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.
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?"
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.
2. "Don't you have anything better to do with your time than write about f*cking McDonald's?"
No. I really have nothing better to do with my time, since my career writing negative fortune cookie messages never took off the way I planned, and my "Meatloaf on a Stick" idea didn't pan out.
1. "When are you gonna review Cracker Barrel, huh?"
That's a damn good idea, actually. Cracker Barrel has been in the restaurant industry news lately because it is looking for ways to improve. I should really help CB on its quest, since at this point I personally see the joint as a highway off-ramp last resort for weary traveling diners who have grandma and grandpa in the car.
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"Your boss probably hates you, so that's why you're doing this, right?"
I don't think this is true at all. I got invited to the company Christmas party, so if my bosses really hated me, they'd have concocted an elaborate scheme to keep me away from them, and the canapés.