The Demise of Suburban Sitdown Dining
Back in the late 70s (a.k.a the Pre-BobLee Era), I was living in Kansas City. The social mecca of Kansas City was Country Club Plaza. Within The Plaza were two “in-restaurants” – Plaza III and Houlihan’s – both concepts were created by a firm named Gilbert-Robinson.
The concept was called Casual Dining later changed to “Suburban Sitdown Dining” and it has dominated America’s Restaurant Business for 30+ years. We have all eaten in various incarnations of these restaurant concepts most of our adult lives…
That era may be ending according to this extensive series of articles by EATER Magazine.
Yes… apparently it’s those Darn Millennials again. They think just because there are millions of them, they can influence all the rest of us. Only us baby boomers had a right to do that… maybe not.
This is a long series of articles but I enjoyed them. I think you will too…
The cultural and economic decline of the suburban sitdown chain
by Eater Staff Oct 3, 2017, 9:19am EDT
The experience of sliding into an overstuffed leather booth, hemmed in by walls decked in dubious Americana, the metal signs and pilfered taxidermy alluding to a time and place steeped in myth and wholly alien to the strip mall outside, while perusing a menu of oversauced fried hunks of protein and cheap carbs, all under the tawny haze of a poorly cloned Tiffany lamp, wasn’t quite universal. But it was common enough that the market, the great American arbiter of truth and beauty, blessed the suburbs from coast to coast — where so many of us were spawned and haltingly shepherded toward nominal adulthood — with thousands upon thousands of places in which to have that experience: The casual dining chain bloomed, almost like an onion you might say.
And now it’s dying, sort of. Because they’re terrible places, or because of millennials, or because of looming class warfare, or probably all of the above. Whatever the reasons, it should probably be less surprising that a monoculture as vast and mediocre as the suburban sitdown restaurant has contracted a terminal illness now slowly spreading from specimen to specimen, from Applebee’s to Ruby Tuesday’s to BW3 or whatever they’re calling Buffalo Wild Wings these days.
More fascinating than the grinding demise of this corporate culinary hegemon, maybe, is the knowing, mournful soundtrack that we can’t help but provide with the collective gnashing of our teeth: Why do we still care so much about these places that we’ve since decided offer us such hollow fulfillment? —Matt Buchanan