I spent today doing a deficiency inspection for a project of ours in Brampton.  I went with my boss and coworker.  The meeting was scheduled for 10:00 and went for a little over an hour and a half.  On the way back, we decided to pay a call at Mandarin for lunch.

For those of you who aren’t from Southern Ontario, Mandarin is a wildly successful chain of Chinese food restaurants.  I’m not sure why they succeed.  They’re quite pricey and the food is really not fantastic.  It is adequate.  It staves off starvation and provides many nutrients but you can get better Chinese food (for less money) in lots of places.  You can get better Canadian food (for less money) in lots of places.  I think Mandarin makes its money by being a large chain and a ‘safe’ option.  It’s the same way that Kelsey’s and Casey’s make piles of money.  People like to go someplace not where anybody knows their name but where they’re familiar with the name on the box.  Marketing can be an insidious tool.  We live in the Niagara Peninsula which contains some of the best restaurants in the world and yet for quite a while we went to Kelsey’s because we knew the name.  We never even tried other places because we’d been brainwashed by years of advertising.

Last February, we decided to take on a challenge.  We decided to take a year where we didn’t go to chain restaurants.  We made a couple of exceptions (it’s very difficult to find non-chain fast food, for example) but by and large we stuck with it.  As a result, we’ve added about 6 different new restaurants to our regular rotation (we typically go out once a week).  All of them are comparably priced to Kelsey’s (some are slightly cheaper) and the food is of at least as high a quality and certainly better than Boston Pizza.  I recall hearing on a trip we took to Indianapolis a couple of years ago that something like 75% of the money spent at chains leaves the community (through franchise fees and/or centralized buying of ingredients) but something like 80% of money spent at non-chains stays within that community.  I’m a fan of supporting local businesses and I would suggest that you give it a try as well.

The futon part of the title of this post comes from the fact that futons are kind of crummy as couches and also kind of crummy as beds.  They don’t really fulfill either function well but they’re pretty much adequate at both.  Mandarin is like that with Asian and Canadian foods.  You’d be better off to go to a dedicated Chinese food restaurant or a dedicated Canadian food restaurant and it would probably be cheaper, too.  Actually, it would probably be cheaper to eat at one and then the other than it would be to eat once at the Mandarin buffet.

with smooth liquidations