Monday, July 9, 2012

Rant: No More Burgers & Cupcakes

Whatever happened to originality? Where are the shepherds, leading the flocks, rather than the sheep who simply follow the latest trend?

I am getting very tired of these food trends that never seem to end, which hang around far too long and which seem to consume the city. From cupcakes to burgers, so many people try to jump on the bandwagon and offer their own version of the latest trend. The market then becomes saturated and you almost cannot walk without bumping into some incarnation of this latest trend. Sure, the first few places that started the trend might have been pioneers, yet why then is there a need to spawn dozens upon dozens of copies to replicate their success?

It almost seems like laziness, that a place lacks its own original ideas so must copy the ideas of others. Ah, Restaurant "A" created this amazing burger so now Restaurants "B" through "Z" must also do so rather than trying to produce something unique to their own restaurant. The slight changes they make to the burger don't usually constitute something "original." Cupcake Bakery "A" has been successful so 20 more cupcake bakeries, almost clones of the first, now need to be opened. Where does it end?

Food writers must bear some of the blame, as some of them seem to revel in writing about food trends. They seem to embrace the multiplicity of places selling a similar product. They like writing articles that rate the "best" burgers or cupcakes. They try to get people excited about the newest burger or cupcake bakery, despite the fact that so many others already exist. I guess for some of these writers it may be laziness as well,  that such food trends are an easy topic to write about. It takes little original thought to write about it.

The consumers must also bear some of the blame, for patronizing all of these different places, for being eager and excited to check the latest clone of a burger or cupcake, rather than seeking out something unique. Why don't they have higher standards? Why are they fixated on a single product, thus satisfied with tasting a myriad variations, despite the fact those variations often are not really that different? Is that laziness as well, sticking with the familiar rather than stepping outside their comfort zone?

Rather than hear about 157th cupcake bakery to open up, I want to know about the whoopie pie bakery or the bread pudding shop. Rather than hear about the 213th restaurant's burger, I want to know which is serving a new Shepherd's Pie. The same applies to wine with me as well. Don't tell me about the 1856th Cabernet Sauvignon that has been produced but rather tell me about the the first producer of Mencia from California.

Stop copying what everyone else is doing. Stop taking the easy route. Stop catering to the lowest denominator. Be original, be unique, be different. Be the one that everyone else wants to copy.


Frederick Wright said...

Richard, this is a big pet peeve of mine as well. But Boston is constrained by two attributes that are assured to destroy originality in restaurants. The first is the absurdly high rents charged by landlords who seem to believe they're in NYC. These rents lead to razor thin margins especially when combined with liquor and licensing laws that only a mullah could love.

Face it, a bank is not going to make a risky loan on an untried concept and with so much at stake the prospective business owner isn't going to risk anything either. So we end up caught in an unhealthy feedback loop of trends, in our case we're trapped in a burger/cupcake loop but it very nearly could have been steakhouse or BBQ.

In cities with reasonable rents, such as Providence or Atlanta, you do see a great deal more originality. In cities with rational licensing laws such as NYC you also see a lot more creativity. The buying public here is certainly sophisticated enough to handle a wild concept, but will always be stymied by the unwillingness of the bank or the business owner to accept unreasonable risks.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Richard, cupcakes in particular drive me bonkers. Also, the more there are, the more margin there is for poor quality stuff. PS: Love the new look!

Snigdha said...

Hello Richard,
I live in London, and we are in the midst of the 'posh burger' craze. Many are good, but how many chains of these burger restaurants do we need?
I agree - be the one to start a trend, not a hipster on the bandwagon. Great piece!

Jason Phelps said...

I'll take a big huge helping of this. My personality is such that I don't like trying or doing the same things all the time just because I have choice and don't have to. Inherently trends don't fascinate me then.

As a foodie and beverage explorer I am prone to be inspired randomly when I choose some new things and that sense of adventure helps me personally enjoy so many more experiences. I do certainly come across concerns of quality and service, but I look at it like not every meal or drink has to be, nor can be the "best" so what did I really lose?

When more people are doing their own thing the landscape seems more fun an interesting for me so I love this rant!