Friday, February 24, 2012

In Defense of Chains

It’s not easy to be a liberal who likes buying things from chain stores. Well… no, that’s not true. It’s both easy and convenient to like chain stores, I just notice a lot of hostility towards them in the liberal community.

My wife craves McDonalds’ breakfast, having never been allowed to eat it in her childhood. She also really likes their iced coffee. When I eat there, I get a sausage biscuit with egg or a chicken biscuit, depending on how fat I feel (the second is the healthier choice, due to the lack of egg).

But most mornings I don’t eat McDonalds, I go to a chain called Bojangles. I initially loved their Cajun Chicken Biscuit, but then… I tried their biscuits and gravy. If you are what you eat, I am about 50% biscuits and gravy. I have eaten it about 15-20 mornings a month for over a year now. All the people at the drive-thru know me.

Biscuits and gravy is the perfect breakfast: it’s quick, it’s warm, it has meat, and it costs $1.70. It’s not even as unhealthy as one egg (and not even close to as much cholesterol). And the best part? It’s served all day. All. Fuckin’. Day. Even if my wife doesn’t have to teach a class and she sleeps in until noon, I can have breakfast. It’s glorious.

Chain stores have their own charms that people who fawn over local mom and pop stores overlook. For one thing, I can go to a Bojangles in any state (well… any South-Eastern state) and get the breakfast I love, just the way I like it. It’s intangible how much joy I have gotten being able to pull off the highway to get familiar food I love while in the middle of enduring a drive of over 12 hours (which I have done at least two times a year for about a decade now).

And then there’s the Warhol theory. Andy Warhol once remarked that there is a certain quaintly democratic equality to Coca-Cola. It doesn’t matter whether you’re a plumber, the President of the United States, or the Queen of England: when you open a Coke and drink it, it’s the same Coke for everyone. And before it begins to sound a little like I’m advocating for Coca-Cola or Communism, it’s also the same Dr. Pepper, A&W Root Beer, Snickers, or bag of peanut M&Ms.

Liberals seem to think chains limit diversity, but chains aren’t against choice. Quite the contrary, there’s no monopoly among chains. The reason there are few good quality chains is because snooty people won’t patronize a chain store, so why would they cater to people who would never buy their product?

I’m not saying “Love all chains.” I won’t shop at Wal-Mart (they censor) or Chik-Fil-A (do I really need to say why on an atheist blog?). There are so many choices in what chain you can go to, it’s actually not that difficult to still purchase according to your values.

This isn’t to say I would recommend you stop frequenting local businesses, but don’t act shocked when the cute little place you love disappears and you’re left out in the cold. Chains are solid, reliable, and always there for you. You can count on a chain… to occasionally really screw up your order, so be sure you check it before you drive away.


  1. One thing I like about chains is that the ones that I don't like, I can hate consistently (Chili's? Applebee's? blech). Chains offer a kind of consistent experience that I think has a kind of value. But most of the time, I would rather risk a terrible meal for the chance at something great (but is usually mediocre anyway) than settle for consistency. Sometimes in order to find something better, your opportunity cost has to be the security of the consistency of chains...but you can be justified if that price is too high for you.

    That said, I'll never be a snob about fast food vs casual dining. You either eat food for the taste, or you eat food for the nutrition. Many casual dining places aren't necessarily healthier than fast food, and there are healthier fast food options.

  2. Buck seventy for breakfast! Jeez....

    1. Tell me about it. I thought it was a misprint the first time I saw it on the menu. It's not even little: it's a whole biscuit opened up and drowned in sausage gravy.


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