I don't trust the sources of their steaks. And, the time I went there, the sides were greasy.
I'm not a fan of their steaks either. They put too much pepper and whatever else on them. When I eat a steak, I think the steak should be able to stand on its own. Lots of seasoning tells me they're trying to hide something.
Gut - it's taken me a long time to be really assertive in those situations and sometimes I still have trouble. My mom still won't say anything if they bring her the wrong entree. She'll say it's fine and she can eat whatever it is. My feeling is, fine, eat the wrong thing, but at least tell the server he or she made a mistake. I'm not going to be a bitch about it, but I will tell them. I was out with a friend who can't eat spicy foods. She asked the waiter if a certain dish was spicy and he told her it wasn't. Well, of course, it was much too spicy for her and she couldn't eat it AND she wouldn't tell him (and wouldn't let ME tell him either). My feeling is, he needed to know that, although he might not have thought that dish was spicy, someone else did. It's not complaining, IMO. That would have helped him the next time someone asked about that dish.
Pretty much the only sit-down chain restaurant I'll go to is BJ's Brewhouse and I've only had one instance of kind of weird service. I was with three friends and one didn't get her entree with the rest of us. It was at least 15 or 20 minutes and we asked a few times how much longer it would be. Finally, right before we really got insistent or could ask for the manager, the waitress brought the entree, apologized profusely and said she'd already spoken to her manager and we'd all be comped dessert for our trouble. While it wasn't ideal for one of us to wait that long, I thought they handled it really well and before we could even complain.
I feel lucky that for the most part we don't have a lot of chain eateries where I am. I historically really dislike the foods at them.
I go out to eat weekly with my friend and we change it up sometimes. What we've noticed even in the non-chain places is this complete lack of caring about what the food tastes like. We mention it and there's many places we won't go back to. Like the pasta place that was supposed to be ohhh so good but that didn't make anything on their menu that we got (and he got a sampler plate so basically one of everything) correctly and no one seemed to question it except us. Or the super salty local Mexican place (affectionately called La Saltie's by us now).
Other than one or two local places we just can't seem to find a place that honestly cares what food is supposed to taste like. Or that want to branch out from burgers on the menu.
I'm lucky enough to live in a city with tons of independent restaurants. We do have chains too, but if you don't want to eat at one, you never have to. You could literally eat out every night of the year here and never go to the same place twice. It's great to have the variety, but sometimes it's hard to decide where to eat!
Ugh, that sounds like my sister's "favorite" TexMex place here. It's a chain in the sense that the location here is the second one of a restaurant based out of Shreveport and they have 2 other locations in major southern cities, so it's not like it's Taco Bell. She HAS to go every time she visits, but the problem is that the quality she remembers from high school days (18 years ago) has gone way, way down-hill. Back then, it was actually good. The salsa was spicy, the ingredients were fresh, and the service was awesome. Now it's bland and the service is lacking AND they've upped the prices on the margaritas to where I'd rather just go to Qdoba and get take-out and the same margarita for $6 less. (Yeah, take-out margaritas. It's 3 minutes from my house and I don't drink and drive, so no one call the cops. I'd get brain-freeze before I got tipsy anyway. :lol)
I have a friend that works for a food distribution company and most of the food that is served in the chains and independent restaurants come from them. They are basically the same ingredients and the individual eateries tweak them with their own spices/flavorings and cooking style.
That's why I drove 4 hours each way four times this summer to visit my daughter who was a chef intern at an INCREDIBLE restaurant in Provincetown (Dalla Cucina) this past summer. The most delicious food I've ever had.
We try to frequent local places wherever we go. Chains all seem to have the same over-priced food. I'd much rather support the local economy anyhow, plus it's more likely to be more unique dishes. We don't always succeed but it's our goal.
I ran an event in Boston on Saturday, and 18 of us were looking for a place to eat on Saturday night. One of the biggest requests was "Take us to a local place! No chain restaurants!" So we found a little sushi place (awesome service, great food, and they even did separate checks). (Oh, and it met all the dietary requirements...we had vegans, vegetarians, gluten-free, and dairy-free folks.)
Sunday, we went to the North End where we ate Italian food at a little mom-and-pop place, and then found a cheese shop where we bought a variety of subs, cheeses, and meats.
It was hard checking my refrigerator today...there were so many other places that I wanted to go eat!
Like I said upthread, BJ's Brewhouse is pretty much the only chain I'll eat in if you don't count Chipotle. For nice-ish sit-downs, I like indies. If I don't eat at Olive Garden, their business is still fine. For a mom and pop, every customer matters, especially in this economy. Plus, I think the service - AND the food - tend to be better because they care more.