Things, they do look awful cold

David Brooks won’t be happy about this:

Casual dining is in danger — and millennials are to blame.

Brands such as TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee’s have faced sales slumps and dozens of restaurant closures, as casual dining chains have struggled to attract customers and grow sales.






161 replies
  1. 1
    efgoldman says:

    TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee’s have faced sales slumps

    They ought to; they suck.
    Take whatever you’re gonna’ serve and dump a couple tablespoons of salt on it is not my idea of eating out.

  2. 2
    mai naem mobile says:

    Brooks’ new millenia wife will order food from Blue Apron and cook for him.

  3. 3
    JDM says:

    At least we know the fault is with the millennials rather than the restaurant chains and their management.

  4. 4
    chopper says:

    not the salad bar! noooooooooo

  5. 5
    efgoldman says:

    David Brooks won’t be happy about this:

    BTW, the next time Brooks actually eats in an Applebee’s will be the first time.

    (I was surprised to see there are quite a lot of them in New York, including a couple in midtown Manhattan)

  6. 6
  7. 7

    Reading the article, it seems to gloss over the issue of cost. There’s an undercurrent of “Millenials want cheaper options.” I wonder why.

    Just, you know, sayin’.

  8. 8
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    These restaurants fall into a hole in my dining out range. Fast and cheap, check. Fine dining, check. Sitting for a couple of hours eating potato skins and a mediocre steak, I’ll pass. There’s got to be a pub nearby, right? Or a good, old fashioned, American bar and grill?

  9. 9
    raven says:

    @Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA: Drop in White Tiger sometime.

  10. 10
    debbie says:

    Is it just the interpreter, or does Putin sound like a petulant teenage girl?

  11. 11
    chopper says:

    homer put it best.

    “hey, vinnie, how’s about a pizza?”
    “i’ve-a got-a no job-a!”

  12. 12
    Tim C. says:

    As a lowbrow crappy eater, I can tell you that it probably has more to do with Applebees jacking up prices and serving even crappier food in smaller portions than some kind of generational thing. Also, seriously what kind of do-dee-do gives a shit?

  13. 13

    Better food is available cheaper, faster, with better ambiance. Of course they’re going out of business.

  14. 14
    satby says:

    @Mingobat f/k/a Karen in GA: I don’t know, my millenial kids and their friends seem to prefer midrange independent places with craft beer. Or fresh, really fresh sushi. But then my kids are urban.

  15. 15

    As was said above, they suck. Substituting salt and fat for actual flavor. More expensive than fast food, but not much better. Sure, blame the consumer for having actual taste.

    I am lucky though, I live in a small city that has an abundance of locally owned casual restaurants with great food that cost no more than those chains.

  16. 16
    efgoldman says:

    @Frankensteinbeck:

    Of course they’re going out of business.

    They spend money on advertising that they should be spending on food and service. That only works for a while.
    Although it’s really hard for a place with a liquor license to lose money.

  17. 17
    Ruckus says:

    @JDM:
    Yeah, couldn’t possibly be that the food is crap and the prices just make it worse. I wonder how many MBA assholes actually know how to cook, or actually do anything in any way productive, other than how to read one number on a spreadsheet?

  18. 18
    Mike E says:

    What’s next, Tommy Friedman’s taxis are gonna hold back their wise counsel?

  19. 19
    Baud says:

    I’m just​ happy something isn’t the Democrats’ fault for once.

  20. 20
    ArchTeryx says:

    I’m not a Millenial and I never eat at these chains, for the reasons listed above. If I want “cheap, quick, and tasty” I’ll drop by a Smash Burger or a Five Guys, with some frozen yogurt at our very local and EXTREMELY good shake shack, Guptill’s Coney Island Express. (One of the only places I’ve ever seen that serves hard frozen yogurt, just like ice cream).

    Fine dining, there’s a ton of local options around Albany, including the drop-dead awesome Vietnamese Saigon Spring (our favorite to go to). And this is in a small, poor city in Upstate New York. With choices like these, why the hell would I ever want to set foot in an Applebee’s?

  21. 21
    dmsilev says:

    @Frankensteinbeck: Basically, this. They’re not particularly cheap by dine-out standards ($20 and up entrees), so you can eat in a real restaurant for the same amount of money or get similar quality food for cheaper. Or quite possibly both.

  22. 22
    dmsilev says:

    @Mike E: I’m pretty sure he’s switched to Uber drivers.

  23. 23
    efgoldman says:

    @ArchTeryx:

    this is in a small, poor city in Upstate New York.

    It’s also the capitol of a large state, which means a ton of expense account business to support the fine dining places, especially the steak houses.

  24. 24
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    Millenials are blamed for, apparently, not slaying their corporate masters because they’re being underpaid for the work they do.

    And the day David Brooks’ broken, exsanguinated body is found in a Manhattan back alley will be a great day for the world.

  25. 25
    Le Comte de Monte Cristo fka Edmund Dantes says:

    @satby:

    If they’re like mine when they’re with me, $8 craft beer, with artisan apps…

  26. 26
    ArchTeryx says:

    @efgoldman: True enough, but we aren’t exactly going to Prime 21 – none of us here are near that wealthy. We’re going to places like Saigon Springs and Dinosaur BBQ – local, same price as a chain restaurant, and MUCH better food.

    Heck, even Macaroni Grill, very much a chain, is far better then the three in the article.

  27. 27
    Baud says:

    How’s the Olive Garden doing? They’re the only family I have.

  28. 28
    frosty says:

    @efgoldman:

    Although it’s really hard for a place with a liquor license to lose money.

    Not that hard, when the drinks aren’t very good. Of course, if you want a graduate course in how to lose money with a liquor license, tune into Bar Rescue. They’ve been doing Sunday night marathons on Spike lately.

  29. 29
    BBA says:

    For the record, it’s Ruby Tuesday that has a salad bar (unless they got rid of it in the decade since I last went to a Ruby Tuesday). Mock Bobo all you want, with all these indistinguishable generic chains it’s an easy mistake to make.

  30. 30
    smintheus says:

    They could try opening some eateries that aren’t specific to a single day of the week, or just to apple blossom time. I don’t want to have to consult the calendar whenever I decide I don’t feel like cooking.

  31. 31

    And the day David Brooks’ broken, exsanguinated body is found in a Manhattan back alley will be a great day for the world.

    Is that an off-hand comment or a proposal? Asking for a couple of friends…

  32. 32
    Chyron HR says:

    @Baud:

    They had to scale back the free breadsticks to free breadstick.

  33. 33
    bemused says:

    The millennials go to brew pubs and many serve food or have food trucks outside. Every time we visit our kids, we go out to eat at brewpubs. Had a yummy meal last month at NC brewery from a Thai-something else Asian food truck.

    I can’t look at fast foods ads on high def tvs now. The food just looks awful and kind of turns my stomach.

  34. 34
    Baud says:

    How’s the Olive Garden doing? They’re the only family I have. @Chyron HR: LOL. That’s such a sad image.

  35. 35
    Woodrowfan says:

    @efgoldman: they are for the nervous tourists. “Look dear, there’s an Applebees! We know they’re good!”

  36. 36
    Mart says:

    I few years back in while a small town late at night the only thing open was an Applebee’s by the Interstate. Being a cheesatarian I ordered the grilled cheese and tomato soup. The waitress came by to tell me, “sorry, it is taking longer than planned to melt the frozen soup in a bag.” The sandwich came with next to no melted cheese, barely melted the butter on the served side, and horribly burned when flipped over. Have not been back since. Must be that I am an elitist food snob.

  37. 37
  38. 38
    JPL says:

    This must be what Ben Sasse was talking about in The Vanishing American Adult. We raised food snobs.

  39. 39
    SFAW says:

    @Kenneth Kohl:

    Asking for a couple of friends…

    You must not know that many FTFNYT readers

  40. 40
    🌷 Martin says:

    @efgoldman: True. And in our experience the locally owned places are not only better food, but also better service/atmosphere. And around here, there’s a fuckton of locally owned restaurants/brewpubs/etc.

  41. 41
    Van Buren says:

    Who was it that said their guiding principle was to never eat in a restaurant with a laminated menu? Wise words.

  42. 42
    JPL says:

    When my mil turned 80, I drove to NCar to spend the weekend with her, and I took her out for dinner. Dining out was a big deal for her, and I searched for a nice restaurant, but she insisted on o’Charley’s. All her friends raved about it. She had to admit the food was horrible. She always grew her own vegetable and canned a good supply for the winter.

  43. 43
    BBA says:

    @frosty: I think it depends on the liquor laws in your area. In New Jersey, for instance, there’s a ridiculously low cap on liquor licenses per town, and lots of restaurants are forced to go BYOB. It takes talent to lose money on a bar under those conditions.

  44. 44
    Gelfling 545 says:

    @efgoldman: Seriously, their food is awful. It all tastes of the microwave. I’d much rather eat at a local diner for half the price. And we have so many really good non-chain restaurants here that I can’t think of a reason to frequent any or those – and I’m no millenial.

  45. 45
    efgoldman says:

    @Baud:

    How’s the Olive Garden doing? They’re the only family I have.

    They suck, too. In an area (Northern and Central RI) where you can’t swing a dead cat without hitting a few decent to good local Italian places, they have some nerve even being.

  46. 46
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    @Baud: They won’t go without a fight. They’re gonna have to pry the unlimited garlic bread from my cold dead hand.

  47. 47
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    Welcome to Trump’s America

  48. 48

    I saw a fun run-down of all the things those evil murderous millennials are killing.

  49. 49
    randy khan says:

    I think that there has been an increase in local decent places in the last few years, and that has to be a factor. And the big chains no longer have as many price advantages over local places, for many reasons, including that there are big restaurant supply companies that can offer good prices because they buy in bulk.

    It’s kind of interesting to think of things going full circle. When I was a kid and there weren’t a lot of non-McDonalds chains (and not even that many McDonalds around), if we went out for something not expensive it had to be a local place, and they were pretty good. I remember when the Friendly’s came to town and it was a big deal, which put some business pressure on the local places.

  50. 50
    RepubAnon says:

    Funny thing – people whose salaries force a choice between paying the rent and eating out – don’t eat out much.

    I’d say the real problem for these chains is the franchise fees. Example: the local pizza places near my house have the same (or better) quality pizzas – and are a few bucks cheaper. If the franchise owner jacks up the fees, the franchisees become uncompetitive.

    Plus, many of these chains are located in shopping malls – and the malls are headed for extinction. With more people shopping online rather than braving the parking nightmares, crowds, and poor selections at the malls, why go there? If the malls are losing customers, so will the chain stores which depend upon them.

  51. 51
    zhena gogolia says:

    @debbie:

    I’m not watching this particular thing, but I can assure you it’s the latter.

  52. 52
    David 🍁Canadian Anchor Baby🍁 Koch says:

    Bernie woulda won free garlic bread.

  53. 53

    I’ve been finding in general that, outside of sushi, I am generally disappointed when I eat out. I went out to brunch with my gal and her friend this morning. Outside of the mimosas, we dropped about $60 on food that was… well, it was like that Fuds Menu that was going around a few years back.

    This whole trend of adding stupid ingredients to standard fare to make it “unique” does not work for me. Keep the artisinal roll made from artisinal belly-button lint and artisinal gluten-free cardboard flour (made from 100% post-consumer organic paper). Just gimme something that tastes good.

  54. 54
    BBA says:

    An interesting fact about TGI Fridays is that it actually started out as a trendy bar-and-grill for young people in Manhattan, before the founder sold out to what became the current multinational franchise. He then moved on to start a higher-class restaurant under another gimmicky pseudonym – Smith & Wollensky.

  55. 55
    Calouste says:

    @Woodrowfan: Chain restaurants like that are for people who are scared of trying something new, i.e. conservatives.

  56. 56
    Barbara says:

    I think Applebees is okay but I don’t seek it out. They have an option where you can order chicken or beef and have it grilled with no sauce. I don’t know who the target consumer is for these chains, but when we do have the choice we eat at local restaurants. The “deliver the ingredients and cook it yourself” business is definitely thriving but it’s not actually all that cheap either, but it is a step back to cooking meals at home, which is definitely to be preferred.

  57. 57
    JPL says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Oh no! That is hilarious and now we know who to blame.

  58. 58
    Woodrowfan says:

    @JPL: still better than Applebees, Olive Garden, or Fridays, alas.

  59. 59
    frosty says:

    Reading the comments and thinking about places I’ve lived, it seems to me that casual dining is a losing concept for a national chain. Like everyone says, there are always good locally-owned alternatives that will beat the chain on either price, quality, or service, or all three.

  60. 60
    Barbara says:

    @Calouste: To me, an awful lot of even higher end restaurants have a sameness that makes them less interesting than I think they should be. Probably because in high rent towns like DC or San Francisco the prevalence of investor financed restaurants makes the whole category somewhat conservative. The restaurant business is hard and always has been.

  61. 61
    sukabi says:

    @debbie: ha. Now we know why Drumpf finds him soooo appealing….they speak the same language.

  62. 62
    Woodrowfan says:

    @Calouste: when I go to New York I start up one of the East-West streets, walking away from the tourist areas. Usually a few blocks away I start hitting good local places. Had some good dinners doing that.

  63. 63
    cain says:

    I’m not a millennial, but I also eat at brewpubs and if I have to eat at a ‘fast food’ place, I’ll go to Five Guys. I just can’t stand these stupid chains. Also, their advertising won’t reach me because like most millennials I don’t watch regular tv. It’s all netflix and amazon prime stuff now if I watch at all.

    Speaking of which – the counter protests in Portland has gone south, mass arrests, and what not. Apparently, Portland experienced the largest conservative rally ever – about a 100 people or so. Check your twitter. Much larger counter protests, but apparently we have antifa (skinheads who like to punch nazis) people who have come in and decided to do some violence. I really fucking hate that. Much as I would like to punch a alt-right guy, it won’t work, you’ll just martyr them.

  64. 64

    @Major Major Major Major:

    all the things those evil murderous millennials are killing

    And they say the Boomers are bad…

  65. 65
    Starfish says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Here is a longer list of what millennials are killing.

  66. 66
    Barbara says:

    @frosty: They used to have a target area in terms of population and average income. Someone told me that they try to locate in places that don’t have a lot of local eateries, because most people will not choose Olive Garden (for instance) over an equivalent local restaurant. Their advantage is in volume pricing and so huge portions for cheap. As people become calorie conscious they seek a different kind of eating experience. Plus, all people like variety, so repeat business will always be fickle once choices expand.

  67. 67
    Emma says:

    @efgoldman: Actually there’s a trick to Olive Garden. At least my local one. Lunch is better than dinner by a country mile. Salad is fresh and well made, so have that with bread sticks as an appetizer. For a main course do NOT order anything remotely Italian; their grilled salmon, sauteed tilapia, and grilled chicken all served with fresh veggies do the trick.

  68. 68
    ThresherK says:

    @efgoldman: I grew up in the suburbs of CT. Normalizing that, as a kid I thought every village in America with more than four stoplights had a decent local pizzeria or full-scale Italian place,

    I can’t believe how Olive Garden exists between, say, greater Boston and greater Philly.

  69. 69
    debbie says:

    @sukabi:

    That’s exactly what I was thinking!

  70. 70
    chris says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Will no one think of the napkins?!!

  71. 71
    joel hanes says:

    it’s Ruby Tuesday that has a salad bar

    and one of acceptable quality.

    That’s the reason that when I’m visiting my Iowa small-town hometown, I eat at Ruby Tuesday’s at least once a week.
    In CA, good salad bars are ubiquitous. In midwestern small towns, not so much.

  72. 72
    Bnad says:

    The Applebeeses and TGI Fridayses here in NYC seem to be a haven for people in underserved, ungentrified parts of the outer boroughs who don’t have a lot of other dining out options. The ones I’ve been to in the Bronx seemed to often be hosting birthday parties and special occasions. In the Bronx, that is the finest dining gets for a lot of people. They are pretty reasonably priced compared to most other non-brightly-lit (i.e., non-diner) sit down places. Their drinks do tend to be super sweet though.

  73. 73
    HRA says:

    Did you ever spot that big truck pulling up to Applebees at the back? They truck in the prepared meals and zap them in the microwave.

    As I was waiting to get called for government job interviews, I worked as a waitress of a chain owned by a food company. The food was cooked there by cooks. The desserts were also made on site. The salad bar was rolled into the walk in refrigerator with what was leftover except for the lettuce. It was soaked overnight in potato starch and put back the next day. Yuck!

    Go to family operated restaurants.

    Everything was freshly made in my Chef Dad’s restaurant.

  74. 74
    Ruckus says:

    @BBA:

    Smith & Wollensky.

    Ate at one of those when it first opened. Once. Overpriced, pompous, loud. Not an enjoyable meal in any regard.

  75. 75
    JPL says:

    @BBA: The Capital Grille is owned by the same group that owns the Olive Garden. The food is a tad better, but over priced.

  76. 76
    🌷 Martin says:

    @joel hanes: I never see salad bars here in SoCal, but then we have an abundance of vegan places, and those along the vegetarian spectrum. At this point even the brewpubs here know how to put a rather excellent salad together without burdening the customer to do all the work.

  77. 77
    Barbara says:

    @Ruckus: I have eaten at all of these, and I have to say that the steak is usually fine, but they are all shockingly overpriced. The last of this category I ate at was Morton’s, for a work event. Good night, there was no way to get out of there for less than $50 per person just for the entrees, never mind the drinks, desserts or appetizers. It just wasn’t THAT good. I do remember eating at Ruth’s Chris and finding the salad dressing to be way above average.

  78. 78
    Baud says:

    @Major Major Major Major: What do millennials use in place of napkins?

    ETA: Do they make face bidets yet? That would be awesome.

  79. 79
    cain says:

    @joel hanes: My favorite salad bar in the old days used to be Pizza Hut. Man, oh man, they had quite the spread.

  80. 80

    @Baud: Paper towels.

    ETA:

    Do they make face bidets yet?

    I take it you don’t use drinking fountains.

  81. 81
    Mike in NC says:

    Cracker Barrel tops my list of chain restaurants to avoid. The food generally isn’t terrible but the decor and gift shop are a turnoff.

  82. 82

    @🌷 Martin: Being a man of the people, I’ve seen salad bars in Southern CA.

  83. 83
    seaboogie says:

    @Woodrowfan: Exactly.

  84. 84
    Baud says:

    @🐾BillinGlendaleCA: I’ll do that. Interestingly​, I do (or don’t do) a lot of the same things as millennials.

  85. 85
    efgoldman says:

    @ThresherK:

    I thought every village in America with more than four stoplights had a decent local pizzeria or full-scale Italian place,

    I don’t understand how the national pizza chains survive in our area; at least three local places deliver, and they’re price competitive.

    National chains can be very variable (to be charitable). Nobody expects much from Denny’s; the one in Rutland VT was execrable; the sandwich was literally inedible. OTOH, one time we went to the one off I-5 at an isolated rest stop South of Sacramento. Best club sandwich I ever had. Fresh veggies straight off the farm, fresh baked bread, quality meat. Unfortunately never duplicated at any Denny’s anywhere.

  86. 86
    Ruckus says:

    @HRA:
    You know it costs more to make real meals one at a time out of decent ingredients than on a production line far away using much lower cost help than chief(s) costs. All you have to do to know this is ask an MBA. Everything can be boiled down to one thing, profits. Fuck the product, fuck the customer, those corporate assholes don’t eat in their companies restaurants, they know the process.
    On another note, I’ve stated here before that I traveled a lot for my job in professional sports and frequently around where we always had to stay, corporate chains were about the only choice. Non of them are good but a lot of local places weren’t all that good either. But really when you are in a place that has a temporary influx of tens of thousands of people (and sometimes lots more), no place within 20 miles is. There are exceptions of course, mostly expensive exceptions.

  87. 87
    mainmata says:

    Not to be a pedant but millennial has two “ns” not one. Otherwise, agree with the posts in the threads; over-priced, salty food. Bad for you.

  88. 88
    BD of MN says:

    We used to hit Chili’s occasionally as it was close and not horrible for a chain. Their pork fajitas weren’t bad. Then, they eliminated pork from their menu completely (other than their crappy overpriced, overcooked, oversalted ribs…). Haven’t been back, and have actually used this experience to encourage the wife to try other locally owned places…

  89. 89
    Walker says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Cracker Barrel is a guilty pleasure of mine. Unfortunately, as a diaspora Southerner, it is the only way I can get passable chicken and dumplings. I also love their fried apples.

  90. 90
    Citizen Alan says:

    @efgoldman:

    Although it’s really hard for a place with a liquor license to lose money.

    Not if it’s a place notorious for watering down drinks and overcharging for them.

  91. 91
    efgoldman says:

    @JPL:

    The food is a tad better, but over priced.

    They’re supported by expense account business. The customers don’t give a shit and the green eyeshade guys don’t know the difference, because they can’t afford to go there.

  92. 92
    joel hanes says:

    @Mike in NC:

    The food generally isn’t terrible [at Cracker Barrell]

    It has been objectively awful Every. Single. Time. I’ve been foolish enough to eat at a Cracker Barrel.

  93. 93
    Central Planning says:

    @Major Major Major Major: Facebook keeps telling me that millennials are killing the way wine is bought.

  94. 94
    dexwood says:

    @efgoldman:
    I’ve come in late again. I read your comment, said fuck it, I’ve seen enough, jumped to comment. This! It’s my biggest complaint about New Mexican and Mexican restaurants here in Albuquerque. Why so much fucking salt?

  95. 95
    Jeffro says:

    @frosty: you know what seems to be doing well here in Northern Virginia are what I would call local chains, often only connected by being owned by the same restaurant management group (like Great American). They typically only have one or two restaurants with the same concept even if the menu is somewhat similar … sort of a local and unique feeling

  96. 96
    Peale says:

    @joel hanes: yep. As much as I hate to say it, when Applebees came to a suburb 20 miles from the rural town I grew up in, we went often, because that was better food than we could get. The restaurants made their money on Friday nite all you can eat fish fries. The idea that small towns were once filled with the handcrafted baked goods and downscale fine dining options is kind of a myth. When I go back now, I’m sad, actually. The dress up joints in the area, what we called “supper clubs”, where you’d go for a special occasion, well no one bothers to dress to go there any longer. I think the food at them was always mediocre. It was the extra effort to put on a jacket that made them special. Now, they seem to be largely empty places to buy a sand which and sit.

  97. 97
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @joel hanes: The bus trip from Fort Knox (Basic) to Fort Benning (OCS) involved a stop at a Cracker Barrel in what I would guess was Backwoods, Tennessee. I have never voluntarily gone back to one.

  98. 98
    Central Planning says:

    @Baud: I think you’ve just invented the “face baud-et”

  99. 99
    Ruckus says:

    @Mike in NC:
    If, and it’s a big if, you can get past the decor and the gift shop without a bit of a surge from the stomach region, Cracker Barrel is OK. Food is decent, there is enough of it and the service is generally OK. Go when you are hungry, blind and not in a big hurry. All that said, I don’t miss it at all now that I live where there isn’t one within a hundred miles.

  100. 100
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: There’s also the recurring instances of racism.

  101. 101
    GregB says:

    The hated Millennials are disrupting the Applebee’s salad bar.

    The default decent food option in New England is the local pizza joint that is Greek owned.

    Good kabobs, subs, gyros.

  102. 102
    Brachiator says:

    .Casual dining is in danger — and millennials are to blame.

    Brands such as TGI Fridays, Ruby Tuesday, and Applebee’s have faced sales slumps

    Misleading lede. The entire industry is facing problems, not just casual “brands” like Applebee’s, etc.

    There is an ongoing employment slump, leading to a decline in the customer base. Employees have less time for lunch. Costs, including labor costs have increased.

    A local sandwich shop still does good catering business, and does business with a couple of medical centers, which appreciates their healthy and low calorie chicken dishes. And because they are dealing with big orders, the per meal cost is less than their menu prices. They recently had to raise prices as various costs, including labor costs rose.

    However, on the Saturday of the Memorial Day weekend, they did not have a single walk in customer and decided to close early.

    There is also competition from food trucks. There’s a small, but significant loss of business, especially in California, as people can work from home.

    People are able to put together their own lunches more easily, and some companies have big refrigerators, microwave ovens and sometimes kitchens which accommodate stuff better than a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

    And of course you have some lucky employees who work for companies that provide lunch.

    A news radio program which dealt with this had a caller who said that the average cost for a good lunch was $16. She simply could not afford this on a daily basis, no matter how tasty the food was.

  103. 103
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    They fed you? Damn.
    On the day I went in, go to the LA AFES building in the morning, stand around all day, get off the bus in San Diego after 11pm, find a rack and sleep. I did learn a new mantra that day though. “Boy did I fuck up, boy did I fuck up, boy did I fuck up…………………”

  104. 104
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: An army travels on its stomach. OTOH, my uncle who was a plank holder from the USS Bainbridge was part of an all nuke world cruise. They were showing that they were entirely self sufficient and, as a result served only pancakes from Australia back to, I think, Norfolk, VA. My uncle didn’t eat pancakes voluntarily for over 20 years.

  105. 105

    @joel hanes: One of my favorite stories about restaurant eating in the midwest is by a reporter sent to scope out some story who was so desperate for a vegetable besides head lettuce and potatoes that she took to eating the parsley decorating her plate. The waitress said, “Honey, if we knew you were going to eat it, we’d have washed it.”

  106. 106
    efgoldman says:

    @Peale:

    The idea that small towns were once filled with the handcrafted baked goods and downscale fine dining options is kind of a myth.

    We visited my wife’s sister in a very small (literally one stop light) town in Western PA last summer. There were exactly two breakfast places, both local. You can usually get a good breakfast. Nope. Really, really awful. They literally didn’t know how to scramble eggs. The local sausage was inedible.
    The kind of small town places where a couple of tables of old guys sit around all morning drinking coffee and complaining about the same thing… every goddamned day.
    We ended up driving 1/2 hour to a Percy’s franchise. Not good, oversalted, but consistent and predictable.

  107. 107
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Peale: @efgoldman: Small towns, no. Small cities of 30-40,000? Yeah, there are good food options.

  108. 108
    efgoldman says:

    @Ruckus:

    Cracker Barrel is OK. Food is decent, there is enough of it and the service is generally OK.

    I’ve never been in one. My kids go to them on their semi-annual drives from NoVa to NC. They’re consistent, and they have no trouble finding something for granddaughter to eat, and it’s better than McD’s, BK, or Wendy’s.

  109. 109
    HRA says:

    @Ruckus:
    Yes, it does cost more to have the meals cooked fresh. My Dad had one motto “If I won’t eat it, I won’t serve it.” There was never a moment when it was without customers from 3 am till 9 pm. There was no financial problem or loss of profit.

  110. 110
    burnspbesq says:

    Hope Bobo dies before I get old.

  111. 111
    burnspbesq says:

    @efgoldman:

    Cracker Barrel is for people who don’t want their neighbors to see them coming out of Waffle House.

  112. 112
    frosty says:

    @Mike in NC:

    Cracker Barrel tops my list of chain restaurants to avoid.

    We hit it on the road for breakfasts, particularly the pecan pancakes. Agreed on the gift shop and decor. Ugh.

  113. 113
    J R in WV says:

    @Walker:

    There is nothing passable about anything served at Cracker Barrel. Nothing!

    Plus they fire people they discover are gay. I can make better chicken and dumplings in 45 minutes than you can get at Cracker Barrel. Really. JiffyMix dumplings, with butter added to the batter. Celery, onions and carrots fried in a little butter, chicken pulled off the bone and diced, add broth and white wine, add dumping batter after half an hour… Um good.

  114. 114
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Wasn’t that noticeable in the NW suburbs of Columbus, OH. Not saying it didn’t happen but it wasn’t obvious. And I do tend to notice that sort of crap.

  115. 115
    burnspbesq says:

    @🌷 Martin:

    I never see salad bars here in SoCa

    Does Souplantation count as a salad bar? There’s one on Newport Ave. in Tustin. Upscale, non-chain supermarkets also have them.

  116. 116
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: It was allegedly things like failing to promote qualified POC.

  117. 117
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The chains underperform because bean counters suck. Here in Tracktown, there are a metric fuckton of local eateries that offer price, quality, and service superiority to the chains. Local sushi joint my little social circle frequents has the owner on site, chopping away, serving up moderately priced sushi that pleases the palate, and the service is superb. The owner loves to serve that good stuff up, and it shows.

  118. 118
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    I avoid chicken. I will eat it occasionally, in a burrito or some such, I won’t buy it and cook it. The worst was master chief Johnson’s diesel fried chicken at tech school in San Diego. No, that’s incorrect. The actual worst was on the DDG I was stationed on. For 2 yrs. Take a 75 lb box of frozen solid chicken, cut off the box, stick the ice/chicken cube in an oven till it can be pried apart, deep fry for maybe 2 min and serve. Crispy on the outside, pink and cold in the middle. Just like mom never made. Or even KFC. And chicken is cheap so we got chicken about 12 out of the 20 hot meals a week. Poor swabs, got supposedly 3 hot meals every day, twice on Sunday. Every EM club had better food. Now that’s saying something. Used to bring on bread and PB when getting underway. Until the bread ran out or got moldy.

  119. 119
    Ruckus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:
    Or even hiring them in the first place.

    ETA It used to be a pretty southern/rural type of place. Never saw one in the middle of a town, always on the outskirts, as close to rural as could be.

  120. 120
    Marci Kiser says:

    “This restaurant chain has been so successful. It must be because the people who run them are really good businessmen. Also, let’s ask their views on climate change and charter schools.”
    “This restaurant chain is failing. It must be the fault of The Kids.”

    It’s a nice racket.

  121. 121
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Ruckus: And people asked me why I chose the army out of all the services.

  122. 122

    @Omnes Omnibus: My town of less than a thousand peeps has one nice farm to table restaurant, one decent breakfast updated diner kinda pl ace, a Japanese restaurant, a diner, pizza and sandwich shop and couple of other places. @ArchTeryx:Have you tried Alibaba in Troy and Karavali in Latham?

  123. 123
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodingers_cat: How close is your town to a bigger city or college town? It I drop you in a truly rural village of less than 1000 in WI, MN, ND, KS, AL, NC, etc., you might not find the same result.

  124. 124
    Capri says:

    @RepubAnon: Yes, nobody goes to the mall anymore, it’s too crowded.

    (With apologies to Yogi Berra)

  125. 125
    efgoldman says:

    @J R in WV:

    I can make better chicken and dumplings in 45 minutes than you can get at Cracker Barrel.

    Ah, but can you make and eat it in 1/2 hour halfway thru a 400-mile drive?

  126. 126
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @efgoldman: Is that like calling spirits from the vasty deep?

  127. 127

    @Omnes Omnibus: Very close to a college town and to a decent sized city for Western Mass. But more than 60% of the area is farmland, so its pretty rural too. Just on the street I live is a good sized working farm. Its a nice mix!

  128. 128
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @schrodingers_cat: It makes a difference.

  129. 129
    burnspbesq says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    At this time of year, if you’re in the Capital District and you’re not sitting at a picnic table at Jumpin’ Jacks, it had beeter be cold or rainy, or you have some ‘splainin’ to do.

  130. 130

    @burnspbesq: No longer live there (actually husband kitteh used to live near Albany, I used to just spend my summers there)

  131. 131
    SectionH says:

    @burnspbesq: It counts, imo. There’s one in Rancho Bernardo, which is a giant open air nursing home in its heart. We used to go with my elderly aunt, who was tiny and filled most of her first plate with salad, picked at that, and then ate half of 3 desserts, and of course smuggled the rest of the desserts out. Souplantation resembled one of those All-You-Can-Eat chain places in the Midwest, slightly less tacky, and I hated it nearly as much (my Dad was responsible for my visits to the Midwestern ones), but at least you could get bad wine in RB. I prefer not to drink bad wine, but there are times when any cab in a crisis.

    @Omnes Omnibus: Yep. I can think of too many places a traveller can end up at a chain restaurant for various reasons where with more time, energy, luck, they’d find a better local place. But I could add several other states to your list. I spent a night in Lordsburg, NM once, and that was just sad. And I tried the highly rec’d local place. What made it even sadder was how much Lordsburg is still hyped in some ways. Old railroad town, dying…

  132. 132
    Ken says:

    @Central Planning:

    Facebook keeps telling me that millennials are killing the way wine is bought.

    “These kids with their fancy-schmancy clay amphorae. They may look nice, but the wine’s got no flavor. In my day, we stored it in goatskins, and drank out of them too.”

  133. 133

    @SectionH: I once found a nice little Chinese restaurant in Northern Maine! It was too small for the likes of Applebees and the like.

  134. 134
    Gemina13 says:

    Tacoma and Seattle have plenty of great places to eat. Darden’s eateries are like reverse Taco Bells, serving bad, expensive food. I can get decent, less costly Italian, seafood, or American cuisine anywhere here. If millennials are killing the Darden chains by not buying their crappy food, I salute them.

  135. 135
    efgoldman says:

    @schrodingers_cat:

    Very close to a college town and to a decent sized city for Western Mass

    Multiple college towns, yes? UMass in Amherst, the Five colleges, Amherst college, New England college.
    It surprised me, when our daughter was at UMass, how many really excellent places there were in Amherst. In a college town you expect places that serve large amounts of inexpensive and not necessarily great food, quickly.

  136. 136
    SiubhanDuinne says:

    @HRA:

    My Dad had one motto “If I won’t eat it, I won’t serve it.”

    That’s interesting. My family owned a bookstore, and I often heard my mother say “If I won’t read it, I won’t sell it.” Pretty sure she learned that philosophy from her father, the store’s founder.

  137. 137
    SectionH says:

    @schrodingers_cat: Go you! And that’s not snark. I used to have a good instinct for local places, but sometimes one isn’t to be found. I’m thinking of the ghastly Chinese restaurant in Wawa, ONT. Pop. currently ~2900, quite possibly smaller 20+ yrs ago, but it is on the TransCanada Hwy. There wasn’t anything else open. [eta, and it looked the most promising of the options anyway.] They were pleasant enough. But damn, if you lived there?

  138. 138
    Anne Laurie says:

    @schrodingers_cat: To be fair, you’re in Massachusetts — and, IIRC, in a part of Massachusetts where the leading industries are universities and tourism. Better-quality food options are as much a requirement in such areas as good wifi coverage and hotels/motels/b&bs at all price points.

  139. 139
    TenguPhule says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    And the day David Brooks’ broken, exsanguinated body is found in a Manhattan back alley will be a great day for the world.

    Still waiting for the check to clear.

  140. 140
    SectionH says:

    @SectionH: I mean, the people running it were pleasant enough. And the food was just bad, it didn’t cause digestive tract distress.

  141. 141
    Anne Laurie says:

    @RepubAnon:

    I’d say the real problem for these chains is the franchise fees. Example: the local pizza places near my house have the same (or better) quality pizzas – and are a few bucks cheaper. If the franchise owner jacks up the fees, the franchisees become uncompetitive.

    Bing-bing-bing… we has a winner!

    Plus, many of these chains are located in shopping malls – and the malls are headed for extinction. With more people shopping online rather than braving the parking nightmares, crowds, and poor selections at the malls, why go there? If the malls are losing customers, so will the chain stores which depend upon them.

    Can only speak about the Boston area, but here, the slightly-more-expensive “white tablecloth” chain restaurants (Cheesecake Factory, PF Changs) in the big malls seem to be cannibalizing the Applebee/RubyTuesday/Fridays chains in the strip malls. At least some people seem to think an afternoon of mall-shopping, or a movie at the octoplex, finished with a “nice” meal is still enough entertainment for their money.

    Which may be part of the point: It’s not just about food quality / price, it’s about the “entertainment” value of going out to eat. Plenty of people are satisfied with mediocre food and bad liquor, as long as they feel like they’re being treated “special” (which may, under the wrong circumstances, turn into abusing the waitstaff, because they can), or they’re getting something they don’t / can’t fix at home (tarted-up “specials”, drinks with complicated ingredients).

  142. 142
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @BBA:

    He then moved on to start a higher-class restaurant under another gimmicky pseudonym – Smith & Wollensky.

    There was an S&W by my hotel in Boston (on Arlington at Columbus, for those who know the area). The building was essentially a small castle. Pretty impressive structure; did not dine there.

  143. 143
    SectionH says:

    @Anne Laurie: Uh, Legal? ;-> That’s my idea of an upscale, well, ~ish chain, tbh. Il Fornaio out here has a similar feel to it.

  144. 144
    barbequebob says:

    @burnspbesq: Nice connecting job there

  145. 145
    Lyrebird says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Hey, you went and returned, safely I presume! Hope y’all had a great time!

  146. 146
    Anne Laurie says:

    @SectionH: Yup — also Not Your Average Joes (is that just local?) and Bertuccis (which, IIRC, tried to go national & had to pull back to its NE roots).

    At least around here, those places tend to be located next to extended-stay business hotels, which is probably not a coincidence, either.

  147. 147
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Lyrebird: we did, thank you! And now I need a few days off to sleep and detox. And the best seafood we had was at Yankee Lobster.

  148. 148
    Lyrebird says:

    @Steve in the ATL: Glad to hear you had a good time! And some good food.

    Can’t say as I’ve ordered lobster in Boston itself, but I got pretty spoiled during grad school near the NH/Maine border (short drive to places next to the lobstering docks). You on the other hand can laugh at us further north about those strange fuzzy vegetables mistakenly labeled “peaches” and sold as fruit in our stores, compared to what you can get, right?

  149. 149
    Steve in the ATL says:

    @Lyrebird: we get the peaches, you get the apples. Except that Georgia is now too warm to grow peaches, so i suppose we will switch to oranges.

    What I heard up there was that lobster and crab are now a problem in New England because the ocean there is too warm now and the shellfish have moved father north.

    The only bad food we had was at Charlie’s Kitchen by Harvard square. The lobster roll was ok, but the rest was lame. It was worth it, however, to have a few beers and watch smart but socially awkward people attempt to socialize.

  150. 150
    different-church-lady says:

    I would like to put in a request that they kill Panera next.

  151. 151
    efgoldman says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    The building was essentially a small castle.

    It was originally a National Guard armory.
    I meant to recommend Jacob Wirth’s, a couple of blocks down Stuart Street. Good, solid German food, not pricey for downtown.

  152. 152
    efgoldman says:

    @Steve in the ATL:

    The only bad food we had was at Charlie’s Kitchen by Harvard square.

    Student spot. They don’t care about the quality.
    Harvard Square used to have a lot more local places, but the rents got so high it is now mostly franchise city – a mall, but outdoors with cars that will run you over. The best cheapo food now is probably Bartley’s.

  153. 153
    Gvg says:

    Eh I don’t much care about food. I’m odd that way. People spend so much time talking about it, it must be important but whatever.
    Businesses have a life cycle. People get bored and management fails and times change. It doesn’t strike me as all that notable if some chains are currently cycling out. Seems like I have seen many fail and new ones turn up over and over. Some last a century like Sears but resteraunts have from what I have read, always had a faster cycle. Why is this supposed to be significant?
    I have to admit I don’t understand why malls are supposed to be dying. Internet shopping cutting back the numbers yes but they seem to be just separating out to bigger separate stores that you have to go to one, then get back in your car and drive to another one further away spending more time crossing hot parking lots and more time than malls. They are also building too many when space is unfilled in pretty recently built ones and it’s everywhere, not just my town. Why? Business is not supposed to be this stupid. Malls are a sensible arrangement, we just need fewer with the Internet.

  154. 154
    Ruckus says:

    @burnspbesq:
    So you’ve been to both? And it’s Awful House. Learn how to pronounce it.

  155. 155
    CZanne says:

    @cain: As a grown up antifa graduate… antifa/BlackBloc is complicated. I still consider myself antifa since fascism violates every aspect of my ethics and sense of justice; it’s not a difficult position for most people who are on the not authoritarian side of the bell curve.

    I am proud of my time Black Bloc’ing, and I think organized, thoughtful Black Bloc serves a too-often necessary purpose of putting young, fast-healing, strong bodies who have trained for defensive postures on the front line defense to protect the younger/older, more fragile, or more precarious bodies or lives from baton-happy cops and assholes. This generation of Bloc has multiple problems they’re only starting to recognize, because we’ve had about 25 years of relative calm, when Bloc’ing wasn’t as needed. Though to be fair, they are recognizing, and learning fast. In my day (as I shake my middle aged, I Survived the Battle of Seattle cane), we were still practicing trust circles left over from the FBI Infiltrator and Agent Provocateur era, and weren’t publishing our tactics on open websites, and those of us using electronic comms were the rarity. Those who brought me in had years of practice, and were better able to gauge what action we needed to take. (On days when the cops were feeling frisky, we picked up litter. Period.) Today’s groups are just rebuilding those practical skills, and we Xers who are trying to advise are vastly out-numbered and honestly, getting too bloody old for it. As far as I can see, contemporary Bloc has not yet figured out that you never throw shit, you politely roll back the carelessly dropped gas canisters to the ones with the gas masks, and hasn’t yet built their internal discipline to maintain an event-specific group identifier (basically, a daily visual password) to keep out disrupters and provocateurs. But the Alt-Reich also escalated fast, and there’s organized disruption and provocation in place.

    Bloc does serve a purpose, especially in a surveillance situation, and now, everything can be a surveillance situation. Everybody owns black clothing and most blacks match. That’s why Bloc dresses in black — it aids anonymity and privacy in a world of at will employment, doxxing and SWATting. If indigo was that consistent, Bloc would wear blue denim. I felt safer in Bloc as a relatively small woman than I did in street clothes protest, because the uniform helped shield my gender and identity. Pissed off cops try to hurt the smallest protesters first, and they tend to go for women, because misogyny is a thing, and this generation of both cops and RWNJs are far more violent than my generation’s cops and RWNJs were. I came into Bloc via my Quaker activism, to provide defense and an avenue of escape to those who needed it (which is not in violation of Quaker Peace ethics). I stopped Bloc’ing once I got my license, because that was understood and expected within 1990s activism — if an arrest could break your ability to self-support and keep being an activist, your job was no longer front line, but one who did the bailing out.

    Basically… don’t dismiss antifa or Bloc as nothing but teenage asshats who want to break shit. Bloc is a specific tactic, and antifa exists specifically to counter LARPing Nazi wannabes who tend to be the opposite of law-abiding or peaceful. This generation of Bloc is unpracticed and both adversaries (cops and LARPing Nazi wannabes) have escalated fast.

  156. 156
    efgoldman says:

    @Gvg:

    Why? Business is not supposed to be this stupid.

    Some are, some aren’t. Some businesses are creative and forward thinking; they think ahead; their developers saw growing suburbs/exurbs with no quick and easy access to shopping, so they built malls and made tons of money. Other developers saw that and said “hey! License to print money!” So they built out malls into housing recessions, or oversaturated areas, or areas where major employers were on the way to closing, or a bazillion other bad reasons.

  157. 157
    Ruckus says:

    @Anne Laurie:
    It could also be that a lot of people are just bad cooks. Everything boiled or fried. It’s not all that unusual. And cooking reasonably isn’t that difficult but it does take some effort. I know someone who has lived in a dormitory situation for 45 yrs, eats in a cafeteria and doesn’t know how to cook anything. Her mother was a good cook and taught all of her kids how. Two of them actually learned. One was exceptional. And today you can eat without knowing any more than how to open a container and turn on a microwave so you don’t really have to learn.

  158. 158
    Ruckus says:

    @Gvg:
    My problem with food these days is that my sense of taste and smell is almost entirely gone. I get salty, bitter, sweet, heat and texture but not what most people call taste. Raw garlic or onion? Nothing. That chicken I don’t like? It’s all in my head. I really don’t want to eat a $50 meal that tastes like an $8 dollar one. I still do try to eat somewhat healthy but really food is to keep me going, not for enjoyment.

  159. 159
    grandpa john says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Navy here. Spent two years on a tin can, All our cooks were Southern Boys,SC and GA .Only gripe came from northern boys

  160. 160
    akryan says:

    I know my friends and I still go out a lot. Applebees just isn’t good anymore. They used to be pretty decent, but the quality has gone way downhill. I still like Red Robin though. Good burgers, good milkshakes. Are they hurting? The best food is all at family owned non-chain places though. Even the hole in the wall hangover hamburger shop is way better than McDonald’s and the old guy that’s owned it forever knows what you want when you walk in. Same cost, better food and service. It’s not that hard to understand.

  161. 161
    evodevo says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: That was probably the original one lol … it was originally started in TN …..

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