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Posts Tagged ‘restaurants

“I went to a restaurant that serves ‘breakfast at any time.’ So I ordered French Toast during the Renaissance.”*…

 

Casual dining chains — industry parlance for economical sit-down restaurants like Fridays, Applebee’s, Chili’s, and Buffalo Wild Wings — have subsisted in a dismal and persistent state of decline for about a decade. But in the last two years, things have gotten worse, with the number of people eating at casual dining chains overall falling every single month since June 2015; they are now the worst-performing segment of the entire restaurant industry. In recent months, Applebee’s has said it will close 135 locations this year; Buffalo Wild Wings will shed at least 60. Ruby Tuesday closed 109 restaurants last year, and put the whole company up for sale in MarchFriendly’sBennigan’sJoe’s Crab Shack, and Logan’s Roadhouse have all filed for bankruptcy.

Whatever your feelings about casual dining chains, they have been a vital part of the way that many Americans eat since the 1930s, when Howard Johnson began blanketing the highways with his trademark orange-and-teal restaurants — temples to affordable, quality fare in a wholesome setting. After plodding along for some 50 years, the genre exploded during the 1980s, as America entered a period of sustained economic growth and chains like Fridays, Olive Garden, and Applebee’s saturated suburban landscapes with their bland, softly corporate vision of good times and good food. While the brands and the fads have changed — RIP fried-clam sandwich, hello baby back ribs and buffalo sliders — the formula has remained more or less unchanged over the decades: middlebrow menu, solid value, and friendly service, consistently executed, from Pasadena to Tallahassee. Until recently, it was a formula that worked across cuisines, state lines, and demographics…

TGI Fridays and Applebee’s and their ilk are struggling as the American middle class and its enormous purchasing power withers away in real time, with the country’s population dividing into a vast class of low-wage earners who cannot afford the indulgence of sit-down meal of Chili’s Mix & Match Fajitas and a Coke, and a smaller cluster of high-income households for whom a Jack Daniel’s sampler platter at Fridays is no longer good enough. At the same time, the rise of the internet, smartphones, and streaming media have changed the ways that consumers across the income spectrum choose to allocate our leisure time — and, by association, our mealtimes. In-home (and in-hand) entertainment has altered how we consume casual meals, making the Applebee’s and Red Lobsters of the world less and less relevant to the way America eats.

As casual dining restaurants collapse in on themselves, TGI Fridays remains — unfortunately for it — an emblem for the entire category: In 2014, after years of slipping sales, the chain was sold to a pair of private equity firms, Sentinel Capital Partners and TriArtisan Capital Advisors, which swiftly began offloading company-owned restaurants to franchisees, essentially stripping the business for parts. Meanwhile, the chain’s beleaguered management has attempted to turn things around with a series of highly publicized initiatives, like delivering booze. Most notably, last year, Fridays unveiled a new concept restaurant in Texas — a stunning reversal from the tchotchke-laden image savagely memorialized in Mike Judge’s 1999 cult classic Office Space — that’s heavy on neutral tones, pale wood, brick walls, and exceedingly mellow, indistinct furniture; it looks like a neglected airport lounge in Helsinki…

A fascinating consideration of a restaurant that is both an avatar and a bellwether of the American middle class: “As Goes the Middle Class, So Goes TGI Fridays.”

See also: “Applebee’s Deserves To Die,” which explores the millennial dimension of this phenomenon:

The media-created meme that’s arisen about millennials killing things — beer, napkins, Hooters, cereal, casual dining establishments, and motorcycles, and golf, to name a few — is fascinating, again, because of what it reveals. Young people’s generally decreased standard of living and the preferences they have developed as a result are destroying established industries, and older people don’t like it. But these are rational responses to economic anxiety. Everything from high rates of homeownership to Hooters came out of a middle-class prosperity that doesn’t really exist anymore, because the middle class doesn’t really exist in America anymore, especially not for the millennials who had to grow up without the comfort of the American Dream. Chains united America, but things were different then, and for millennials at least, they’re irreparably broken now…

* Steven Wright

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As we avail ourselves of the Endless Appetizers, we might recall that it was on this date in 1945 that a self-taught engineer named Percy Spencer applied for a patent for a “microwave cooking oven”; he had been working in a lab testing magnetrons, the high-powered vacuum tubes inside radars.  One day while working near the magnetrons– which produced microwaves– Spencer noticed a peanut butter candy bar in his pocket had begun to melt — shortly after, the microwave oven was born.

In 1947, Raytheon introduced Spencer’s invention, the world’s first microwave oven, the “Radarange”: a refrigerator-sized appliance that cost $2-3,000.  It found a some applications in commercial food settings and on Navy ships, but no consumer market.  Then Raytheon licensed the technology to the Tappan Stove Company, which introduced a wall-mounted version with two cooking speeds (500 and 800 watts), stainless steel exterior, glass shelf, top-browning element and a recipe card drawer.  It sold for $1,295 (figure $10,500 today).

Later Litton entered the business and developed the short, wide shape of the microwave that we’re familiar with today. As Wired reports, this opened the market:

Prices began to fall rapidly. Raytheon, which had acquired a company called Amana, introduced the first popular home model in 1967, the countertop Radarange. It cost $495 (about $3,200 today).

Consumer interest in microwave ovens began to grow. About 40,000 units were sold in the United States in 1970. Five years later, that number hit a million.

The addition of electronic controls made microwaves easier to use, and they became a fixture in most kitchens. Roughly 25 percent of U.S. households owned a microwave oven by 1986. Today, almost 90 percent of American households have a microwave oven.

Today, Percy Spencer’s invention and research into microwave technology are still being used as a jumping off point for further research in radar and magnetron technologies.  Different wavelengths of microwaves are being used to keep an eye on weather conditions and even rain structures via satellites, and are able to penetrate clouds, rain, and snow, according to NASA.  Other radar technology use microwaves to monitor sea levels to within a few centimeters.

Police are also known to use radar guns to monitor a vehicle’s speed, which continually transmit microwaves to measure the waves’ reflections to see how fast one is driving.

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Written by LW

October 8, 2017 at 1:01 am

“You have to be insanely well prepared”*…

 

The service industry always has job openings. The rising number of chefs who are working on a freelance basis is becoming a great challenge for restaurant owners who are trying to keep their businesses going. Twenty-eight-year-old Dennis de Haan of De Haan restaurant, located in the Dutch city of Groningen, doesn’t have this problem. His restaurant seats sixteen, serves five courses, and features an open kitchen and wine bar. There’s just one hook: the whole place is run De Haan himself. Five days a week, de Haan is not only the chef, but also the server and the dishwasher. His business is thriving…

He’s the owner, cook, waiter, busboy, dishwasher, and sommelier– and he hasn’t gone crazy yet: “This Restaurant Only Has One Employee.”

Is it a trend?  In Copenhagen, another one-employee restaurant has started up: “Meet the Man Who Does Every Single Job at ‘Denmark’s Smallest Restaurant’.”

* Thomas Pamperin, the Danish solo operator

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As we sharpen our knives, we might recall that it was on this date in 2012 that the movie “The Hunger Games” premiered across the U.S.

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Written by LW

March 23, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The only time to eat diet food is while you’re waiting for the steak to cook”*…

 

 click here for larger interactive version

As your correspondent flies home from the land of lobster rolls, a consideration of the food preferences that set us, state by state, apart…

Every state in the U.S. has a unique flavor, from Chicken Cheesesteak to Chinese Chicken SaladFoursquare analyzed the data to pinpoint which food or drink is most disproportionately popular in each destination, and worked with Mapbox to create [this] dynamic map…

More at “America’s Most Popular Tastes.”

* Julia Child

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As we place our orders, we might recall that it was on this date in 1892 that the Lea & Perrins label was trademarked.  First sold in 1838 by John Wheeley Lea and William Henry Perrins, dispensing chemists from Broad Street, Worcester, “Worcestershire Sauce” remains a staple condiment.

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Written by LW

May 31, 2015 at 1:01 am

“The first time you see something that you have never seen before, you almost always know right away if you should eat it or run away from it”*…

 

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Readers have surely encountered the wax models of sushi, tempura, et al. that grace the entrances of Japanese restaurants, advertising the dishes available therein.  Here, the story of that faux food:

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A segment from the documentary Tokyo-Ga by Wim Wenders shows the meticulous process by which Japanese wax food samples are made. Molds are made from pieces of real food, and the wax forms produced from the molds are then worked and painted to closely resemble the original items. Another clip posted by YouTube user macdeetube shows a worker forming a wax sample piece of shrimp tempura and a head of cabbage from raw materials.

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Via Laughing Squid

* Scott Adams

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As we say arigatou, we might note that this is the prime night– Saturday night– of National Curry Week (established 17 years ago, in the UK, to celebrate 200 years of Indian restaurants there) and the first night of National Eating In/Out Week.  Dinner, anyone?

 

Written by LW

October 18, 2014 at 1:01 am

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