The topic of today’s investigation: national pride. Specifically: does your country allow a crappy Americanized version of your food to be sold within its own borders? If so, then your country has no pride whatever.
The above picture, you may note, does not have Italy highlighted. You know why? Because Italians don’t want any Tony Roma’s. Tony Roma’s–whose motto is “Famous for Ribs”–has a location in Saudi Arabia, where, generally speaking, pork isn’t such a big product, but none in Italy. Because Italy does not want Tony Roma’s. They have actual Italian food.
In addition, there are not only no Olive Gardens in Italy, there aren’t any in the whole of Europe. But of course, Italy is not the only country to have its food bastardized in America.
Here’s a mostly complete list of countries that have managed to keep American chains out of their borders.
The Bahamas – Bahama Breeze
Brazil – Cafe Rio
France – Au Bon Pain (note: French food sucks)
Germany – Wienerschnitzel
Ireland – Bennigan’s
Italy – Sbarro (has 44 countries covered, but not Italy), Vapiano (is German, apparently), Bucca di Beppo, Olive Garden, Tony Roma’s. I don’t know what Fazoli’s is, but they have a really detailed Wikipedia page that includes one segment tiled “Fazoli’s in the New Millennium.”
Japan – Benihana
Mexico, being so close to America and actually having a unique culture of its own (*cough* Canada *cough*) presents an interesting case. Taco Bell first set up a restaurant in Mexico in 1992. That failed. They tried again in 2007, and that failed too. Please, if you have three minutes, do read this article about their second foray into the Mexican market. Some gems:
“It’s like bringing ice to the Arctic,” complained pop culture historian Carlos Monsivais.
But while Mexicans eagerly buy many American brands, the taco holds a place of honor in the national cuisine. Mexicans eat them everywhere, anytime of day, buying them from basket-toting street vendors in the morning or slathering them in salsa at brightly lit taquerias to wrap up a night on the town.
Taco Bell has taken pains to say that it’s not trying to masquerade as a Mexican tradition.
“One look alone is enough to tell that Taco Bell is not a ‘taqueria’,” the company said in a half-page newspaper ad. “It is a new fast-food alternative that does not pretend to be Mexican food.”
It’s still a mixed message for Mexicans like Marco Fragoso, a 39-year-old office worker sitting down for lunch at a traditional taqueria in Mexico City, because the U.S. chain uses traditional Mexican names for its burritos, gorditas, and chalupas.
“They’re not tacos,” Fragoso said. “They’re folded tostadas. They’re very ugly.”
“We want to appeal to consumers who haven’t tried Taco Bell, for whom this would be their first experience with Taco Bell,” said Javier Rancano, the company’s director in Mexico.
“Something is lacking here,” said one customer at the Apodaca restaurant, Jonathan Elorriaga, 26. “Maybe the food shouldn’t come with french fries.”
Somehow that didn’t work out. Additionally, El Pollo Loco has locations in both Mexico and America, but they are separately operated, so much so that the Mexican version of the company once successfully sued the American one for $22 million.
This all brings us to the only country that unequivocally allows America to invade their cuisine-territory. Drumroll please…
Australia – Outback Steakhouse!! We have a loser! I asked a real live Australian about this, and he described them as “completely inauthentic, patronizing, and awesome.” So there you go. Australians are self-hating enough to have six locations of a restaurant that is based on the uninhabitable part of their country. Good times.