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Urban intellectuals, accustomed to an environment full of boutiques and family-owned ethnic restaurants, frequently and reflexively denounce the spread of chain restaurants and stores. While the chains may seem trivial in and of themselves, in much public discussion they have come to represent the evils of commercial evolution and, by implication, of dynamism in general. "America's the most boring country to tour already because everywhere looks like everywhere else," says New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman on the PBS Charlie Rose Show. "And what's sad to me, Charlie, is that the world is starting to look that way, you know, in the big cities now and even outside them, you know, with the Pizza Hut and the McDonald's and the Burger King on every corner."

But for the people in less developed areas, whether in the developing nations today or most of America until recently, the coming of chains has increased rather than decreased both the variety and quality of restaurant food. "When I was growing up" in 1950s Little Rock, recalls the economist Michael Cox, "whenever we went out to eat, we'd eat at a place called Franke's Caf