Monday, November 9, 2009

Comments on the Report: "Eight Restaurants that Get it Right."

US News and World Report did a piece on eight restaurants that are getting it right during the slow economy. Yahoo News had it as a lead story.  Following are my comments on their selections. I would love to hear yours.  I should mention that the "getting it right"  is related to growth, sales, and profit in a down economy and not necessarily the quality of food or service, although they are usually related.

I have never been to the first two restaurants mentioned in the report, please comment if you have.

Buffalo Wild Wings.  They have one location in Fort Worth, several in Tarrant County, and about 20 in DFW. All of them are pretty new, I think. Growing like mad at a pace of 60 restaurants per year. I haven't had the chance to visit one.

BJ's Restaurants.  I haven't been to this one either but the menu looks good. They serve pizza, burgers, salads, but also things like Thai wraps. If nothing else it shows you how broad the American palate is these days. BJ's have nearly completed the construction of their new restaurant at the NorthEast Mall.

Chipotle Mexican Grill. I like them. My only complaint is not the taste of the food, but the temperature. Everything has that "sitting in the warm-up bin" feel to it. If they could figure out a way to serve the burritos hot I would eat there every day. I have the same complaint at Boston Market. Who likes luke-warm chicken and green beans?

Olive Garden. I think I have been to an Olive Garden once, many years ago. Everything about the place, from the commercials to the faux Italian decor drives me crazy. I was in a bistro in Italy once and the background music was Kenny Rogers', Gambler. Only Americans play Italian music in their restaurants and paint gondolas on the wall.

Panera Bread Co.  1,400 stores and growing at a pace of 20 per year. It's a good company that hires good restaurant people to run their stores. The bread is good not great, as are the sandwiches. I like the vibe of Panera and the managers' attitudes.

Peet's Coffee & Tea. As far as coffee goes, I don't quite get Peet's. I'll take Dunkin Donuts or McDonald's.

P.F. Chang's. A nice restaurant to take guests who have never been to a Chinese restaurant with a nouveau American flair. Personally, I think the food is overpriced and over-rated. Sorry. P.F. Chang's is growing fast as well.

Texas Roadhouse. Anyplace that lets you throw peanut shells on the floor is alright by me. As far as the food goes, not that great.

After rereading this it seems I am being critical of all six of the eight in which I have eaten. But I'm not, really. I frequent Chipotle and Panera, because for what they do they are good, the others don't appeal to me but they do appeal to many others. The growth of these companies is proof of that.


Jennifer said...

The only one I like on the list is Panera. Their bakery goods (cookies etc) aren't great, but I actually do like the bread. And their tomato soup is my favorite.
I don't get Chipotle and never have. The food always seems to err on the side of flavorless.
Texas Roadhouse is decent. I don't think I've had a bad experience there.
I'm with you on Olive Garden.

Jake Good said...

B Dubs! BW3s... Man, I'm used to spending lots of time there... of course because I lived up North in the great state of Minnesota! If it's a variety of sauces you want for your chicken, it's the place to go.

Chipotle... I remember my first Chipotle trip... No flavor Jennifer? Really? I love how they cook everything right in front of you... Francis, you have to remember that tortillas don't stay warm, especially with no towel AND being on that cold plastic preparation board (with tin foil). Love it.

Olive Garden... bleh bleh bleh... their Soup Toscano or whatever is the *only* saving grace, and barely one at that.

Panera doesn't cut it for me anymore... It used to, a few years back, but not now.

P.F. Changes, we agree Francis, it's good to show people a decent American Chinese meal...

Texas Roadhouse... I like their setup. Crushed peanuts, big beers... their cinnamon butter and honey rolls are awesome (warm, chewy)... their loaded baked potatoes with the crisp sea salt skins works for me... Their meat is good, better than Hoffbrau (IMHO)...

Never been to BJs or Peets...

Good stuff!

Jake Good said...

I mean, granted, I was picking on their food, not how they do business...

Lynn said...

Buffalo Wild Wings. Haven't eaten there. Not crazy about wings: as my father said about artichokes, "mostly all cob".

BJ's Restaurants. Haven't tried them, either. I've developed a real fondness for hole-in-the wall restaurants.

Chipotle Mexican Grill. Fourthborn grabbed lunch there for me, the day I had respiratory issues. It was warm, sour-cream-y, and just spicy enough to wake up my head a little. Would be willing to try it again on a day when my taste buds are working better. Still, I prefer Melis, or Nelda's in Mansfield or La Isla by Arlington HS.

Olive Garden. It's OK; my lasagne is way better.

Panera Bread Co. It's OK. The tables are too close together for my taste, and there have always been way too many people when I've gone.

Peet's Coffee & Tea. I'm a good Mormon girl; you'll have to ask somebody else!

P.F. Chang's. Agree that the food is overpriced and over-rated. Prefer Pei Wei, but would rather go to Tokyo Cafe.

Texas Roadhouse. If I'm in the mood for steak, I'd rather go to Marsala over on 360. (Especially if somebody else is buying.)

Becca said...

I would be a little disappointed in a food blogger who had only positive things to say about chain restaurants. I think chain restaurants are good when you want safe, predicable food.

Michael Bourgon said...

Chipotle's - mediocre at best. I'm much more of a Freebird's fan - and yes, it comes hot.

Olive Garden - as opposed to the rest of the Italian restaurants which play Rat Pack hits. Still nothing on the menu I really like, and pricey. Give me Prima's any day.

Francis Shivone said...

Jenn -- I'' try Panera's tomato soup.
Jake -- How about BWW when we go out?
Lynn -- Can you talk to someone about this coffee thing?
Becca -- I don't want to disappoint any Minnesotans
Michael -- Freebirds? I love the Rat Pack. But, like you not in every Italian restaurant.

Jake Good said...

Naw, I'd rather do Cavalli's... BW3 is good for sauces, their chicken is just mediocre... they have good potato options... it's quality is kinda like what you'd expect from Chili's...

Rambler, not too picky said...

I rise to speak on behalf of the lowly Olive Garden. Despite it's plastic decor, smarmy music, and completely hokey commercials ("when you're here, you're family"), I do enjoy the soup, salad and breadsticks. There is something about the dressing that makes the salad work for me, though I always need extra on the side. Not great, maybe not even "very good", but enjoyable.

I did prefer Macaroni Grill for chain Italian though I hear it's gone downhill. At least you got Italian vocabulary lessons in the men's room rather than Dean Martin lounge music. Sorry, Francis, I know it's just taste.


Francis Shivone said...

Rambler -- I haven't been to an OG in 20 years. I like to beat up on them because it's bad Italian food . . . but I have heard many people say they like the rolls and salad. Macaroni Grill was great when Brinker Int. owned them but has gone down, way down, in the last few years. I went there a few months ago and it was awful.

RJG said...

Hi Francis,

I posted a full response on my blog. Curious of your thoughts?

bartender jobs rhode island said...

Love to experience different kinds of food. Thanks for a great list!