There are few things more region specific than food, which is why it’s not unusual for people to vacation to regions known for a particular type of food. It’s known to them, they like it and they look forward to the authentic experience. Of course once they arrive they realize that while the locals do eat differently than they do, there is a love for foreign chain restaurants, particularly American ones, that cannot be denied.
This upsets many people for a number of reasons. One is that they have travelled far away to escape the every day and have instead run right into the arms of the familiar. Another reason is this perception that, like back home, chain restaurants have taken away from independent ones and have homogenized the dining industry. Finally though, and most often is the case, people are upset because it ruins the idealistic image they have of other cultures as being above the whole chain thing. We westerners are decadent and have eschewed priorities – other cultures are above that!
Except they’re not. Sure, some chains just don’t work in some countries either because it’s facing competition from an existing, local favourite, or because the tastes of the locals don’t match those of the foreigners. What this fails to recognize is chain restaurants exist because they are successful and they would not be successful if people did not enjoy the product they create.
There are thousands of sushi restaurants in Tokyo but McDonalds still thrives. Doughnut shops and coffee shops aren’t hard to find but Krispy Kreme and Starbucks are successful as alternative competition. Is it bad if you visit any of these when you’re in Japan or should you only look for the ‘Japanese’ businesses to patronize?
The answer, of course, is do what you want. These places exist both because the local populace enjoys what is served and so foreigners have something familiar. Except where racial stupidity exists, businesses just want money and they don’t care where it comes from.
If you feel though that you aren’t an authentic traveller because you partake in chain restaurant dining when you should be eating how the locals do, take a look around. You’ll probably notice a lot of locals. Plus, locals are working there – by eating there, you are supporting them. Should you only eat in places you recognize? Of course not – but that goes true for when you’re back home too. It never hurts to break routine and try something different and you don’t need to be away on vacation to do that.