasty McDoo's McShitpile i'll use that information to make an informed decision next time i'm short on time but long on hunger.

Cheers, Jen. I wish you the best.

Chefzoso
Chefzoso

Jenn your whole disccourse brings to mind the Mariliyn Hagerty brou ha of several weeks ago.Any restaurant that charges money fr food should be reviewed. Reviews are not features too often the restuarant crowd forgets that

GFTW
GFTW

"Believe it or snot, I don't work for companies whose products I can't stand for 100 percent."

You mean, not anymore anyway.

Jennstirrer, your links are often borken. Last time they were like "http://http://". This time they're missing colons. Are you also missing your colon from eating all the crap from teh chains? :P Anyway, keep on trying Jenny -- u go grlll!!

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @6a12615274f549b06a9eeb76ebd2c02c:disqus That's so good I should have thought of it!

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @88b97e59b666470efd4a6a201e164f31:disqus I know, right? I love the imagery on that, too! I prefer silver-toned chains rather than gold, though, because silver looks more sinister.

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @tropicalchrome:disqus : I cannot argue about the parking thing--Jesus himself won't find a spot in downtown Denver unless he resorts to unseemly violence.

I think reading the Westword automatically makes you hip.

Good one about the fennel--heeheehee--I cannot think of a chain off the top of my purty-pink head that uses more than a nominal amount of fennel in anything.

What's up with the no-open-on-Mondays thing?

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 And I love you--especially more today since your Steuben's story clued me into something with lemon curd!

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @d94f0070ca38e4e8161cee15b9b974ae:disqus : Thank you; you are kinder than my family and most of my friends. I am quite poor--I prefer the term "Bohemian" because it makes me sound exotic--so I found a loophole for getting expensive restaurant meals--happy hour specials. And BTW: I think the McShitpile should come with lettuce and tomato--no mayo, because that would just be gross.

GFTW
GFTW

Yep, I couldn't care less whether a joint is part of a chain or not. Hell, Frank Bonanno owns a chain of restaurants...

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @twitter-26798439:disqus : True dat. But I'm usually surprised when anyone likes anything I write. I have deep-seated emotional problems that I try to fix with writing--and ingesting copious amounts of expensive cheeses...*smiles*

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

Any reference to Marilyn Hagerty is a compliment, so thank you! Imma check out this brou ha that you speak of.

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @GFTW:disqus : Exactly--how you think me learn?

Me no likes borken links. Me fix now.

Absolute1
Absolute1

Jenn -

I can deal with silver.It's certainly more bohemian than gold.

Although if it's sinister you're after, black is hard to beat. 

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

 @GFTW:disqus I really, really like the deli fud at Whole Paycheck--does that count as fast food?

Christopher Cina
Christopher Cina

Don't misunderstand, I definitely like the writing, or I would have passed on an article about CHick-Fil-A, the subject was my issue, I'll keep reading though.

GFTW
GFTW

Plus Jennstir shares an office with William Breathes!

Jenn the Godless
Jenn the Godless

Oh wait--THAT brou ha!--I thought there was a new one.

Hagerty definitely started a ruckus--my Grammy's word--over her Olive Garden praises, but the discussion her review started is well-worth examining in the way that chains should not automatically be off-limits to reviewers.

GFTW
GFTW

We know, JennStir! We're all rootin' for you! Baby steps, baby steps...

GFTW
GFTW

Oh come on Jennstir, we all know WW isn't paying you enuff 2 afford Whole Paycheck!

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