Saturday, July 11, 2009

Travel Musings...the Homogenization of American Dining

I've been doing a fair amount of travel around the country recently. I remember taking business trips years ago, and enjoying visiting new cities, and discovering local specialties in local restaurants. It seems no matter where I go these days, I'm greeted by the same chain restaurants we see at home. Lunch at Panera Bread. Dinner at Texas Roadhouse, Longhorn Steakhouse, or Olive Garden. I've dined at these same establishments in Nashua New Hampshire, Bangor Maine, Boulder Colorado, and Oklahoma City to name a few.

Last week in Boulder, I asked the gentleman at the desk in our hotel where the best place to get a steak was-- assuming there would be a local secret place he would point me to. He paused, and said: "The best place for steak around here is the Texas Roadhouse....or maybe the Outback." I asked him "Isn't there somewhere local--not a chain-- that you'd recommend?" He said "Nope. Those are the best places around."

I'm sure I missed out on some great local restaurants that I didn't know how to find. And I wonder if the little local "special places" are getting forced out by the giant chain restaurants, the way Walmart and Target are impacting local retailers.

Something to think about the next time I head out to Chilis.