Dish of the Day: Restaurant groups vs. chains

Dan Doherty

1026276 499590523442672 411988533 o 225x300 Dish of the Day: Restaurant groups vs. chainsI’ve always found it fascinating how people associate multiple bad, low standard, food cooked off site restaurants as a chain, and multiple good, artisanal, unique restaurants a group. What is the difference?

Google defines a chain as ‘A connected flexible series of metal links used for fastening or securing objects and pulling or supporting loads’ which suggests to me a collection of things that share a connection, that all depend on one another.

An Internet search for ‘chain restaurants’ shows establishments such as Nando’s, Burger King, Beefeater, Strada and the like, which are the usual suspects that come to my mind when asked too. Never would I think to say Tom’s Kitchen or Roka, Zuma or Nobu. Think about it, telling someonde you dropped £400 in a chain restaurant on dinner for two? It doesn’t make sense.

My question is this – if you took a restaurant that is founded on good values like fresh produce, seasonal, cooked with love by humans, and then opened 10 more all over the UK, and they were all equally good, would that be a chain? How many restaurants define a chain? Two restaurants mean one is often referred to as the sister to the other, three seems to become a small group.

When I asked some friends the general consensus is that if a group of restaurants are all identical, it’s a chain, when you have multiple restaurants that all have their own identity, chef, character etc. – it’s a group.

I’d love to know how establishments such as Goodman or Polpo would feel about being called a chain. There is one restaurant however that I feel walks the line, and that’s Cote. Having eaten there, and by saying this I may well be deeming myself as the root of the problem, but it feels too good to be labelled a chain, but not high end enough to be a group of great restaurants. I don’t mean that in a bad way, just that by being a brasserie it’s kind of in-between.

As a chef, if I was lucky enough to open a restaurant that was so successful I opened further sites using the same brand, I don’t think I’d feel too good if it was referred to as a chain. But that is exactly what it would be, a connected flexible series of links, that all depend on each other. Whether that be through the brand, the buying power, or the stability multiple sites can bring. Of course there are very valid arguments the other way – multiple sites = multiple problems.

I don’t know what the answer is, but I find the psychology behind it fascinating.

@DanDoherty_ and

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  • Zamindar

    Well I have eaten in Cote, twice, and from now on will continue to patronise the Italian up the road which is owned by the Patron (or whatever he is called in Italian), or the French restaurant also available to me which is also owned by the Patron there. I would rather support restaurants based in the town that based in the city, and Cote isn’t better.

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