It is a world-shattering chain store and restaurant chain that turns our colorful, strange, and diverse world into a uniformly shared, tender dystopia, where every place looks like every other, leaving every place meaningless. Place? barely. More chains might mean that Minneapolis, Montgomery, Montreal, and Milan are all alike, but they are alike because they offer ever-expanding arrays of choices for people looking to feed, clothe, entertain, and express themselves. They make us richer materially and culturally. First, they make our dollars go further. Secondly, it saves time and money for other tasks. Is it bad for chains to make places look the same?
I don’t think so, at least to the point where places start to look alike galore in choices. No visit to Canada is complete without a stop at Tim Hortons. Not content with simply making the True North’s iconic coffee and donut brand strong and complimentary, Tim Hortons is expanding its presence south of the border, beyond the Northeast and parts of the Midwest with “new priority markets,” including California, Texas, Illinois and Florida. . Would it be bad if people in Ontario, California could get coffee from Tim Hortons as easily as people in London, Ontario? Or if people in London, Ontario can get an In-N-Out Burger as easily as those in Ontario, California? If both chains expand to London, England, and make money off of it, their earnings suggest they’re making the world a better place.
In any case, it is not for the cultural and culinary critics to decide. The free market is a continuous election in real time, where every dollar in every moment is a vote on what to do. Businessmen and managers are subject to a permanent referendum. Dollars I don’t spend now are votes for more goods and services later. The dollars we spent on groceries today are votes for the things we keep in the fridge and pantry. The dollars we spend at Chick-fil-A when we travel are votes for chicken sandwiches, and the dollars we spend in fancy restaurants are votes for haute cuisine. When did suppliers of these goods serve consumers wisely and well? Proof of earnings.
What if people made a file Wrong choices? First, “wrong choices” are in the eye of the beholder. “option I won’t make “not”wrong Cucumber.” There are exceptions. Responsible parents don’t allow their children to eat yellow snow or play in the street during rush hour. But these Exceptions, and deciding to go to a faceless McDonald’s instead of a locally owned McDowell’s couldn’t compare to playing in traffic. Secondly, big men and women are not pieces on a chessboard that we can arrange as we see fit. If you are free to choose what only specialized professional bodies know, you are not free.
I recently read that a Florida barbecue chain is looking to expand into Alabama. I admit I was disappointed. I love grilling however I You’d rather have more places to get Vietnamese noodles, Chinese dumplings, Korean fried chicken, and anything Ethiopian than at another BBQ place. However, this is not my decision. The “right” number of barbecue restaurants is like the right number of varieties of underarm deodorant. If there’s still money to be made, consumers vote for more, and it’s not my business, your privilege, Bernie Sanders’ privilege, or anyone else’s to suppress those votes.
We may not be honest with ourselves. I attended a lecture by Virginia Postrell based on her book The essence of the method in graduate studies. If I remember correctly, she said that when local officials and leaders turn up their noses at Starbucks and describe what they want in Sweetened The coffee shop, from the aesthetic to the ambience to the variety, dubs Starbucks. In short, they want the Starbucks experience but not the Starbucks name.
Of course, intervention distorts retail markets. Local officials devote significant time and energy (and hand out plenty of goodies) to “whales” like Walmart, Target, and other Big Box retailers who promise bewildering tax revenue. Chains can benefit from the economies of scale that come with having entire executives and departments dedicated to regulatory compliance. Saying “stop doing this” is like telling a lifelong heroin addict to “just say no,” but at least we can recognize the problem at its source. If we want more local flavour, getting governments out of the way of entrepreneurs is much better than banning the chains.
People enjoy places that are exotic, unique, and local. I know I do. They’re also reliable, consistent, and predictable, which is why chains are so successful. As the chains expand into new territories, those regions begin to look alike. But they are more similar in their diverse choices of food, clothing, auto care, and other goods and services that are reliable, consistent, and predictable. If Bonchon, In-N-Out Burger, and Tim Hortons made their way into my neighborhood, I don’t think I’d shed any tears, but if I did, I’d cry joy at my new opportunities for food and coffee I couldn’t get from Before without getting on the plane.