Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Should every local specialty go national?

Most of the bigger names in the retail and restaurant business want to open new locations here in Charlotte. But some businesses popular in other parts of the country are destined to keep their reach small for the forseeable future.

One of those is In-N-Out burger, a chain with a hungrily cultish following in California, Nevada and Arizona. It started in 1948 as the nation’s first drive-through hamburger stand. After I invited readers to name their favorite businesses missing from Charlotte, many former Westerners sang the burger company’s praises.

"The most wonderful burgers in the world are from In-N-Out Burger. If they ever expanded out this far east, people in Charlotte would become addicted," wrote Sara Stevens, a Charlottean who spent six months living in California.

"My wife, kids and I just moved here last year from southern California (L.A.). We love it, but do miss a couple of the fast food places over there. One is In-N-Out burger. Nothing else is on the menu except burgers and fries, and they are both the best," added John Nasir.

I called the company last week while I was working on last Sunday’s article about Charlotte’s most-requested missing retailers, and didn’t hear back in time for my deadline. But this morning, I had an answer from them waiting in my inbox:

"We're quite flattered that many of your readers mentioned us in your survey. We don't have any plans to expand to the east coast in the near future. We make all our hamburger patties ourselves and deliver them fresh to all of our stores. We don't have a freezer in any of our restaurants. Our freshness standards have a great deal to do with our growth plans. While we do hope to be on the east coast someday, it's still a ways off in the future."--Carl Van Fleet, V.P. Planning and Development, In-N-Out Burger.

My question is, is this necessarily a bad thing? Regional specialties like distinctive burgers or pastries or old-time hardware stores are part of what makes each city fun to visit or live in. I wouldn’t want to see Bill Spoon’s Barbecue franchised – would you? What are some other examples of local specialties that are better off remaning local?


Blogger Deanna said...

I didn't really think about it, but now that you mention it, no I wouldn't want every local specialty to go national. It would no longer be unique and it would probably lose something in the "translation". I will just have something else to look forward to during my trips back home to California. In - N - Out - Yummy!

10:37 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I really don't see any way an In-N-Out burger could be better than the Hardee's Angus burger. That is the best burger I have ever eaten. I don't miss anything because I was born here and get to eat everything I grew up with. I've tasted and been to some stores that people said were great, and I just don't see how they are any better than what we had here already.

11:20 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you have to eat a fast food burger you might as well try Cook-Out. "Local" chain. It would be hard to imagine In-N-Out being any better....

4:40 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cook Out is great, but I'd put Back Yard Burger or 5 Guys up against any fast food burgers.

6:37 PM  
Blogger unicorn1824 said...

Hardee's is great, but sometimes I miss White Castles. The frozen ones just aren't the same....

7:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Okay Cincinnatis favorite SKYLINE CHILI, GOLDSTAR CHILI,Empress chili . I want GRAETERS ICE CREAM as OPRAH Winfrey said its the best she has had; I would like MOUNTAIN MIKES pizza from California or Tommys Pizza from Upper Arlington, Ohio. Donatos will be great also

7:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Peter Goreman would like to see Mountian Mikes Pizza come here from California.
He told me via E-mail once.

7:32 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

White Castles are great but some units are going strange on us; Ohio is the eating capitol of the world thats why my belly sticks out.

7:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

How about silver diner from WASHINGTON D,> C. area thats where I go after NATO meetings than I dru=ive back to Charlotte,

7:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a former Carolinian who is now in Chicago (and thinking of moving back), I admit that a big reason for my homesickness is Chick-Fil-A. No Chick-Fil-A in Chicago means a very sad me. No decent barbecue either.

But local food is what makes this country great. It's bad enough that we have the same massive suburban retailers. If every city or town had the same food too, we'd lose all identity as a federation of 50 unique states.

9:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

As a Charlotte native who also lived in Chicago for awhile, I will second that I really missed my Chic-Fil-A. But the local food everywhere is part of what makes it special. Enjoy what you have wherever you are- you'll miss it when you're gone :)!

1:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The problem with going national is that the company begins favoring standardization, consistency, & cost at the expense of uniqueness and quality.

Take Pizzeria Uno's at MLK & College. Chicago style pizza can be great - but does anyone think that what they're serving here bears any significant resemblance to what got the chain off the ground in the first place? Instead, it's just decent bar food - what a lot of business travelers on a limited per diem want at the end of the day. But hardly memorable dining.

1:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i am also a native charlottean living in chicago. we should start a club :)

10:14 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I lived on both coasts. I have to say that In n Out is the very best hambutger I have EVER tasted. Hardees has nothing on In N Out, you have to try it to understand! i wish they would bring it here!

9:10 PM  

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