This past summer, I spent a lot of time travelling in the United States. Being the food-lover I am, I visited a variety of interesting restaurants. One thing that bothers me about eating across the border is the fact that, with a few exceptions, if its not a ma-and-pa greasy spoon, it is a part of a chain. Even the exceptions (small-business type restaurants with $10-16 menu items) were rather bland and lacking in culinary finesse compared to similar Canadian restaurants.
Not that all the chains are bad. Many serve much higher quality food than you'd find at any of the chains we have in Canada. (Compare a Whataburger--a chain in the south--to a burger king burger, for example). But the nature of the chains can be surprising. Many of them take an idea that would be excellent within the loving environment of a small-business setting, commercialize it, assembly line it, and churn out a less-than-excellent version for mass consumption.
An example of this is the Cold Stone Creamery, which I had an opportunity to visit this summer while in Lawrence, KS. The notion behind the Cold Stone Creamery is that they provide a higher quality ice cream by making it fresh in store every day. Not only that, but customers are invited to experiment with their flavors, as different ice creams are mixed with a variety of additional ingredients on a slab of chilled stone right before the consumer's eyes.
To be fair, its pretty damn good ice cream. Maybe slightly overpriced for what you get, but really, honestly, very good. Just, perhaps, not as good as it could be. A lot of the homey-feeling experience of this sort of thing is lost in a chain-restaurant setting. Comedian Azis Ansari says it best in his rant about CSC: http://grooveshark.com/#!/s/Cold+Stone+Creamery/2CvrPL?src=5