A troubling sign

This may not be news to locals, but I don’t think they understand the true import of the event. TGIFriday’s has arrived in Prague. Sure, McDonald’s has been here for a while now, as has KFC, and I assume there’s a Hard Rock Café around here somewhere. (Note to self: If there isn’t, make a deal with a bootlegger at a flea market to buy up a bunch of fake Hard Rock Prague t-shirts and flog them in Old Town Square.)

If McD’s and The Colonel are the cavalry, the vanguard of capitalism sent to root out the native businesses and push them into the locations no one wants, TGIFriday’s and the others sure to follow represent the next wave. They are the settlers. Moving into areas firmly established by those that came before, they will gradually push the boundaries, creating expanding zones of Urban Interchangeable, where local businesses will have the choice to play the game or move out.

TGIFriday’s will succeed here, no doubt about it. A few other restaurants in town have good burgers, but they don’t have a continent-leaping marketing machine. Now there is a place in town that every American will associate with a higher grade of burger than the fast-food places. They will go. The locals will follow. Why? Because burgers are good. Better burgers are better. I have no idea what the replaced business was selling. That in itself is telling, because I walked past the place regularly. Oh, the power of a name.

I may not know what the previous establishment sold, but it wasn’t burgers. It was different. Maybe not better, but different.

26 thoughts on “A troubling sign

  1. I saw a place in Praha 1 with “Hard Rock Cafe” on the marquee, but I don’t think it’s THAT Hard Rock.

    Is the TGIFriday’s you’re talking about the one in Andel, next to the Awesome Dungeon Restaurant?

  2. Sad days indeed; we sit, we watch, and we wait for the Gods to write our memoirs. Why this passivity of being? Why do we drink to forget? Why do we not drink to remember, to reclaim? To revolt, perhaps?

  3. I have always thought the chain to fear was Starbucks. TGI Friday’s is so overpriced I only go there when someone else is paying. I would never have thought it could even pose the slightest threat over in the land of bargain food and drink.

    Or does Friday’s in Prague charge a lot lower prices than Friday’s in the United States?

    Except for special occasions, dinner for three, with all persons ordering from the middle of the menu, with the two adults consuming only one beer apiece, should not cost more than $100. Even after we applied our discount coupon (lowest priced entree free), the meal was still over $100.

    Even if we were celebrating a special occasion, we wouldn’t go to Friday’s — the food just isn’t all that special. We’d go to Monroe’s or the Coronado Restaurant and Cantina. If we were in Prague, we’d go to something local there. I’m just plain underwhelmed by Friday’s.

  4. Yes, TGIFrifay’s is underwhelming; that’s part of it’s recipe for success. No risk, no adventure for a place designed to appeal to the broadest audience possible.

    If only Ray Kroc had grown up in New Mexico. Now, rather than vast, sprawling burger franchises, we’d have vast, sprawling green chile cheeseburger franchises. The world would be infinitely better.

    Oddly, I don’t think Starb’s has infected this town yet. Maybe it’s just not a $4 coffee demographic, opting instead for $1 beers. They’re not just for breakfast anymore.

    And yes, dondo, the urban boil I referred to is the one in Anděl, near the Awesome Dungeon Restaurant (also called Anděl).

  5. Jerry, TGIFriday’s has been in Prague for many years now, much longer than you. I remember it as being a good place to go and watch CNN durring the beginning of our ‘liberation’ of Iraq, much better than the laundromat (I had a washing machine by then). The fact there is now one in Anděl is a sign that, even tho the prices are the same as they are in the US (I think, my one adventure into TGIFriday’s was is Palm Desert while drinking away the pain of a cracked head (on the Alfa) and lost glasses is a bit fuzzy around the edges) the other tourists quite like it. I am sure 75% of the customers are Ameks, and a very small percent of the remainder are Czech.

    The Hard Rock Cafe in Prague 1 is in no way related to the one with all the T-Shirts. Personally, I would fear the Czech version much more than the corporate version, at least as far as selling boot-leg t-shirts. To operate in that part of town takes…connections.

    Don’t know the ADR, but the bar Ujezd, next to the bagel place, has an awesome dungeon.

  6. Don’t remember TFI Friday’s being quite that expensive, but it was certainly boring, unexciting, overpriced, and underwhelming.

  7. Ah, TGIFridays. There is one near where I work in California. They are going back to the ‘fling’ or whatever they call that nonsense of pins and smart mouthed patches they wear on their clothing. I found out because I was taken there a month or so ago for my birthday. Average pricing American is $8 – 20 a dinner and beers…dunno since I am spoiled and only drink my brother’s homemade ales (he makes them like German beers less like American…’water’)

    Oh, New Mexico burgers–are the best! Too bad Ray Kroc was demented and did basically a beach burger (where they were first popular in Los Angeles according to mom born there). *makes note she needs to pick up some Hatch this year*

  8. I’m with Lee. I usually find American Tourists looking for McD’s, especially if they have kids. It’s a known quantity. Isn’t it Holiday Inn that says “No Surprises”? We’ve had some interesting local food served to us- i.e. Japan-where we ate it even when we KNEW what it was!

  9. ADR is the one with the two bowling lanes at the mid-descent level.

    I figured there was probably already one around here somewhere, but it’s not something I’ve gone looking for. The only reason I would go into one is to see if the czech employees each had exactly the required amount of “flaire” (or whatever it was called in Office Space) and no more. It would be the natural czech way.

  10. Arrr Lydia, Jerr speaks fairly, it be called ‘flair.’ in the movie Office Space, Jennifer Anniston was reprimanded for not having the requisite number (17, I believe) pieces of ‘flair’ on her uniform.

    TGIF for your birthday? Phew, someone doesn’t like you very much do they?

  11. *sob* but they said they did. I also was taken to Marie Callendars by another set of office workers and to King’s Fish House (we don’t have many mom and pop places nearby they are all chains).

    I was taken out 3 times by coworkers….I think that means they like me. Or are trying to impress eachother with ability to spend money on lowly peons such as myself.

  12. CA says “…the chain to fear…”, where chain is meant as a synomym for franchise or brandname of stores. But when I first read her sentence it struck me as a linked series of events: the chain TO fear begins with the starbucks link. Then the TGIFriday’s link. Then the Coors! Then …Arrr matey…the WALMART link..har har har. Avast.

    If you haven’t seen the documentary Walmart, the high cost of low prices put it on your turntable.

    There is something funny about the forces of age – when you are younger you want to be independent, unique, and too cool to ever support Micky D’s homogenous treacle. When you get older, you want fast, efficient, respectful service, a known quantity because you are always in a hurry and the (baby, spouse, father-in-law, mule) is crying. Mickey D’s has that in spades (in America – I’ve had crap service in other countries).

    Also when you get older you are allowed to non-sensically slam WalMart yet support Micky Ds in the same post.

  13. Walmart’s greatest enemy: public transportation. When people don’t have cars, there are no box stores. Prague’s greatest enemy: cars. If they were smart, they would be eliminating parking structures, rather then encouraging them.

    “You want to build an office building? Well, all right, but you are required to remove 250 parking spaces from the city to do so.”

    When my mule is crying, I always think McDonalds, for a more permanent solution.

  14. And some of the mom and pop places get scary. Here in California there is a rating system for restuarants. A being highest; B something needs to be fixed fast; C oh just drink outta the sewers…it’s safer.

    Was visiting family up in Los Angeles and cousin wanted to have Thai food. We drove to a place she and her boyfriend loved. I pointed out the C in the window. She was like, “But it is good!”


  15. I think everywhere’s got the same rating system. One of the local tv nooz stations reports on viewers favorite restaurants. Alas, mom-n-pops usually do poorly, while chains do well. Subway always does amazingly well. But not always – I dunno if they have Johnny Carinos out west, but i’ts a sort-of Olive Garden franchise, and the one near my house tanked on its last score. One thing that always kills me about the blackmarks agin restaurants here in NC is all of the mold: on ice machines, soda fountain nozzles, etcetra. Yessirree! It’s humid in these parts!
    But mold is better’n the raw meat thawing over a salad container – I see that one a lot. Yucko.

  16. Jesse,
    YOU don’t like mold with your food? Sheesh, easy dose of drugs. *yes I am kidding*

    The raw meats above veggies does tend to be off putting. The worse thing out this way on the ‘left coast’ is the amounts of insects and critters found. Sad to say it is far higher than anyone wants. I worked in kitchens for years and am not a jumpy sort but when you open a bin and things fly out at you it does tend to make me pause.

  17. The good thing about restaurant bugs is the added nutritional value to each meal that contains a portion of insect, or if you are lucky a whole insect. At the very least you get to play “what the hell is this?” while you eat. A game the whole family can play!

  18. If they didn’t provide homebrew on your Birthday, they aren’t you friends. Taking you to a place with American beer is lame, demand better.

    And I am proud to say, a pharmacist in my home town (which had Wally World #5) was the first to successfully sue Wally World for selling drugs under cost. However, this only slowed down the demise of downtown by a few months.

  19. Here in the Land of Enchantment, we don’t seem to have such a big problem with vermin in our restaurants. The ones here who get cited generally fall into two categories — those that store things together that shouldn’t be together, such as raw meat with ready-to-eat veggies or pesticides with foodstuffs, and those that don’t pay attention to holding temperatures, keeping hot food cool enough and cold food warm enough to develop botulism.

    But then, we occasionally get a spectacular case, such as an out-of-state-based Chinese food chain that got cited for dozens of violations. The health inspector’s recommendations included giving all of the employees English-language training so that they could understand the rules, and sending all of the restaurant managers to vocational school to learn safe food-handling practices.

    Two days later, the two Albuquerque restaurants in the chain were raided by the INS and Interpol — turns out most of the employees were either kidnapped or unwanted daughters sold by their parents, transported to the U.S. in cargo containers, and kept in slavery to work in the restaurants.

    Unfortunately, the chain name (which wasn’t used on either of the restaurants in Albuquerque) was the same as the name of a very good, and thoroughly honest, local mom-and-pop Chinese restaurant. Ouch.

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