Scott Hardie | May 6, 2024
Any feelings about Boston Market as the chain whiles down what little time it has left?

Samir Mehta | May 6, 2024
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Erik Bates | May 6, 2024
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Scott Hardie | May 16, 2024
Samir, I know exactly what you mean. There are restaurants that I haven't visited in decades but I can still remember their tastes and smells. The same goes for long-deceased relatives whose cooking I still vividly remember. I thought it was just my weird relationship with food, but judging from the memories that get shared around when a place like this closes, it must be universal. (A longtime Sarasota landmark closed suddenly this week and I've seen an outpouring on social media.)

Like the author of that piece about Boston Market, I have fond memories of my mother bringing home their food in the 1990s since it was on her commute home and it was such a pleasant improvement on the other options at the time. But the market evolved around them and they got left in the dust, and they have been on the decline for many years. Kelly and I ate a couple of times at the location in our current city, but since it was 30-40 minutes away on the other side of town, the food would arrive cold by the time we brought it home and so it just wasn't worth the trip. I'd have been much happier to eat their food than the KFC around the corner from my house, but it just didn't make sense for us.

I wonder if their frozen meals in grocery stores will continue to exist. Too bad they phased out the best one a while ago.

Samir Mehta | May 16, 2024
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Scott Hardie | May 18, 2024
I think Heather's preferences would drive me a little crazy, only because it sounds like they really restrict your options. I don't know how many restaurants are near you, but close to our house, our options are limited. We live close to an interstate exit, so our choices are very common fast food and interstate fare: Cracker Barrel, IHOP, Bob Evans, Waffle House, McDonald's, Wendy's, Subway, KFC. For anything better or more exotic, we have little choice but to drive further afield, so trips of 15-20 minutes each way to pick up dinner are not uncommon to us. That said, Boston Market was on the outer edge of the range that we were willing to travel. If you had lots of appealing restaurants close to you, I could see Heather's preference to stick to those for a hotter, just-cooked meal.

How do you and Heather feel about food-delivery apps like DoorDash? They're all kinds of exploitative and I don't like the way that using them feels, but they do drastically increase our options. But I suppose the same problem with food cooling off applies to those too. Maybe stick to sandwiches and salads and other meals meant to be eaten cold?

Samir Mehta | May 18, 2024
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Scott Hardie | May 19, 2024
Restaurant-delivery apps are a boon to people with disabilities. Kelly and I both have issues that make it harder to get properly dressed and drive someplace. We'll still do that for a good meal sometimes, but often it's just not worth the hassle. We can browse the restaurant menu online and submit an order, then do what we want around the house for the next 45 minutes until it arrives, and then we can relax on our own couch to eat. What a relief! Dining this way definitely costs more, but we're lucky enough to be able to afford it once or twice a week. There are other little frustrations, like sometimes not being able to customize a dish on the app the way that you could in person, or a clueless delivery person sometimes leaving it on the ground blocking the front door so that we have to walk around from the side of our house to pick it up, but those aren't deal-breakers.

Scott Hardie | May 19, 2024
Red Lobster is in trouble, too, if not as dire as Boston Market. Will anyone mourn that chain? I've had decent meals there, but the price is always well out of proportion to the quality. I also find it strange that they're Florida-based and yet the vibe is generic Eastern-seaboard rather than tourist-tropical like Margaritaville or Bahama Breeze. Kelly and I get fresh fish at all kinds of restaurants here in our gulf-coast Florida town, and the theming of our local Red Lobster makes it feel out of step with the others, like a corporate entity expanding into this territory from New England rather than the Florida native chain that it is.

Samir Mehta | May 20, 2024
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Scott Hardie | June 12, 2024
You're right; Red Lobster has market penetration in the Midwest and other places that don't have a lot of options for fresh seafood, and I'm sure that's a huge part of their growth and ubiquity. I don't know if I'd go so far as to call them the McDonald's of seafood, not when Long John Silver's and Captain D's exist, but they're deliberately bland for mass appeal and you can sense it. This is what I meant about the price; they charge as if they're offering a distinct and premium experience, but they're not, at least not in this seafood-rich market.

Red Lobster didn't have a bad business model, nor did it lose its customer base. It's being bled dry by private equity. I wonder how many more businesses are going to succumb to these vampires until we finally demand that lawmakers do something about it.

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