Tuesday, March 29, 2011

corporate whores!

Why would anyone in Stratford eat at a corporate restaurant?

Not meaning to trash talk specifically, but in a city so blessed with independent operators in just about every category of dining, WHY?

Corporations like Kelsey's & Boston Pizza offer little more than mediocrity, they are the BIG BOX stores of restaurants. Yet, despite our aversion to Walmart, the dining rooms of the corporate places are sometimes bustling while the independent restaurants such as The Annex, Foster's, Bentley's, Pazzo, Simple Fish & Chips etc. have quiet nights through the winter.  Where is our support for community on a larger scale?  There is a nice tidy little group of people who support the independent operators but what about the 34,847 other people in this town!?

Your average corporation employs cooks who don't care so much about quality food as they do about food cost bonuses, and the servers are usually just passing through - not truly in tune with the needs of a guest.  Why waste your money on a frozen pizza, or vegetables microwaved from frozen in a bag and dumped onto your plate beside your over salted (hence the intense savoury flavour) sauce (also from a bag) slathered on your chicken breast (raised ethically? I think not).  That cheap T-bone advertised on the Crabby Joe's sign - where do you think they get that meat from? Perhaps the steak at Foster's is a little more expensive but at least they know the supplier!

The average person tends to default to the corporations, grandma prefers the festive special at Swiss Chalet because she has been conditioned to feel this way.  Birthday parties are booked at Boston Pizza because there's a free dessert and they sing and clap and there's a great deal of hooplah.  These are not valid reasons!

Some people cite "price point" as their reason for choosing corporate, let's do a comparison shall we?

Boston Pizza dinner for 2 sharing a pizza, water to drink:
- Caesar salad $5.49 (starter size) be careful though, the bacon costs extra
- Rustic Italian Pizza $16.49 (10" serves 1-2)
TOTAL = $21.98

Pazzo Pizzeria dinner for 2 sharing a pizza, water to drink:
- Caesar salad with Italian bacon $9
- Za Za Gabor $15.00 (approx. 12" serves 1-2)
TOTAL = $24.00

The bacon alone is worth the extra $2.02, not to mention the atmosphere, service, quality & the fact that you are supporting a local independent restauranteur.

My dear Local-Come-Lately, where's Chew?  I can tell you where I'm not!


  1. Excellent post! You've summed up all thats wrong with big box anything. Keep it up!

  2. Just so you know. Some of these 'corporate chains' are franchises owned by locals trying their best to support their family & community. i.e. Molly Bloom's.
    And, of course, not everyone wants the same things in life.

  3. I am fully aware that most are owned by locals but find it interesting that you would group Molly Blooms into the corporate bunch. I would consider them to be part of a small franchise that began just down the road in Waterloo. And despite having certain franchisee obligations I think Rob does a great job supporting the local community through live music, etc.

  4. Great post! I totally agree with everything!

  5. Corporate places are safe - the menu is known and consistent, flavours are not extreme, ingredients are not unusual, you have immediate social acceptance by others. Let's face it - how many people can cook sufficiently well to meet even Boston Pizza's standards? To many that serve food from a box, is there a need to go beyond what is safe and already better?

    To me the biggest one I cannot understand is Tim Horton's coffee. The stuff tastes terrible, there is a huge line up in the mornings, there are many better alternatives in town and the cost to experiment with an alternative is low (unlike dinner for two). I suppose none have a drive through though!

  6. The problem is exactly what you are saying, that people have lowered their expectations to such a point, that consistent mediocrity is ok. It is unfortunate that anyone eats this way and is contented. It might sound a little pretentious, but I demand quality and integrity when I go out to eat!

  7. Theres not really much crossover between the audience of Boston pizza and Pazzo. I feel as though people go to Boston Pizza for the atmosphere more than anything, its a place where you can go, eat some pizza, joke around with some friends and watch some sports. Its casual, whereas going to Pazzos is something kept for maybe taking a special one out to dinner.

    I also find it terribly unprofessional to title this article "Corporate Whores", theres no need for language like that. They're simply a business offering a service that attracts a certain audience. They go for mass appeal to appeal to a mass audience.

  8. Walmart is also "simply a business offering a service that attracts a certain audience". I am not that audience, nor do I see the validity in the service offered, thus the post.

  9. The service of providing a cheaper product? Like the fact is that people will drive all the way to London to go to wallmart because of the savings so little jimmy can stay in soccer and they don't have to serve ketchup sandwiches for dinner. Just because you're not their target audience doesn't mean that their business is any less legitimate, not seeing the validity of the service offered is just being naive.

  10. I would just like to remind all; that EVERYONE is entitled to their opinion. Being a blogger in assocciation with the Stratford Tourism Alliance, I too have faced criticism over some of my opinions/blog postings. Opinions stated in blogs by the blogger are usually soley their opinion, and that is what is being offered. Now, it is up to the reader to take it or leave it. If you happen to enjoy what you have read, then by all means, follow that particular blog. If not, of course you are open to your opinion as well. However, let's all remember to "play nice", and there is no need to be harsh. Remember, it is just one person's opinion on something, and it doesn't mean that it is carved in stone as being right or wrong. Cheers!

  11. The above statement is of course... just MY opinion. :)

  12. It sounds to me like you need some more life experience. People who have small children don't relish the thought of taking their brood to a place like The Annex Room or Down the Street for dinner. Prices aside (for those of you who can afford to be so dismissive) families prefer to dine in an atmosphere where children are welcomed and appreciated. I have, on occasion, taken my children to such places, but it's not nearly as relaxing as going to a place like Boston Pizza (where I don't have to fret so much about the volume of my children's laughter). I respect your dining choices, as you should respect mine. If all of the "corporate whore" restaurants were to leave Stratford, the locally owned eateries would fill with families with small children. I doubt you would like that.

  13. Is this blog associated with the Stratford Tourism Alliance? If so, I'd be shocked at their judgement. Chew's opinions are lacking depth, and his delivery is insulting to a large portion of the population. I'm all for bloggers expressing their opinions, but if this is associated with Stratford Tourism, I think it's inappropriate, and sheds a negative light on Stratford.

  14. This blog is not associated with the Stratford Tourism Alliance nor any specific restaurant in the city. I am unsure why you feel my opinions lack depth, please do not view this post nor any single post as the defining element of my thoughts.
    This post is not meant to insult and I feel it is not overly disrespectful or untrue, perhaps with the exception of the title which is merely an attention grabbing metaphor.

  15. I can definitely relate from the other end of the spectrum. I live in Cambridge, where we have virtually every chain going, but little in the way of places I would class as institutions. The chains definitely choke out local cuisine, leaving essentially homogenized food choices.

    I grew up in Brant County and look at great places like Admirals or Dairy Deelite that are practically rites of passage than just a bite to eat.

  16. Just remember. You ARE, (for a while at least) what you CHEW or SPEW. Thinking before Spewing is always a good idea.

  17. As an independant restaurant owner who has seen great success, I agree with Chew's opinion in that sometimes the mass population just settles for the easiest and cheapest. As long as the little guy is doing what they love to do, and making the food they love to eat, success will come, regardelss of how much of the population chooses to eat from a chain restaurant where all of their foods are brought in premade from the same supplier. Even though I may be trumped by the large chains in my city, I still do a swift business and do not worry about any competition from them, rather, concentrate on pleasing my customers so maybe, if even just once, they might choose to come to my place instead of Boston Pizza. Even though the chains produce generic and mindless foods, I still give much kudos to their creators who esentially are all about business, and have found a way to cash in on the uneducated public who, yes, just want a "safe" place to take their family, co-workers and friends to, where they know what to expect, and recieve the same food and service each time they go. I am not threatened by them, but would love to take any opportunity to remind folks to just take a few more minutes before you go out for dinner and research the options in your city, instead of going to the fist "safe" place. You just might find a hidden jem that you like better then any of the Boston Pizza's, East Side Mario's or Kelseys!!

  18. My fav's:

    Down the Street
    Simpe Fish & Chips
    York Street Kitchen
    County Foods

    Why, I know the owner,I know they're decisions are based on their community they serve and not some corporate dogma. I trust them and enjoy the food, service, experience~cost is relative. If i enjoy 4 good outings a month versus 10 average, I'll take my 4 good outtings anytime. Cheap is cheap-period. Just my opinion.

  19. I also agree with the Chew's opinion that the mass populous often "settle" for the easiest. I don't, however, believe the fore mentioned corporate chains offer the cheapest option and I certainly don't believe that families are not welcomed into the many independently owned restaurants that are at your disposal in this small city. Granted, there are a few exceptions to that last statement, very few.
    A simple phone call with a few key questions to find out whether or not it's a family friendly environment is often all that is needed. Ask about kid appropriate foods (maybe a kids menu), if they have colouring activities available or if you should provide your own. Or, you could flat out ask. But, to to say that independent restaurateurs do not want families filling their establishments is extremely presumptuous and frankly untrue. I know from personal experience that Pazzo's, Foster's, The Annex, The Sun Room, and Simple (to name a few) all offer activities for children and a few even have a "kids menu".
    I also believe one of the points that was dramatically missed by many in this "point of view" was the local factor. One of the best ways to sustain this small community is to support small establishments. Who often, in turn support local producers and farmers. This is not only a healthier option but, it creates a richer community economy.
    So, Chew, stand up and take a bow. This particular blog is a brilliant start in helping people become aware that small businesses (restaurants in this case) need the support of their community to survive.

  20. Interesting topic. I see that your blog is not hosted or designed by a local company. Have you considered supporting a Stratford business by having them design or host your site?