Opinion: Spare me the food snobbery; chains are just fine

Of all the many sorts of snobbery that exist in the world today, surely the most annoying is dining snobbery. You, too, have that one friend, I imagine — the Certified Restaurant Adventurer©.

Ask the CRA© how his/her/their weekend was and the conversation turns into a Travel Channel monologue about the joys of eating fried calf testicles off a food truck in a Maryvale back alley.

My eyes glaze over during such tales — and not in a honey-glazed epicurean way — before I say something like, “That’s just nuts,” and wander off.

I’m an adventurous eater. I like steak, medium rare. I love cheesesteaks, cheeseburgers, cheese fries, pizza, and caffeinated beverages ordered without substituting Italian numbers for sizes. Hold the cheese on the coffee, thanks. But only there.

In sum, I have always believed myself to be a typical American eater. Meaning I am not a gastronomic explorer, nor am I a big chain restaurant purveyor.

However, I don’t look down my nose at people who think Olive Garden is the best Italian food known to man. By the same token, I’m tired of hearing about Pizzeria Bianco and how it’s worth camping out for a week for a slice of Sonny Boy pizza, because, oh Lord, the soppressata is to die for!

Salami is salami, people. They do a nice pepperoni pie at Pizza Hut, too. And they have 6,600 locations in the United States, which means less waiting.

That’s what chain restaurants are for: people who see meals not as opportunities for reverie and humble bragging about their palate, but as fuel for the body and a chance to chat with loved ones, friends and colleagues.

Dining snobs will scoff, but there’s a reason that chain restaurants continue to be popular. They’re not the devil, or even Red Devil Pizza, with three locations in the Valley and one in Pinetop.

Chains are thriving, and regular people must like them, because chain restaurants comprise the majority of dining options in the United States, according to recent data from two scholars at Georgia Tech University’s Friendly Cities Lab.

Dr. Clio Andris and Ph.D. candidate Xiaofan Liang compiled statistics on more than 700,000 restaurants nationwide, including nearly 400 chains of 50 locations or more. The most prolific restaurant in the study? Subway, with more than 24,000 locations in the United States.

Restaurants with only one location comprised about 44% of the study, or about 310,000 locations total.

Liang told the Washington Post, “the foodscape is very political,” meaning the study’s big takeaway was that, “Places with a high percentage of Trump voters have a higher percentage of chains. We didn’t expect it.”

Yawn. Sounds like food snobbery to me.

My big takeaway is that Arizona is not the fast food capital of America, as many Valley food snobs would have you believe.

The most franchise-y state in the nation? Kentucky, where 46% of restaurant options have 50 or more locations. Arizona ranked 21st, with chains comprising 35% of restaurant offerings — as compared to Vermont, the least franchise-y state, where only 13% of restaurants had 50 or more locations.

As for metro Phoenix, it ranked 204th among more than 380 metropolitan areas, with chains comprising about 37% of restaurant options. So we’re not New York City, with 18% chains, nor are we Aniston, Alabama, with 57% chains.

We’re right in between, not unlike the beef patty in a Cold Beers & Cheeseburgers All American Burger. CB&C has 12 Arizona locations, by the way, which makes them something of a local chain.

Regardless, they don’t serve pig cheeks, rattlesnake bites or other food snob fare, so I can’t recommend the place highly enough.