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What are the European equivalents of Denny's and TGIFridays ?

The spread of big corporate-owned casual dining franchises isn't constrained to North America alone.
What are the current equivalent restaurants in Europe to places like Denny's and TGI Fridays in the USA?

I suppose Weatherspoons would be the UK example, but they have liquor and some locations have hotel rooms. We've also praised the pastries and breakfasts at an up-and-coming chain in Spain and France whose name is escaping me (Granier?) but that's more like Panera, I suppose. What's going on in this league in Germany and Italy and the Netherlands, etc.?

Posted by
1783 posts

Hmm, in Spain we don't have too many of those big corporate-owned casual dining franchises. Other than American fast food chains, there is one local Spanish one called Pans & Company which is similar to a Subway, that one is quite popular. However, in Spain it's the "Menu del Dia" (regional/seasonal prix fixe menu at rock bottom prices), that's the king of casual dining, no mater if you are in Barcelona, Granada, or Bilbao etc. We also have tapas, but to a lesser degree, they are more for the tourists ;-)

Posted by
12084 posts

If you're looking into chains (Kettenrestaurant) in France and Germany, I would suggest "Flunch" in France, and in Germany, "Wienerwald." A better quality place in Germany and Austria, still a chain, is "Nordsee"...still more in Germany.

Posted by
1209 posts

Wagamama is trying to spread its way around the world, though they're more selective about locations than a Denny's would be.

Posted by
8485 posts

The equivalent of TGI Fridays in Europe is......TGI Fridays. (They have European locations.)

Denny's has a restaurant in Swansea, England.

Garfunkels has a similar type menu to Denny's but the food isn't as good. (At least it wasn't the last time I ate there 29 years ago)

Posted by
1378 posts

In Germany this is no league at all. There is a good reason why TGI Fridays no longer exists in Germany. I am not sure that Denny's ever tried to enter the market.

Do yourself a favor and check-out local bakeries and few restaurants for breakfast and for dining a special cuisine. A Schnitzel you will get at nearly every location - kids' food.

Better tip is to check-out restaurants offering "Mittagskarte" (special warm lunches for reduced prices. Good food for an affordable price.

Posted by
6536 posts

And don't forget the Hard Rock Café in many larger cities. I remember the TGI Fridays in Helsinki had burger, fries Coke for $30 a person--ouch!

Posted by
1840 posts

I had a a quite good cheeseburger at Friday's in Riga.

I feel like the German chain restaurant I notice the most is Vapiano... an Italian restaurant. I've seen a lot of Backwerk locations, too -- bakery, sandwiches, Panera-ish.

Posted by
15566 posts

"Döner Kebab"? I see them all over Germany and they're really cheap and delicious.

Posted by
1097 posts

100 Montaditos. They are all over the place in Spain, quite a few in Italy too. There's even a small number out in the colonies. Mostly they serve sandwiches, kebabs, burgers, hotdogs, chicken, etc. with beer & wine. They're pretty good if you want something quick, reliable & filling.

Posted by
552 posts

I wonder if the problem is that tourists usually stay in town centres, while these chain places are usually on the outskirts. Most shopping centres in France that I have visited on the outskirts of towns have a branch of Buffalo Grill. I have never been in one, but they look similar to some of the U.S. chains. Likewise, autoroute service centres may have a Paul bakery, a chain offering baguettes and pastries ready to eat.
We were in France on the Sunday night of the last French presidential election, and were staying in Dole. We found nowhere suitable in the town centre, but stopped at a Restaurant dell'Arte on the main road out. This is chain of pseudo-Italians similar in style to Pizza Express in the U.K. with a choice of pizzas, pasta and some other dishes (escalope milanese, for example). There are branches all over France, and the one we visited had a mix of clientele, from couples like us to families with children. It offered Italian dishes in a French style, with friendly, informal, but correct, service.

Posted by
162 posts

Not sure I'd class Wetherspoons as a restaurant, they're pubs first & foremost. They serve cheap meals, nothing gourmet but handy for lining the stomach.

Posted by
4465 posts

UK Casual Dining companies? Pizza Express, Nando's, Prezzo, Frankie and Benny's, Zizi, Café Rouge, Las Iguanas come to mind in addition to some already mentioned (not an exhaustive list by any means), and some of these brands are owned by the same company. This is a different category in the UK from pub restaurants which would include the likes of Toby Carvery, Harvester etc

The casual dining sector has gone through a pretty tough few years recently, with many slimming down (!) or going out of business altogether.

Posted by
552 posts

In my family, we still talk about the time my son was sick in a branch of Denny's in Paso Robles, California. He even made a return visit with his own children.

Posted by
78 posts

I didn't try one, but I noticed a chain called Goody's in Greece that seems to have a very American menu focusing on burgers. There was one in Trikala right next to my hotel and there are several of them in Athens and Thessaloniki. I didn't see any of them on the islands I visited, even Santorini.

Posted by
9384 posts

Not a burger joint, but a chain, Rossopomodoro is all over Europe, the UK, as well as other world regions. I eschew chains in general but have had a good experience at Rossopomodoro,

Posted by
3904 posts

"Döner Kebab"? I see them all over Germany and they're really cheap and delicious.

Döner kebabs are a type of kebab it's not the name of a restaurant or chain. They originated in Turkey a few hundred years ago and their popularity (and different takes on the theme) has spread. They're a post pub staple in the UK and elsewhere in Europe.

TGI Fridays exist in the UK although they're not particularly popular. I've never seen a Denny's outside of the US (thankfully), Taco Bell are making inroads despite the fact that they were using an artificial black pepper substitute until they were caught out. People seemingly don't mind eating at a place that is so cheap that they'll stoop to skimping on proper black pepper, if they're prepared to do that what else are they skimping out on?

Nando's is huge and seemingly unstoppable. It's pretty much the de facto choice for kids and teenagers now. Jamie Oliver's empire has taken a beating and has been pared back considerably. Carluccio's is another one. Ask, Pizza Express, Brasserie Blanc, Prezzo etc can be found everywhere. Loch Fyne is not too bad, if presented with a choice of chains then that would be the one I would probably opt for.

Posted by
40 posts

I’m wondering if OP is asking out of general curiosity, not for recommendations. Panera vs. au bon pain, pret a manger, Costa Coffee, Cafe Concerto..... I mean, really, if the US is to be emulated in all things (PLEASE note sarcasm here!) how could they have not discovered the absolute necessity of an always-open opportunity for a Grand Slam! Heaven forbid an egg is fried at home! Similarly, I have been tempted to pick up foreign travel guides about the US to see what they say about our environs...and if they are warned to wear a money belt!

Posted by
3049 posts

LOL, Christine! There’s more than one way of taking someone’s money, besides lifting their wallet or picking their pocket!

Posted by
1209 posts

The thing with Taco Bell is that Europe generally does Mexican food so poorly that even the Bell seems good in comparison. Which is kind of scary since over here they've been cited for serving meat not fit for human consumption.

Posted by
5443 posts

Europe generally does Mexican food so poorly....

Strangely Tex-Mex food seems to be popular with Finns. Our ski guide on our first trip to Finland told us that his favorite Helsinki restaurant was the Santa Fe Restaurant. On our second trip to Finland, we were in Voukatti, a resort town some 4 or more hours on the train north of Helsinki. The Break Sokos Hotel's feature restaurant was called the Amarillo, a Mexican style restaurants. (We had our dinners at the more traditional "local food" restaurant. One comment from Finns is that makes sense is "if we want to eat good Finnish food we would just eat at home".

And in Norway, one of the very popular chains is Peppes Pizza, founded by two Americans.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Peppes_Pizza

Peppes Pizza is a Norwegian pizza chain that serves American style and
Californian style pizza (similar to Italian style pizza). Peppes Pizza
is the largest pizza restaurant chain in Scandinavia.

The restaurant chain is currently owned by Umoe Restaurants AS, who
also holds the rights in Norway to restaurants such as Burger King,
TGI Fridays, La Baguette and Cafe Opus.

Peppes Pizza is currently[when?] present in more than 76 locations all
over Norway, and more than 9 million pizzas are served by Peppes Pizza
each year.

Posted by
23245 posts

I counted 61 on their map. Not the best wiki page I've ever seen

Posted by
886 posts

I look for places that serve country specific dishes that are not fast food type places.

Posted by
3049 posts

So does Peppes do lutefisk pizza?!?

Posted by
1105 posts

Great replies!
Many of these places I've never heard of, and they started up after 2000, like 100 Montaditos and Rossopomodoro. Nice to keep up to date.

As many realized, I am not asking for recommendations so much as warnings -- knowledge is power, forewarned is forearmed, and so forth. I can't help but wonder when I pop into a spot near a train station or bus interchange in Spain for a pan-con-tomate (which I think of as a breakfast bruschetta, lol) whether I'm in a chain establishment without being able to tell.

We have edge cases and borderline examples here on the left coast -- Patxi's Pizza is slowly spreading beyond California and Black Bear Diner is ranging beyond the Northwest proper, but I would still choose either of them before any of the mega companies they are trying to nibble away the market-share from.

But my preference is to favor locally owned, operated, and supplied eateries. It so happens that I had breakfast at a Denny's recently because of time constraints, not because I wanted to. (Old comedian classic says no one intends to go to Denny's you just end up there) and the fruit pancakes were served fast in big portions by efficient staff -- you couldn't say it was particularly good or a bargain, but it fed me. It had me thinking about how travelers who land in the middle of foreign cities having only studied good guidebooks can be surprised at how many crappy places there are to spend your money. Guidebooks ignore them, rightly so.

Posted by
5817 posts

I’m sorry but just because a restaurant is part of a chain doesn’t automatically make it bad or less worthy of a visit. Just as small privately run businesses aren’t automatically good. If you enjoy a meal what does it matter if you subsequently find out it was actually in a restaurant that is part of a chain?

Pret a Manger is a good example. It’s a big chain but it offers a good service and food that people want to eat. It offers benefits to its staff that any small business would struggle to copy. For everyone wanting to experience life as a local, you are probably more likely to find them in a Pret than a mythical “mom and pop” establishment. They will also be staffed by locals. It is perfectly possible for chains like this to operate alongside smaller establishments. By my office we have a Pret, Starbucks, Nando’s but we also have the local Portuguese deli and local sandwich shop. All are busy. There is a place for both.

It is also possible that a chain that you might look down on in your country offers something different and “interesting” for customers in another country. Your dull might be our slightly exotic.

Posted by
3314 posts

I had some wonderful tacos at “Nachos” in both Rouen and Angers, France last September. Funny that both places tried to warn me from taking the red hot sauce because it was....hot....and delicious! : )

I heard some bad reviews of O’Taco which is also in France.

Posted by
16743 posts

www.hippopotamus.fr or "Chez Hippo" is one of the larger home-grown chains in France. It aims higher than Denny's, with steakhouse styling, but also burgers and family-friendly.

In Italy, I notice chain restaurants less in the cities, though they are growing. On the highways, AutoGrill and a couple of competing brands are very useful and our tour groups usually appreciate them.

Posted by
3904 posts

I agree absolutely with Emma's post. A chain doesn't automatically rule it out as persona non grata just as much as an independent cafe doesn't bestow a reputation as quality and authenticity. Suffice to say that it's a minefield out there, sometimes you'll strike gold, other times you won't. Tastes are so subjective that there's no "one box that fills all", go with your instinct and you may do well or not, that's the joy of travel.

Posted by
1469 posts

I actually love Pans & Company and Backwerk. This is the kind of thing I want for lunch when traveling and often have a hard time finding. I also appreciate a place where you can have a glass of wine with a salad or sandwich at dinner time when you need a break from the several-course, time-consuming dinner offerings.

Posted by
1105 posts

No need to be sorry, Emma -- I agree with your first paragraph and Pret is a fine illustration.

The worry is whether we are getting into a Borders Books or Barnes & Noble vicious cycle where they put mom & pops out of business whether the local shop was good or not, and then are in turn bested by another behemoth (Amazon) and before you can say boo the local tax base is diminished and we're sliding down the slippery slope to libertarian anarchy.

What you say about room for all kinds is true where demand is high, but in other places the chains can crowd out all competitors whether good or not. Think of the eating that surrounds hospitals and universities, etc. -- a lot of people have to get their food under various constraints, so a shop can survive whether it ticks off all the desirable boxes or not, but a small firm doesn't have the resilience of a big fleet.

Over the last two decades a lot of USA-headquartered fast food chains have spread around Mexico, and Mexico is not better for the changes, at least from a visitor's perspective.

Emma,
I so agree with your comment! There's lots of reasons to eat at a chain restaurant. It's "your" vacation - choose the option that works for you!

Posted by
5443 posts

The good and bad of a chain restaurant is you know what you are going to get, That is, assuming corporate quality control is any good.

From Rick Steves: https://blog.ricksteves.com/blog/finding-good-eateries-in-britain/

Finding Good Eateries in Britain July 19, 2008\

I don’t like recommending chains, but some are just too fun or too
right. The pan-Asian noodle slurp-a-thon Wagamama is everywhere
now…and just as great as the day its first location took London’s Soho
by storm a decade ago.

We ate at the London Wagamama a number of years ago on Rick Steves recommendation during one of our early trips to Europe. Our next visit to a Wagamama was last year some 15 years later at the Oslo Airport. We knew what to expect.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wagamama

As of January 2014, the chain included over 190 restaurants, with 130
being in the United Kingdom....

Other restaurants are located in Austria, Bahrain, Belgium, Bulgaria,
Cyprus, Denmark, Gibraltar, Greece, Ireland, Italy, Malta, the
Netherlands, New Zealand (until 2019[, Oman, Qatar, Slovakia, Spain,
Sweden, Turkey, the UAE, and the United States. A new restaurant has
opened at the beginning of 2019 in France.

Posted by
23245 posts

If you want to find local French families with kids look in the shopping mall for Flunch (mentioned above). Good(ish), nutritional (mostly), fun for kids, inexpensive, predictable (helpful with kids and some adults), easy, supporting French produce and various ethnic groups, and right next to the hypermarché where they shop for groceries and most other things.

Much more likely to hear French there than at the small restaurant where the tourists reading guidebooks go, if you want locals.

What does it matter if it is a chain?

Posted by
5817 posts

The quote from RS says it all really "I don't like recommending chains...." Why? Misplaced snobbery probably. Surely the point of a guide is to suggest what is good whether it's a major chain or a small hand cart? A sweeping generalisation that if its big it must be bad is ridiculou.s The underlying assumption that anyone who actually visits these chains knows no better is really pretty insulting.

Posted by
1105 posts

Edgar sums things up nicely when he says, "The good and bad of a chain restaurant is you know what you are going to get."

I usually prefer to roll the dice and see what happens :-)

We in USA lose track of the recent history of the post WWI and WWII spread of the highway system and the related rise of chain dining, like Howard Johnson's and Stuckey's -- travelers, esp. city folks and people of color, would rather not take their chances in the middle of nowhere for either food-safety or personal safety reasons. And nationwide corporations were waiting for the federal gov't to pass and enforce equal-treatment laws so that their outlets in the South and midwest could welcome all customers and answer the objections of local WASPs by shrugging and saying that it's the law -- we can't help but be decent instead of bigoted. It was a case where market values (money) were doing people a favor by outweighing tribal values. But things have a way of going off in unanticipated directions, and as we get closer to now we find that maximizing profits and shareholder value has its own negative effects...

Edgar also mentions the issue of corporate quality controls -- do we want consistency and oversight or is that just a lot of binding red tape holding back entrepreneurs? Let the market decide: one man's poison is another man's meat, says our Job Creators. (/s) If a business makes customers sick they will stop spending money at that business. Tort limitations are in the mix, too, of course.

Anyway, an article in Consumer Reports many years ago gave the milkshakes at Jack-in-the-Box their worst fast food item award. They determined that there were too many ingredients and too many steps involved for the poorly trained generally illiterate employees to handle, such that in multiple visits to multiple locations the reviewers at CR never got the same consistency or flavor twice from a Jack's milkshake. Once I read that, I made certain to order a milkshake at Jack's whenever I had the chance, because I really wanted to make that gamble. Maybe this one will be a real winner! It added a real frisson to the experience of fast food dining.

Posted by
1105 posts

I'm not sure if this comment will survive the moderators but I just read the wikipedia article on Howard Johnson's and there is a section specifically about segregation history -- and Johnson's was on the wrong side of that part of American history.
It seems that an international incident occurred when the finance minister of Ghana was refused service at a restaurant in Delaware, which led to a personal apology from Pres. Eisenhower, and that the North Carolina locations were infamous for resisting desegregation, and that a young Bernie Sanders helped picket a location in Illinois when he was a student activist in CORE.
So now I wonder about other chains and how they reacted to America's efforts to bring our former Confederates into the modern world. We'd need an economic historian or two to tell us if the chains did any better than small businesses or not.

Posted by
7626 posts

There are lots of chain restaurants in Germany - Maredo Steak House, Block House, North Sea, Möwenpick are just a few. Up and coming burger places would be Fletchers, Fette Bulle, Hans im Glück, Jamys Burgers.
Can't remember the last time I saw a Wienerwald anywhere in Germany, though they used to be everywhere.

No breakfast places like Dennys in Germany, that I know of.

Posted by
5817 posts

Avirose if the moderator does remove your post it will be an absolute disgrace!

Posted by
627 posts

Chain restaurants are a fact of life in Europe as well as the rest of the world. Weinerwald was all over Germany years before McDonalds moved in, but seems to be fading now. McD's, Burger King, KFC, Subway, etc have ll been in Germany (and much of Europe) for over 30 years, brought in part by the presence of large local populations of American military personnel. The area around Kaiserslautern, for example, once held over 300,000 Americans, and there were a number of other locations that were almost as heavily populated. When you consider that cities in the USA with a population approaching that usually have a considerable number of fast food choices it's no surprise that they could find a foothold both on and off base in other countries.

I don't really consider those to be Denny's equivalents though, and I think the reason "sit down" chains struggle is more due to cultural differences than anything. Europeans do not, as a rule, eat anything like an American breakfast. And since for many countries the main sit down meal is lunch most places have a number of local places that fill that niche. After work places, like TGIF tried to be, are the pubs, bierhalls, and other traditional gathering places, which most chains never really transitioned to.

There are some Internationally known chains that are moving into traditional neighborhoods; The Hard Rock Cafe is one of those. But I'm not sure how long that will last, as they seem to be rather dated even in the US. And TGIF and other places like that are being started overseas, in some cases in the same manner as the initial franchises. There is a TGIF (for example) in Qatar. One thing I seem helping such businesses is the spread of international hotels. Chains like Marriott (or Bonvoy now that it's absorbed a dozen other international chains) import culture as well as living space, and I fully expect to see Chinese versions of both the hotels and eateries now days when I travel.

Successful franchises have to adjust to local mores. McDonalds serves beer in Germany, Burger King offers mayo with the frys, even Starbucks changes the menu or folds (ask them about Italy sometime). And there are locally grown franchises in other countries. People in this thread have mentioned a number. Some may even make it to the USA.

Posted by
12084 posts

Yes, Maredo Steak House, that chain.....the one on Kurfürstendamm is still there, just as I saw it in July 1971 when I first arrived in Berlin. It was absolutely out of my price range then.

Posted by
1105 posts

So let's do a little exercise here, forum folks:

Suppose I'm standing on Ku Damm in front of the Maredo, with a Hagen Dazs outlet close by and the Paris Cinema theater across the street on the corner, and I'm looking for a lunch or light dinner.
Where should I go instead of the Maredo within 10-minutes walking distance?
I want a nice sit-down meal with a bit of modern German character, neither a take-away nor a gourmet two-hour feast, but a complete meal. Can you save me from the gaucherie of dining in a chain with a salad bar? ;-)

Posted by
3049 posts

Hi avirosemail - as a leftie, the negative implications inherent in “gaucherie” and “tres gauche” are bothersome, but based on French social biases from long ago. Anyway, I presume you’re not looking at 3 scoops of Cookies ‘n Cream as a substitute for a chain’s salad bar?

Posted by
1105 posts

Let me try other examples besides Maredo on Ku-damm:

Suppose I'm sheltering under the Southwark Bridge on Bankside with a Pizza Express on one hand and a Nando's on the other, and I'm more than a bit peckish. Save me from the indignity of their laminated menus and peculiar names for fruit & veg (gooseberries? courgettes? are we in the days of yore?) and tell me where I can walk to get a sit-down dinner at comparable prices fit for someone who has a self-image to live up to.

or this:

Suppose I've worked up an appetite at the Pompideau and before I get on the Metro at Rambuteau at the edge of the Marais, I see before me a Flunch on Rue Beaubourg trying to lure me in for a 10-euro plat. Rescue me! Where should I go on foot before I descend the Metro stairs to get a good story as well as a good meal?

@Cyn -- there are any number of just-so stories about 'gauche' so why focus on one with sinister implications? Maybe it's because of the other side of the river, or the garment fabric, or the tracks, or the groom's side of the wedding party or the less noble attendees at court, or.. or.. and not go with the left-handed explanation?

Posted by
12084 posts

"...a nice sit-down meal with a bit of German modern character...." Then I would suggest getting out to Berlin-Köpenick to the restaurant located on the side street opposite of the famous Köpenick Rathaus, a small place, no international tourists, all German, menu appears in German plus English, decent prices, Berliner and German cuisine (who says you can't genuine German cuisine in Berlin?), or go to Prenzlauer Berg to Danziger Straße.

Posted by
1209 posts

Earlier when I had the treadmill fired up, I ended up doing a video walking tour of London's East End to get the rest of my steps in for the day. I thought of this thread when the tour guide on it walked right past a Giraffe restaurant somewhere around
Spitalfields.

Posted by
1105 posts

Hey Fred, near the Rathaus, do you mean this place:
http://www.gardestube.de
or this place:
https://www.google.com/maps/@52.4457781,13.5753053,3a,75y,94.61h,78.73t/data=!3m6!1e1!3m4!1sr2MBcOMEaYbn6N0ID3YCOw!2e0!7i13312!8i6656

I have a hard time understanding the layout of European towns and the descriptions of locations. 'opposite' 'side street' ??
Maybe you could name a direction, like N S E W, from the main door of the Rathaus, and a distance or number of intersections?

And these are an hour or so away on the tram -- I am looking for something better than the Maredo that is right here on or by Ku-damm.

Posted by
3049 posts

Wow . . . I don’t know about their food, but they take care to note the nationalities of their guests! Looks like no one’s Left out.

Posted by
12084 posts

@ avirosemail....yes, it is. The small restaurant opposite of the Rathaus is "Gardestube." True, most likely one hour or a bit less.

If you want something closer, then I would suggest "Marjellchen" on Mommsen Strasse, half way down from Bleibtreustrasse. This place would absolutely fit your descriptions, open only at dinner.

Posted by
12084 posts

"...better than the Maredo." Absolutely, "Marjellchen" fits that description, decent prices, relatively close-by and credit card payment is accepted. The Berlin specialty beer "Berliner Weisse" with red or green is available at "Marjellchen" I prefer the red.

Posted by
63 posts

A few more French ones, other than the previously mentioned Flunch and Hippopotamus, would Del Arte (faux Italian), Poivron Rouge, Courtepaille, La Boucherie (which has as its logo the head of an oddly cannibalistic steer licking its chops), La Pataterie, Buffalo Grill (faux American), and undoubtedly countless others.

Posted by
12040 posts

Jo mentioned Nordsee, which I rather like. I thought it would be just a German version of Long John Silver's or Captain D's, but it actually is quite good, either for a quick take away sandwich or sit-down seafood meal.

Highway rest stop food in the US have a just reputation for being terrible, but the Serways chain that caters the food service at many German rest stops is actually very good, and they serve a wide variety food.

Posted by
1105 posts

This thread has really become a great little archive resource for the kinds of restaurants not often discussed by professional guides.
If we confine ourselves to the books by Michelin and Rick Steves Europe and so on, it can be a rude awakening when you come up out of the metro station into a city center or a major tourism area and all of the Burger'N'Brew and KwikPizza signs are drowning out the places covered in the guides!

Posted by
12084 posts

"If we confine ourselves to the books...." That's why that is not an option, having your food tastes dictated by guides. These are the eateries you want to go to.

All the "chains " I have eaten at in France and Germany ranged from decent to good, such Quick, Buffalo Grill. Flunch, Monoprix,

For Germany Nordsee, depending on the time of day, lots of locals eat here, " Fish and Chips", "Asia Gourmet", and one in Austria, "Schnitzel...." something.