Yesterday, with bloodshot eyes from staring at the computer too long at work, I peered out the window to see a man atop scaffolding finishing the last touches on the Stella Artois billboard that read, “From the largest microbrewery in the world.”
REALLY? Stella, I get your play on words, but aren’t you trying to squeeze into a shoe that doesn’t fit? A microbrewery, by definition, is a brewery that brews a limited amount of beer. Last time I checked (like, right now) you were producing around 10 million gallons of beer each year. And in the U.S. you’re imported and distributed by Anheuser-Busch, makers of Budweiser and 27 other beer brands.
But Stella Artois isn’t the only brand trying to disguise themselves as a small company that makes gourmet products. Big chain restaurants like T.G.I. Fridays have revamped their look. Gone are the days of tchotchkes posted on faux-worn walls and waiters’ chests. Friday’s, instead, is opting for a sleeker look that attempts to emulate a lounge. In its newest commercials, lighting is dim, sexy young professionals drink “hand-crafted cocktails” and the bartender knows your name (and your ‘usual’). The menu has gone epicurean, too. Highlights include Korean steak tacos, bruschetta pasta and pot stickers. Sounds great, yes, but I have certain anonymous sources that work at Fridays who swear up and down that most of the food is still pre-made and frozen. That doesn’t sound very gourmet to me.
But this could be a silver-lining type thing. While it’s annoying that big box brands are trying to fool us, their doing so is also a sign that as a society, we’ve shifted our view of food from quantity to quality. We’re turning into foodies. We don’t want a gargantuan serving of frozen chicken fingers. We want a modest portion of something really special. So much so that the big players are sensing the advent of a corporate food rebellion and jumping on the small biz grassroots bandwagon.
What do you think? Could it be that we have, as a nation, become so interested in the gourmet, that we’re shunning the big corporate names for smaller, usually much better businesses? That we’re supporting the local one-of-a-kind restaurants, instead of getting the same thing at Chili’s every time?
Do you think that we are on the right or wrong path by doing so?