Letters to the Editor

Franchise restaurants: You get what you pay for

Franchise? Well, perhaps – I’d rather not! Some folks have an appetite, others have taste!

Now, stay with me. I’m not against franchise business on the island. As noted, we do have Carquest, NAPA, Radio Shack, Sothebys, etc. But here comes the big "but" – there is a big difference between the above mentioned franchises and franchises that sell food.

I have spent a lot of my life in the food business and get upset thinking about what has happened to the food business in our country. Have you ever noticed that when people go on a vacation to Europe, they all come back home and say, “The food was incredible — simply marvelous.” I wonder why that is? Let’s see, do you think they had lunch or dinner at Subway, Taco Bell, Dominos, Applebees, KFC, McDonald's, Burger King, Pizza Hut, Red Robin? I don’t think so.

We Americans want to buy food like we buy shoes or clothing or tires (buy two, get one free, or something like that). Don’t you just love the marketing behind Les Schwab Tires: “Buy your tires here and get 5 pounds of ground beef free.” I can’t wait to fire up the barbie and have a big Les Schwab’s double-cheeseburger – um-um-good!

Do you know that every business selling a burger is selling the same burger, the only difference is the size in ounces? There are some exceptions around the country. So is it any wonder that most people have no idea what a real hamburger tastes like, or a real chicken? But that’s another story. If you really don’t know and can’t taste the difference between a chain, any chain restaurant and a well-run “Mom and Pop” single owner-operated restaurant or cafe with a passion for cooking on or off-island, then what can I say except: You just don’t get it and I cannot convince you. But it is never too late to learn.

There are many questions you can ask about different menu items, for example: Are the salad dressings made at the restaurant or do they come from gallon jars and come from some place like Delaware? Did they make the croutons or fruit pies or did they buy them frozen somewhere in Ohio? And on and on. I hope you get my point that the food business is not like other business — as long as you know that what you’re eating may be chemically induced and processed and you're not being fooled with words like "homemade," "natural" or "fresh," then it doesn’t matter to me whether it’s a national chain, regional chain or “Mom and Pop” establishment.

Just remember, somebody once said, “You get what you pay for ...

Bon appetit!

Chef Roberto Carrieri
San Juan Island

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