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Things are bleak for the middle class, and could be made no clearer than the Darden brand examples given at the end of The New York Times’ recent report. Traffic is declining at Olive Garden where the average check is $16.50 (clearly, these people aren’t partaking in the chianti) where spending is up at Capital Grille and closer to $71.

Most notable to me, though, was how the company has re-branded its answer to Outback Steakhouse.

“LongHorn Steakhouse, another Darden chain, has been reworked to target a slightly more affluent crowd than Olive Garden, with décor intended to evoke a cattleman’s ranch instead of an Old West theme.”

The differences between Old West and ranch-style seem nuanced at best—at least to my untrained eyes. (For the record, the above photo is intended to be “a warm, relaxing atmosphere reminiscent of a Western rancher’s home.”)

Meanwhile, in the “Soviet-style dystopia” that is Sochi, there is a mall where the only open business is a “thriving” Cinnabon.  The real question is whether giant American cinnamon rolls qualify as middle-class in a Russian Olympic village.



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