Monday, September 12, 2016

Rant: Teflon Restaurants

Are there "Teflon" restaurants, places where negative reviews and negative press seem to have little, if any, effect on the popularity of these places? If so, is it even worth criticizing such places when it will have so little effect?

Many large chain restaurants, from Applebee's to the Olive Garden, seem to be essentially teflon. It seems unlikely that people go to sites like Yelp or Trip Advisor to check the reviews on places like these. You already know what you will find at these restaurants. Their relative consistency is considered one of their advantages in some circles. These restaurants stay busy, despite any negative reviews they might receive. Despite any controversy over the alleged "Italian" cuisine at the Olive Garden, plenty of people still go there for the unlimited bread sticks and salad. It probably would take something on a massive scale to get people to stay away from these restaurants, like a huge mass of food poisoning.

Legal Sea Foods seems to be another teflon restaurant. Their restaurants are usually busy, despite any negative reviews or controversy. Legal actually courts controversy at times, trying to be provocative, sometimes with their ads and sometimes with the dinners they hold. They recently ran a couple of ads, using Donald Trump and Hilary Clinton, and a number of people alleged that the Clinton ad was sexist. Some people stated that, due to this ad, they would boycott the restaurant and never dine there again. This certainly isn't the first time I have heard similar sentiments.

However, it doesn't seem that any of this controversy has effected the bottom line of Legal. There still are plenty of people willing to dine and drink at the various Legal restaurants. And if people check out Yelp and Trip Advisor to learn more about Legal, they are highly unlikely to see anything about any of these controversies. And how many tourists coming to Boston actually care about such controversies? They simply want to enjoy some clam chowder, lobster and other New England seafood dishes.

So what does it accomplish to criticize such teflon restaurants? It might give you some piece of mind for taking a stand, but it's unlikely to accomplish anything concrete against such a restaurant. So is it even worth making the effort to criticize them? If you want to do something significant, beyond simply soothing your piece of mind, it would take much more action. It would take effort to organize others, to create a large movement of similarly minded individuals, to have the power to impact these teflon restaurants. And for most people, they just are not willing to go that far. So, these teflon restaurants will continue to thrive, letting negative reviews and controversy slide off their teflon skin.


Frederick Wright said...

The teflon restaurants mentioned in the post aren't actively "bad", they aren't serving spoiled food, or anything like that. They're just boring. Predictable. They tend to use shortcuts, keep to the safe route. And the folks who flock to these places, whether it is a bland corporate commissary like Applebee's or a local behemoth like Legal's are unlikely to care one bit about any reviews. I'm consistently puzzled by the popularity of places like Giacomo's, Mike's Pastry, No Name, and Union Oyster. It's probably more about recording a "genuine Boston Experience" to share with friends back home in Des Moines than it is about a gustatory adventure.

Richard Auffrey said...

There are certainly a few local restaurants which do well because they present a "Boston experience" or a sense of history despite the fact their cuisine might be mediocre at best. In that respect, they are Teflon restaurants as well. I believe the Boston Globe recently gave a negative review to the Union Oyster House and I'm sure it really did nothing to diminish their business.