Sunday, July 3, 2016

The "Cat $hit On A Stick" Theory Explained

Last week, the Sioux Falls Police Department had to provide traffic control on East 10th Street due to the throngs of people clamoring to get into Popeye's Chicken within a mere day or two of the place opening. As far as I know, it wasn't because the first 500 customers got free food for a year or even free fries or something, but just to get in and get themselves some fried chicken. Yup, fried chicken. 


This town is food obsessed. When out-of-towers ask me what we do for fun here in Sioux Falls, my usual answer is: We eat. It's entertainment here.  We eat for entertainment.

It's true. Popeye's proves it. It's fried goddamned chicken for fork's sake. Between The Keg and Bob's, with an honorable hat tip to Botski's/Jono's, we've got some of the best fried chicken a person is going to lay a greasy hand on anywhere, and it's made by local business people who have invested their lives into developing and serving it. But, God forbid, a new nationwide chain joint opens up and traffic literally comes to a stop.

Yeah, yeah, yeah. I got nothing against Popeye, or chicken, or fried chicken. I know franchise owners employ people here and risk their money on the venture. Thank you. But it's not the same. Buying into franchises is more of an investment than it is opening a restaurant, even if your staple is pressure-fried chicken. Buying franchises means betting on a brand, usually one promoted through national advertising that has a formulated, consistent product. You maintain it and you should make some money. Starting a restaurant involves taking an idea and developing it to the point where a person thinks they can invest their own money, but moreso their lives, into a chance to see if others will like it and provide them with a living. Around here, it seems new franchise chain joints are mostly opened by people of sufficient financial means to buy in. Usually, they own multiple franchises. They are not chefs in my experience. Exhibit One: Todd Porter who owns Applebee's, Chevy's, Carino's, and Pizza Rev. Compare that to say, Bro's, opened by the chefs who got Parker's off the ground, or Ode where EC Bob was previously at Hy Vee. 

But, I digress. What does this have to do with cat shit on a stick? I'll tell you.

It doesn't matter whether any particular new place is selling great food, or not. If it's new, people here will try it. If it's a chain joint like Popeye's or Mackenzie River or Red Robin, that people have been to in Omaha, Bozeman, Minneapolis, or any other bigger city type of place, people here will overwhelm it. I swear, a new place could serve fried nuggets of cat shit on a stick and it would be jam packed for at least two weeks before it would occur to anyone that the food sucks, well, tastes like cat shit actually, and quit going there. But hey, it'd be a great two weeks.

Now I'm jonesing for fried chicken. I'm off to The Keg.

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