Safety Food

Friend J posted this on Facebook before Christmas and I’ve been kicking it around ever since:

Buffalo, meet Popeye’s Chicken. Some transplants already familiar with the national chain swear it was worth the wait.

“Wouldn’t classify Popeye’s as fast food. It’s something else. It’s like a culture, a way of life, a cuisine I guess,” Buffalo resident Rob Fussell said.

But, even the owner didn’t expect this kind of reception. Drive-thru traffic lined up into the city’s busy Elmwood Avenue, Tuesday evening.

“We keep up. We’ve got enough food already for tomorrow, the day after tomorrow, so the truck is coming to bring the food,” Lal Sultanzada, the location’s owner, said.

But for some people it appeared the anxiety got the best of them.

“They were just swearing and yelling and then everyone started beeping the horns and the cops came and took care of it,” Guido said.

Witnesses said a fight broke out after somebody attempted to cut in the drive thru line.

I was thinking of when a Panda Express opened up in my old hometown. They went apeshit for Panda. Drive-thru lines around the block, people running out of stuff, etc. Stories on the local news. It was the restaurant equivalent of a celebrity showing up.

Now, you could argue pure novelty; this was the first Panda in town. And I love me some Panda. This isn’t snobbery, I love that greasy, sugary, deep-fried trash food. It’s designed to be delicious and addictive and it works.

But this town already contains the best Chinese restaurant I’ve ever been to and that includes eating in the Chinatowns of three major cities. So why is there no line out the door every weeknight for Whey Chai? Why the fuss? It’s not like the denizens of our sleepy hamlet were unaware Chinese food existed and OH MAH GOD ETHEL EXOTIC FOREIGN FOOD. What does a chain place have that a bazillion locals don’t, besides a friendly mascot?

Part of me thinks it’s something to do with the safety of a strip mall, with the safety of a line and a recognizable brand and a drive-thru window. You know what you’re getting with a place that’s next to an Arby’s and a Buffalo Wild Wings. You don’t have to speak to someone unfamiliar and you don’t have to go to a neighborhood you’ve never been to and you know for sure the menu’s in English and goes chicken, beef, shrimp, spicy but not too. You know there’s a parking lot.

And when you only have X amount of dollars, do you want to take risks? Our economy is not exactly encouraging adventurousness these days.

I don’t know. What do you guys think?

A.

8 thoughts on “Safety Food

  1. dr2chase says:

    Beats me why I like it so much, but Popeye’s is about the only fast food I look forward to eating. There’s not too many up here in the Northeast; there’s one in Maine, and there’s one north of Boston (I’m terrible with directions, but it’s north, one some road that we use to get to/from Revere), and if I’m the least bit hungry I’ll stop and eat when I happen to be driving by.

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  2. aimai says:

    I think it doesn’t really matter what the food is–drive throughs make people excited and also crazy because they 1) don’t have to park, 2) expect the experience to be as fast as driving is, 3) don’t commit emotionally to the restaurant or the restaurant experience, 4) are not having a social experience at all but a pure consumer one. So their attitude is more like that of a drug addict looking for a quick fix and a rush than a diner looking for a total experience with other diners.
    Sitting down and eating in a restaurant takes a certain skill, or inclination. People can get impatient when it doesn’t measure up or isn’t fast enough, or is too fast, but they are usually there for the total meal experience and the situation is leavened or changed by the nature of the other diners at your table, or in the room. There are also places/moments where the wait staff can make the wait or the experience more friendly and social. So when things start to go wrong there are more places where people can intervene (they can also screw that up, of course) but for the most part its a very social and therefore constrained and scripted experience.
    People do wait in line for hours for popular new sit down restaurants, but because they aren’t in their cars it can be uncomfortable unless they are waiting in a bar. They may be given cues like a time to be seated, or they pick up signals like how fast the tables are turning that incline them to bug out if the wait is too long. But people who are on line at the drive through are sitting down and they have nothing to do but wait and get impatient. The start/stop nature of the experience probably drives people to be even more crazy, while preventing them from correctly estimating the actual wait-time-till-service.
    I also think that people who head for a drive through are in a very targeted consumption mode where the hunt becomes its own goal and people very easily fall prey to a competitive, sunk cost fallacy style thinking. You’ve waited this long, why not wait a little longer?

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  3. MichaelF says:

    Here in Baton Rouge, Popeye’s are all closing — a different (regional) chain is taking their business, plus there are still a few local places with established reputations. That said, I’m not much of a fast food or chain restaurant person these days anyway. My own preferences are eat-in…or take a chance on a local restaurant … though, and possibly to my regret, I STILL haven’t tried this one http://www.chickenshack.org/, though that could be in part because there’s a grocery store around here that sells THE best chicken wings evah. It’s called Triplett’s and I’ll take them over Popeye’s any day.

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  4. adrastos says:

    I *love* Popeyes, which remains wildly popular in its former home base. It’s not Mardi Gras without Popeyes.

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  5. IndyJen says:

    I don’t eat much fast food anymore, but I do love Popeyes. This taste I have in common with my daughter’s mother-in-law, who is Filipino.
    She and I have a bit of a language barrier, but nevertheless have bonded over (1) grandbabies, and (2) Popeyes.
    She pronounces “popeyes” as two words: “Pope-yes”. Now I do, too. I love me some pope-yes.

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  6. mattie says:

    I think there is great safety, for some people, in corporate food. People know what they want and that it will be the same each time and that they won’t need to interact with anyone more than ordering and paying.
    The Chinese place that we frequent down the street from us is now that safe place for us. The owner, in her broken English, asks after our daughter or wants to know why we’ve been gone so long. She tells us about her kids and, knowing that I’m a teacher, asks for advice with their school difficulties. Does it take longer than driving through the Panda Express down the street? Maybe, but the sense of community, the knowledge that I am keeping money in my neighborhood and the genuine smile I get each time I walk in the shop makes it worth it.

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  7. Jude says:

    I tend to hate chains, but I’d shove down a pregnant lady to get some Popeye’s. STAY OUT OF MY WAY, ATHENAE.

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  8. NoPublic says:

    Cane’s may be winning in Baton Rouge, but their sides can’t stack up to Popeye’s.
    I still crave their dirty rice and red beans, even though I make better. There’s some sort of drug in it.

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