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A Friendly Send-Off

FriendlysBankruptcy, nostalgia, swan songs…it’s been a rough few weeks for old guard chains.

24/7 Wall St. looks at the ten chain restaurants with the biggest loss of sales over the past ten years. I haven’t heard of at least half of them—Bakers Square? Damon’s?—so maybe they truly are endangered species. 341 comments? That’s a heck of a lot of people misspelling Appelbee’s as Appleby’s.

Restaurant Finance Monitor calls bullshit. Chains as a whole aren’t disappearing—we may lose a Friendly’s or a Sbarro—but we gain a Kona Grill or BJ’s.

Josh Ozersky at Time thinks the death of Friendly’s is bad for America. If the middle class can’t afford to go out for Fribbles anymore, we are in sorry shape. I think the dwindling of these traditional chains is as much about changing tastes as our collective destitution, though.

Unsurprisingly, Mark Bittman is a killjoy about the matter (I just can’t get properly worked up over the occasional foray into “factory food”) even while getting the tiniest bit misty over Friendly’s demise. Why do commenters spell it as Friendlies? And why does Bittman think the chain served fast food (this was already pointed out on Twitter)? It may have been factory food, but table service and menus doesn’t fit the definition.

Friendly’s is totally the squeaky wheel (or maybe it’s the pervasive Northeastern food writing that’s doing the squeaking) but El Torito, the Californian, Americanized Mexican chain with one location in Oregon, declared Chapter 11 too and Gustavo Arellano of ¡Ask a Mexican! fame considers the melted cheese and sour cream blobs a part of history. Parent company, Real Mex Foods, also owns Who Song & Larry’s, which played a far more significant role in my formative years (it’s in here somewhere) than Friendly’s, a place I’d never heard of until I was 25.

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