Why is “chain restaurant” considered such a pejorative term? Not only among oenophiles (some visibly recoiled when I mentioned the words) but even among chain restaurateurs. Roger Berkowitz, CEO of Legal Sea Foods restaurants, stars in a new TV ad campaign in which he decries the “c” word and even says, “Call me stupid, an egomaniac or even an [bleep]. Just don’t call me a chain.”
And yet these restaurants are some of this country’s most popular dining destinations, and several have a serious commitment to wine—or at least a very large bottle budget. According to Tylor Field III, divisional vice president of wine and spirits at Landry’s, which owns Morton’s The Steakhouse, the wine expenditure for the 74 Morton’s across the world is in the millions.
How good are the lists in these places? The Wall Street Journal’s Lettie Teague decided to check out five upscale chains: Morton’s The Steakhouse, P.F. Chang’s, Houston’s, Fleming’s Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar and Legal Sea Foods. There were disappointments (boring selections, overpriced bottles, undereducated staff), but there were a number of happy surprises as well.