Saturday, August 18, 2007

Thanks, Dave!

Wendy's Old Fashioned Hamburgers was nearly the first place I ever worked. The First was Taco Bell, where I made $4.25/hr, and hated the food. Then one day a manager at the local Wendy's was dining at Taco Bell, and, no doubt impressed with my unflappable manner and smiling face, asked if I would consider putting in an application down the street at Wendy's, where they could use someone like me. I did, and at Wendy's I made $4.50/hr, and I liked the food! This was in the Summer of my Junior year of High School, and my parents forced me to quit when my grades fell, but I still have some really fond memories of the place. Last time I was in McMinnville, it was still there, same as ever. Actually, it had a Salad Bar when I worked there, but other than that, same as ever.

A couple of days ago, I had been working on the blog all morning with no breakfast, and I needed to take my car in for an oil change (I had put 2000 miles on it the previous weekend, on my amazing Texan Adventure).

"On The Mountain", where I live, there are three fast-food places. Subway, Hardee's, and McDonalds. I look forward to eating "Off The Mountain" when I get the chance. I contemplated where I would dine while my belly growled at me for the thirteen mile trek down into the flatlands. I realized I hadn't been to Wendy's in a long time, and whenever I had, I had been noshing off the 99-cent menu, which is not really exemplary of the high quality burgers you can get there. I hadn't had a "Real" Wendy's Burger in a long, long time!

Well, I Fixed that. It turns out that Wendy's has a new burger called "The Baconator". Now, I love me some Bacon, and I appreciate a cute name and a good advertising campaign.("Order It, Before It Orders You!" and "Careful, It Can Sense Fear!" were on some of the signage around the store) I quickly determined that I wanted one. It was good. It was exactly as good as you would expect a sandwich called "The Baconator" to be. But as I sat in the dining room stuffing my face full of meat, I realized how nice it was to be in a restaurant that was just like I remembered.

I used to love to go to Pizza Hut as a kid. The building would have the big, familiarly shaped roof, there would be a jukebox and a couple of outdated video games by the entrance, a waiter or waitress would greet you at the sign that said "Please Wait to be Seated", and seat you at a table, or a booth with a stained-glass shaded lamp hanging over the table, and back in the day, they served beer there too, and there would quite frequently be a baseball team or other group of guys with a few pitchers and a few pizzas having a good time after the big game.

That was back when Pizza Hut was directly owned by Pepsico. In the nineties, though, they "Spun Off" their restaurant brands, (Kentucky Fried Chicken, Pizza Hut, and Taco Bell, at the time) into a company called "Tricon Global Restaurants". Really, Tricon Global, how charming is that? This began the downward spiral of Pizza Hut, as Fast-Food style Pizza Huts started popping up, frequently combined with a KFC or a Taco Bell. I don't want to order a Quesadilla in a Pizza Hut. I don't want my pizza served to me in a paper tray. I don't want your chicken sandwich, either. I don't want a "personal" sized pizza, which is 70% dry crust, with the 2 square inches in the center pre-topped with one of only 3 topping choices, which was delivered to the store frozen, microwaved back to life, and has been sitting under a heat lamp for 20 minutes before I ordered it!

I want a seat in a booth, with a stained-glass lamp over the table, and I want to stick a dollar in the jukebox and pick three songs to listen to while I wait for my pizza to be made for me by a person who lives in the same state as me. I want a friendly server to bring it to me, and I want peppermints delivered with the bill! If I can't have that, then you are not a Pizza Hut! Tricon Global is also the company that decided that Lazy Stupid Americans couldn't handle a big fancy name like "Kentucky Fried Chicken" and changed it to just KFC. So maybe they should change the fake "Pizza Huts" to just PH. Of course Taco Bell Might have problems... "Honey I'm running into town for some TB, you want any?"

Well Tricon Global eventually figured out what anybody could have told them (their name stunk), and changed their name to YUM! Brands (they also changed their stock ticker symbol to YUM). Since March of 2002, they now operate, in addition to PH, TB, and KFC, Long John Silver's which they also initialized for the American 3-second attention span, to "LJS", and A&W All-American Food, which came pre-initialized as A&W. (Does anybody know what the "A" and the "W" used to stand for?)

I can't help it, but when I see YUM! Brands' logo, with its stupid attached exclamation point, which tries to force me to be excited about it, I resist. Can you imagine working in the offices of YUM! and having to type the name of your company in ALL CAPITAL LETTERS, with an exclamation point!, every time, in every report, for the rest of your career? And the poor kids working for YUM! restaurants must hate getting visited by corporate flacks who try and rigidly enforce rules about smiling and such, because we are a HAPPY company Dog-gone it, and SMILE while you empty the grease vats! And WHERE is your name tag!? How do I know who to report to the YUMMY SMILE! POLICE if you don't have on your name tag? We don't want people with just the minimum number of pieces of Flair, we want people like Brian, he has on thirty-seven pieces of Flair. Okay?

I mean seriously... The only way a fast food chain could be any more ridiculously cutesy,
would be if they had a full-fledged Clown with big red shoes as their corporate mascot! (YUM! Brands is the second largest fast food chain in the country, by the way. I'll give you one guess who is #1.)

Anyway, Dave Thomas never made anybody wear any pieces of flair. And he didn't remodel his stores into unrecognizability, either. You know what he did do? He did make use of the world's first drive-thru window, and he invented the 99-cent "Super Value" menu. And the restaurant he left behind makes a pretty darn good "Baconator", too. So Thanks, Dave for bringing us your great, low-key style of restaurant, and thank YOU, Wendy's Board of Directors, for not (yet) selling Dave's soul to a giant food Conglomo-Corp.

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