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Do you avoid international chain restaurants or view them as "the comforts of home"?

Curious to see how my fellow Rick Steves tour goers feel when they see a chain restaurant during their travels. Do you avoid them and try to stick with local mom and pops to indulge in the local flavor? Or does their familiarity make you feel more at home?

Personally, I avoid them. I'm not traveling thousands of miles and paying thousands of dollars to get a Big Mac in another country (as one example)...even if it could be a bit different. However, I may check out the menu to see how different it is!

Posted by
23425 posts

When traveling with the sons at a younger age, the familiar golden arches, the K chicken, and B Kings were saviors. And you could buy a glass of wine at KFC or get a beer at Burger King. The boys loved them and that was fine with us. And they were always loaded with American tourists with kids.

Posted by
7394 posts

There’s times over the years that we have just want some quick fast food for lunch when we had a timed activity in the afternoon, so McD’s has been predictable & quick. And if I’m low on veggies, their salad works for me. Otherwise, we’re always looking for the small local restaurants. We’ve had a lot worse food than McD’s in a few cases - LOL!

Since I also am a big fan of gelato, I look up cities and the gelato reviews ahead of time. Either Grom or Amorino are consistent, but I will aim for the non-chain gelato shops if the quality is excellent.

I like the local coffee shops, but we did stop at a Starbucks in Vienna one year and had a nice conversation at an outdoor table with a woman who was reading her RS guidebook!

Posted by
6788 posts

They make great, highly visible places to pop in for a quick bathroom break.

Posted by
7653 posts

I can't recall going into many (if any) of the American chains when traveling, and really do not at home, unless it is a quick bite on the run; but I do find the way they adjust the menu to the local taste fascinating, plus the fact that alcohol is available in many. I could see myself doing so out of curiosity, just never really have.

I guess, with some thought, I have two instances where I have...after drinking little dainty cups of espresso and cappuccinos for a couple weeks, a stop in a Starbucks for a 20 oz brewed coffee...to go, was a treat to sit and sip.

The other was going to a Denny's in Yokohama, Japan, next to the hotel, for breakfast. Had a wonderful Japanese style breakfast with an assortment of items, including Natto. The waiter was a bit insistent that I did not want the Natto, I told him I would like to try it. It was what will likely be a once in a lifetime type experience.

As for burgers and fries...American style burgers are all the rage, appearing on many menus and even dedicated restaurants just for burgers...they are also usually very good.

Posted by
1597 posts

Sometimes they are a life boat like when you are looking for a rest room. McDonalds' are always available and free. One time I remember leaving Florence early and the only place I could find for a quick breakfast was the McDonalds at the train station. Surprisingly the had fresh, local croissants and fresh squeezed orange juice (I watched them squeezing the oranges). As good as I could have gotten in a local bar.

Posted by
229 posts

I thought that McDonalds was the easiest place in Paris to get a soda with lots of ice!

Posted by
22 posts

I am guilty. I work for a French company and work in Toulouse a couple of weeks at a time. Usually end my trip by spending a couple of days in Paris. By this time I look forward to getting a burger from 5 guys on the Champs.

Posted by
6619 posts

I seldom use them but do occasionally if in a hurry or needing an easy bathroom. After ending a two-week tour in Sevilla, I found myself craving a hamburger and went to a chain place, "The Good Burger," which didn't disappoint. I think we also had something at the McDs in Budapest, which had been the first one behind the Iron Curtain back in the day. We were more interested in the history than the food.

Posted by
7394 posts

Ed M, we’ve been at that Five Guys in Paris on the Champs-Élysées! ; )

Posted by
135 posts

I love to go to international McDonald’s to see what their specialty items are. I never buy the regular stuff I buy what you can’t get here in the US. Loved my shrimp burger in Japan!

Posted by
2031 posts

We don’t seek them out but we don’t flee from their sight either. A fast cup of coffee, a bathroom or…gasp…even something to eat…fine with us. We’re not fussy eaters at home or abroad, rarely plan meals, and value convenience and speed most of the time. As for McDonald’s, we have visited our share in many countries and enjoy seeing the varied and different menus. In Vienna, I believe, our little pastries and coffees were pretty posh by my standards. In Budapest there may have been hundreds of people and I’d wager we were the only Americans in the joint. Same in Barcelona years ago. Did McDonald’s move to Europe solely for the American tourist trade? I’m guessing not. We also stopped once at a Wetherspoon while driving in Derbyshire….cultural adventure (it looked foreign to us…fish, chips, pounds and pence) or dining faux pas? And McDonald’s saved us big time in Tokyo where our hotel wanted more for one breakfast than we budget for two dinners. In late October they offered breakfast pancakes with orange and purple sauce! It’s all fun though, isn’t it? Safe travels and Bon Appetit to all.

Posted by
158 posts

In the 70’s I was backpacking around Europe for six weeks when we saw a McDonald’s in Germany. It was the most welcome sight! It was the first connection to home that I had seen. A burger and a beer without the guesswork of a German menu. And dogs sitting at the tables! Heaven.

Flash forward to today. Travel is just not the same seeing all the American companies - fast food, coffee shops, etc, - strewn across European cities. I never go in one and I regret the “sameness” that has spread across countries. That is one of the reasons I prefer small town travel to cities.

Posted by
11350 posts

We avoid US restaurants 100% of the time wherever we travel in the world. I do not understand why anyone would want to eat at them while traveling in another country.

Posted by
6113 posts

I don’t eat McDonald’s at home so I wouldn’t eat them abroad. Ditto Starbucks (worst coffee chain in the U.K.). I sometimes eat at chains, but prefer independent places as you tend to get better food and service.

Posted by
4427 posts

When we were in Florence on a Sunday morning and the hotel breakfast was $50/pp and the bakeries were closed, I was glad to find a McDonald's conveniently located at the train station-and it's bfast was way better than the ones at US McDonalds(altho we do like the pancakes and sausage at US McD)

I think what we're reading in this thread is that McD's ups their game in places such as Paris, Vienna and Florence where the locals have higher standards for food than is the case in most of the US.

Posted by
124 posts

A few years ago I was in Beijing, and early every morning I would watch from my 7th floor hotel window as people were walking to work. I noticed that almost everyone on one street turned and went into the same place and came out with a cup of something – some had a cup and a small sack. Due to the angle of the street, I couldn’t see a sign, so didn’t know what the place was. After a few days, my curiousity got the best of me - I wanted to see what the popular takeout breakfast was for the local office workers, so I walked up that street, following the people, and followed them into a … McDonalds! LOL

I got a coffee and walked back to the hotel.
So yes, I went to a McD in another country, even though I didn’t know that’s where I was going.

Posted by
2768 posts

I avoid them for the most part, but this isn’t set in stone. I’ve been to both McDonalds and Starbucks in Europe a couple times each and I don’t regret it. Sometimes the convenience is more important than the local flare. For example, in Salzburg the McDonald’s down the street was open early and late, which was helpful with jet lagged children. So we went for snacks but tried to get meals in more local places. McDonalds in Spain has gluten free burger buns, and when in a train station short on gluten free options it’s a useful choice. It’s not like the other train station kiosk restaurants are the height of Spanish cuisine either…
In Chania, Greece my apartment’s coffee maker was broken and the caffeine in coffee I got from local cafes was not cutting it. Starbucks saved my sanity one day (I need to work on my caffeine issues, clearly).

I’ll note that most meals, coffee, and snacks are from more local places.
.

Posted by
129 posts

Haha! Fun to see how many responses in such a short period of time! My personal view is that you should always eat at the local places. My actual is that I seem to end up at Denny's or McDonald's on every trip. And when I'm eating in the chain, I'm still enjoying the food and the location!

Posted by
438 posts

We don't really do fast food or chains at home (I'll make an exception for Chick Fil A's chicken soup when I have a cold) or abroad. However, I remember being in Salzburg on a Sunday morning when we had an early train to catch and McDonald's was the only thing open, so we had McDonald's for breakfast. That's probably the last time I ate at McDonald's. As for coffee, I find international coffee to always be better or at least more interesting than Starbucks. I love coffee and love to seek out local coffee when I travel. So it's not like I never have Starbucks, but it's generally when there aren't any other alternatives, like at an airport or out in the 'burbs. Though to give Sbux credit, I love cold brew in the summer and try it at many different places, and Sbux cold brew is better than most. The only cold brew I like better is what I make at home.

Posted by
3958 posts

International chain restaurants or just the American chain restaurants?

You known in Europe we have our own home grown chain restaurants that offer just as fast and tasty food on the go as one would find in the USA (and they have public restrooms too lol).

I'd take a Pans & Company over a Subway any day of the week :)

Posted by
99 posts

I don’t eat at chain restaurants. Period. So definitely not when traveling internationally.

Posted by
146 posts

In general I'd rather find a local place but every now and then it's a relief to know what you're getting. I try to make up for it by getting whatever is weird on the menu. I had a remarkably tasty halloumi burger and beer at the Burger King on the tallinn ferry :)

That said, never in my life would I go into a Starbucks in the US or anywhere else, especially Europe!

Posted by
788 posts

McDonald’s for free bathrooms and drinks with ice. Don’t think I’ve actually eaten at one abroad but I admired the case of macarons at the one near Versailles.

Posted by
4010 posts

Absolutely avoid. With the exception of a salad place, we never go to chain restaurants locally for a meal anyway! Nothing about a chain restaurant is “a comfort of home“.

Posted by
14157 posts

Oh, I do go to Starbucks...it's a bit of a challenge for a vegan to find soy or plant milk alternative so I enjoy a Starbucks latte.

One of my go-to places is the Belgium chain Le Pain Quotidien. I know these are on the East coast, but none in Idaho so it seems exotic to me. I can count on a couple of vegan options here as well.

Posted by
5037 posts

It seems most of the posters seem to equate international chains with only American brands. While I don't actively avoid them, I have rarely used them, and even then its only been for a bathroom and a quick drink. Perhaps free wifi when available. Our preference in most places is to dine local. Recalling a recent thread- if I see a Tim Hortons we may stop for a coffee and donut if the spirit moves us.

What I do actively look for are Pret a Manger. Especially in UK cities, we often use them for a light breakfast, or for salads/sandwiches and drinks to take away.

I ALMOST ate at a McDs once in Tokyo. We were deep into a 3 week long tour of Japan, and while we had enjoyed the food immensely, on this day we had been told to expect a 10 course tofu dinner. That's right. 10 courses with some form of tofu featured at each course. One of my least favorite foods.Had it not been for the line that stretched outside the store and half way down the block, we would have happily filled up on whatever their version was of a Big Mac and fries. Alas, the line was too long and our time was short.

Posted by
54 posts

I have a friend who is a fellow foodie. I’ve started sending her pictures of McD’s on my foreign travels to mess with her. I had to promise I didn’t actually eat at one. Her hee. That said, the Salzburg McDonald’s has a lovely sign!

Posted by
2354 posts

My husband and I have travelled independently for over 25 years. We never start off a trip looking for US chains. But we undoubtedly end up at one at some point during the trip. The first time was in London, when we got caught in a rainstorm and ducked into a McDonalds. Turns out they had an upstairs seating area with a great view, so we ordered some fries, sodas (with ICE!) and Cadbury McFlurries (which were soooo good!) and waited out the rain.

Since then we’ve popped in to see what is special on their menus in different countries. In Antigua, Guatemala, the patio at McDonalds has a spectacular view of a volcano! In Slovenia, they serve surprisingly good cheesecake. And the fries are good everywhere. So we get a little new combined with a little familiar. No shame in that.

We have a friend who is addicted to Subway sandwiches. We send him pictures of Subway locations from all over the world, to show him all the places he could survive!

Posted by
375 posts

Typically I do not eat at chain restaurants in the US. However, our guide in Portugal took us to the most beautiful McDonald’s. https://www.businessinsider.com/mcdonalds-porto-portugal-most-beautiful-in-the-world-2018-8

The food offerings were very different than a US McDonald’s. There was espresso and lovely pastries. The building was historic. My husband visited a McDonald’s in Morocco because the people who lived there that he was visiting wanted to go. So he tried the McArab.

In Japan I went to a Starbucks to see what was offered. It was very popular and frequented by the Japanese. The drinks offered were tailored to local tastes. They were less sweet. I find it fascinating to see the interpretation of American concepts in different cultures. It’s a learning experience.

Posted by
7394 posts

Pam’s comment reminded me about the year that I took the RS Paris tour and was adjusting to eating after having my gall bladder removed. I ate some of my lunches that week from the Starbucks options because I needed familiar, predictably that summer. What a year to have to be careful about cheeses, meats & pastries!

Posted by
1790 posts

"Travel like a local" says RS. Locals eat at chain restaurants. Permission granted.

If I traveled for one to two weeks I would probably never eat fast food. But, travel for three months and it usually happens out of necessity.

Posted by
2530 posts

The KFC near the main gate of Peking University in Beijing is considered a cool spot to hang out if you're in a certain age and income bracket. I liked to get the kids meal because the toy that came with it was often interesting.

Answering the question in the headline of this post, though, -- yes, I do avoid chain restaurants everywhere and I view them as one of the bad things about globalisation. Yet/though/OTOH I've recommended the Spanish bread/pastry chain Granier here on the forum several times and patronize them. They now have some US locations, so that makes them international . Darn!

https://pansgranier.com

Posted by
899 posts

We don't usually but like others I'm fascinated by the items unique to each country. And last year at the Zurich train station we were hungry and tired and stopped at the Burger King for a cheeseburger with Gruyere. Excellent.

We also like some of the European chains like Pret a Manger or Eats. Or eating in department store restaurants. Wish we had them here.

In general I try to avoid American staples because they seldom taste the way you expect. Never yet had pan cakes anything like American ones.

Posted by
19149 posts

It seems there is a Nordsee with premade fish sandwiches in almost every train station in Germany, so I guess you'd have to call that a national chain, if not an international one. I have to admit sometimes a noon, while traveling, I get a sandwich there.

But I think that's about it. In 1988, at the end of a two week trip in Germany, we were in Mainz, and we walked around town. It seemed there was a Burger King on every block. As I walked by them I could smell the hamburger cooking on the grill and the smell was enticing, but I kept telling myself, "Tomorrow you'll be back in the US, and you can get all of the BK you want, but you won't be able to get German food again for a long time."

I wonder if it because these international chain are in bigger cities, and I stay mostly in small towns, but I don't usually see a lot of them. On my last trip to Germany, I stayed in a small town on the Main river, Lohr am Main, about 16,000 population, and they did have a MacDonalds. I never went in, but I have since had some fun looking at their menu online. They are so much more creative than American MacDonalds.

Posted by
8810 posts

On my first visit to Windsor Castle in the early 90’s was depressed to see a Pizza Hut as we walked from the train station to the castle entrance.

As countless “ American “ chains have opened throughout Europe I go out of my way to ignore them.

Why have a Starbucks when I can have wonderful Italian coffee?

Will say from a practical POV that Mickey D’s are good for a restroom/toilet stop….otherwise, would never set foot in one in Europe.

When I travel I want differences NOT similarities!

Posted by
14580 posts

I only avoid US chains, only use them for the WC and maybe a cup of coffee, so no Pizza Hut, Starbucks, McD, Burger King, KFC, etc.

I go to French and German chains, eg, Nordsee in Germany and Austria and Flunch in France, " Buffalo Grill" too if I'm really desperate.

Posted by
88 posts

I did venture into the McD's on the Champs-Élysées one morning in hopes that I could get an American sized cup of coffee. (Nope, they only filled the cup half way.) To answer the question, it depends on how long I have been traveling. If I have been away a month or so then I will start to want the taste of home occasionally. Years ago when I could only take short vacations I would never have understood why anyone would feel that way. But, after a month away I'm happy to see a chain like the Hard Rock Cafe because you can get things like a great big American style salad there, which can be a tough item to find in Europe.

Posted by
8590 posts

Jacques Pepin, a French chef famous in America, once said that "one goes to McDonalds to eat, not to dine". Sometimes you just want to eat.

I dont go out of my way to visit them abroad, but I'm not embarrassed to say that I have. They've become absorbed into local culture too, usually full of locals. I had a German taxi driver once ask me if we had them in the US and if they were popular with kids here too. Not all European food is 4-star Michelin worthy, and sometimes you just want a coffee, not an intercultural experience.

Posted by
1679 posts

We don't seek out the chains, and we typically avoid them, except for breakfasts on occasion. For instance, in Rome, there was a McDonalds near our apartment, near the Spanish Steps. The dine-in area was large and mainly empty, so we felt comfortable eating there during Covid, particularly as it would be fast. So, we ate there a couple of times when it was on our way to someplace.

But we definitely don't make a point of it. We want to try local dishes.

Posted by
2458 posts

Well, I got curious and googled the Salzburg McDonald's sign. Pretty!

Posted by
4232 posts

I'm not much of a fast food guy at home and so I don't typically seek it out on the road, but I'd make an exception for this one https://thepointsguy.com/2017/02/mcdonalds-above-ancient-road-italy/

Having said that we hit three chains in Scotland in June; Pizza Hut in Inverness because that's all we could find that was open on a Monday after 9pm, and in Glasgow we found a Tim Hortons which we did track down, and we went a couple of times to Cafe Nero for a quick breakfast.

The only other time I can think of was Smith and Wollensky Steakhouse in London. We had tried it in Miami and liked it but have yet to find a good steak in the UK. I don't know what it is, but a steak in the UK doesn't seem to be prepared the same and each time has been unappealing to me.

Posted by
7061 posts

I'm not a food snob and have nothing against trying out the menu items on foreign countries' versions of McD's and others, especially if I'm in need of a free bathroom or a cold drink.
When I was in Budapest I was on the tram one day and suddenly realized that I needed to find a toilet soon. I spotted a KFC and hopped off the tram and made use of the facilities. I also decided that while I was there I'd get something quick to eat. Now, at home I don't normally eat at KFC because, while I like the chicken, one or more of those 11 herbs and spices gives me indigestion so I stay away. But I have to say that was very good chicken and I did not get the normal indigestion from it. I was very pleased.

Posted by
2145 posts

We don’t necessarily seek out fast food joints but we have eaten at McDonalds, Starbucks, and Hard Rock Cafes in many European cities. McDonald’s mostly for coffee and Starbucks for collectible mugs, coffee, and maybe a muffin. The Hard Rock for souvenir t-shirts for the grandkids, a big salad, or burger tailored to the locale. PS - there’s a beautiful garden seating area behind the McDonalds in Salzburg!

Posted by
531 posts

Wow, I didn't expect such a mixed bag of responses! Agree with some of you re: restrooms. When I travel in the US, I usually hit up a Starbucks because their bathrooms are clean.

I do find the local chains in Europe interesting and don't mind hitting those up during trips. But I will continue to avoid the international American chains... unless I see something very intriguing on the menu. 😉

Donna, I used to collect Starbucks City mugs from around the world, and although I didn't buy the international ones myself, I had friends get them for me. Had about 70 total, then decided to sell them because it was too much to store and move.

Posted by
15545 posts

It really depends on where I am and the length of my trip. If I'm in a country known for food--France, Italy, Greece as an example--and only for two weeks, I'm going to stick to local cuisine.

But if I'm traveling for a few months, and in places where food is not the main factor, I will venture into a chain for a quick meal. And sometimes that chain is non-American.

In the UK, I admit I like Nando's (I had it last night here in Belfast.) I have no problem stopping at a Paul or Pret a Manger. I prefer Caffe Nero's coffee to Starbucks and Costa.

In Chur, Switzerand, I took a nap before dinner. It lasted five hours. I woke up after 10 PM. The only open restaurant I could find was McDonalds. It was tasty.

In Kyoto, I had had my fill of green tea and mediocre coffee so a flat white from Starbucks hit the spot. (I was the only non-Japanese person in there as well as the only one over 30.)

If I'm in a very hot city, and I want a very cold drink, I'll pop in to a U.S. fast food chain for that mountain of ice in every cup. (And to use the facilities afterwards.)

After two months of a multi-month trip, I tend to get a hankering for a burger.

Posted by
438 posts

@Frank II, I like Nando's too and ate there the last two times I was in London.

Posted by
351 posts

We all go to Europe for different reasons, for my husband and I it's all about history, art, and architecture. Food is pretty low on the list. We eat at mostly local places, but an American fast food chain usually ends up being our lunch or dinner stop once or twice on a 2 week trip. Sometimes we need quick fuel, other times we're just too tired to deal with a longer meal. We rarely eat fast food at home 🙂

P.S. As someone who enjoys a big Diet Coke with lots of ice, McDonald's is hard to beat 🥤

Posted by
16 posts

I don't drink coffee, so I have a McDonald's Diet Coke VERY many mornings. Don't argue with me, theirs are the best! ;-) I also want a fountain coke with ice and not a bottle of soda. (Soda drinkers can be equally as particular as coffee people.) Therefore, I will feel ZERO shame in frequenting any one I can find.

And I, like others, find it interesting to see the various "cultural" differences in the menu at the McDonalds in places where I have visited...beetroot instead of tomato in Australia, Spam and egg McMuffins in Hawaii...curious to see what France will offer.

I also think it is interesting that those who "never" visit a chain restaurant at home don't mind taking advantage of the freebies offered by the tacky things...free Wifi, bathrooms, reliable quality of drinks, etc. I'll bet there are lots of French people who do the same, and like it as a change of pace once in awhile too.

Posted by
55 posts

I have always avoided the "internationals" on my trips to Europe, except for one instance. While traveling from Berlin to Wroclaw, Poland, we changed trains in Lubliniec. The platform where the train to Wroclaw left from was at the other end of the station, up a couple of flights of stairs. We missed the train by seconds.

We were able to change our tickets to a couple of hours later, allowing time for a quick lunch. It was an unseasonably hot day, and when I saw the Starbucks, all I could think of was an iced tea, AKA in Starbucks speak as an "unsweet tea." The counter people had literally never had anyone ask for one, so they all had to confer to remember their training on how it was done. I was a bit embarrassed, but they were actually happy for the practice. And that tea tasted so good!

Ricka

Posted by
5037 posts

I also think it is interesting that those who "never" visit a chain
restaurant at home don't mind taking advantage of the freebies offered
by the tacky things...free Wifi, bathrooms, reliable quality of
drinks, etc.

Where in this thread has anyone characterized a chain restaurant as "tacky"? Or is that just your opinion of them? So far all I've seen is a range of personal opinions of food preferences, while away and/or at home. Nor have I seen any post that suggested there might be any shame involved in enjoying the offerings at these places (until you brought it up).

What is it about the above scenario that you find interesting? Bathroom breaks and fluid intake is a necessity whether at home or while travelling. However accessing both,at the same time, while out and about all day in a foreign city is not always easy to find. Savvy travellers know that these places are a sure bet, so why wouldn't they use them? Even Rick recommends ducking into a handy coffee shop to use the bathroom, providing you at least buy something to drink.

Posted by
2530 posts

C'mon @CJean, there is at least a little bit of snootiness in some of the comments, mine included --
recall that I used to tout my no-burgers no-doner-kebabs rule here on the forum a lot, and my reasons for doing so weren't all good reasons.

Forum regulars seem to be largely resistant to my attempts to discuss identity and status issues w/r/t travel choices but this thing with avoiding or not avoiding chains is another particular where some of the motivations are less than innocent of concern with appearances or class issues.

Let me just speak for myself, though -- I used to tout my no-burgers rule but I don't any more, and that's because burgers have evolved from symbols/instantiations of crass American tastes spread by imperialist market forces (so-to-speak) to being local expressions of food creativity and pleasure. At least sometimes. "Burger" has become a legit cuisine type in major European cities alongside types like "homestyle" and "Asian" and "hot table".

Note the several mentions in comments about how there are plenty of non-Americans eating in the chain restaurants, but they tend to skew younger. Is that because young people are foolish or ignorant, or because they're hip and less prejudiced, or because they have less - or different - cultural baggage, or because they've been brainwashed by their smartphones, or because they've been liberated from the dead hand of tradition by their smartphones, or or or ??

Posted by
5037 posts

Avirosemail. I see you are ready to label people with any number of less than noble motives for their stated avoidance of what are for the most part fast food outlets. And yet you ignore or cast doubt on those who simply want to eat local, or the increasing attention by a growing segment of the population for eating healthier foods. I'm not saying you can't find either in American chain restaurants in Europe, by the way. I don't nenigrate your dining choices, or anyone else's. And will respect their choices whether I agree with them or not. Their reasons or motives are not mine, or anyone elses to judge or guess at.

Posted by
2530 posts

CJean, you're misreading my comment. I'm questioning the labeling, not doing the labeling. I qualified my remarks to try and avoid this misimpression, but I should have been clearer - my apologies.

Let me point out that there's being judgmental and being judgmental -- I'm not aiming to put anyone down, I'm trying to draw out the threads in this topic that interest me, and share in various understandings of how people think and feel about their dining choices. I will still say that it seems a bit naive to me to insist that status and identity and class and so on don't have an influence over those choices. I'm not saying that they are determinative, just that they matter (often they matter a lot). If health concerns and convenience and homesickness and similar explanations/motivations were really empty of concerns about status and identity, then I don't think we would have such strong emotional reactions and resonances with this subject.

Posted by
4232 posts

Did McDonald’s move to Europe solely for the American tourist trade?
I’m guessing not.

In his book Rediscovering Travel: A Guide to the Globally Curious. http://sethkugel.com/book/ Former NY Times travel writer Seth Kugel suggests going to a fast food chain for an authentic locals experience. He suggests we'll discover normal people doing normal things no matter where in the world you are. Someone above mentioned the McD's near the Spanish Steps in Rome. I was there on a Saturday afternoon peaking in to see if McD's were the same everywhere. Yup. This one was full of local teenagers, with boys staring and attempting to show off to the girls, and the girls giggling back.

Posted by
14580 posts

I would not always count on taking advantage of a free WC at McD or Burger King, etc in Germany. I've been to Burger King in Germany, just to use the WC but the little plate was there. You may not see the attendant but s/he will see you. Bottom line...no free WC.

If I should want a burger, very seldom in Europe, it's only going to be in France, not at Burger King and McD but at another chain, "Quick" and for a steak in Germany, it's the German Maredo chain. I first saw them in west Berlin in 1971.

Posted by
24 posts

Sorry for my part in taking what was a fun thread and putting a “tacky” spin on it. It was not my intent…I’ll go back to being a fly on the wall.

Posted by
1790 posts

janetabbott01, this is certainly not your fault. This topic is just one of many which take on a life in of itself on here. If it isn't American chain restaurants, it is another debate about Eurail passes, being a local, packing light, Wengen vs Murren or a half dozen more topics that get cleansed every year or so. Travel is so full of individual choices, there is no perfect way. Sometimes opinions get a little too strong and appear judgmental.

I say eat at McDonalds if you want. Take two big suitcases if you want and check them. Buy a Eurail Pass if you feel like it. Wear a cowboy hat and boots if it makes you happy. Just travel because there is nothing like it.

What is great about this forum is just learning from people's experiences, mistakes and sharing your own as well. Don't be a fly on the wall. All posts are welcome as far as I'm concerned. The more the merrier.

Posted by
2530 posts

Good pep talk, Threadwear!
We're a benevolent bunch of commenters, for the most part, just like the RS tours with the 'no grumps' guideline :-)

The only thing I think you should avoid like the third rail is English versions of the menu - good or bad? Ha.

Posted by
33124 posts

The only thing I think you should avoid like the third rail is English versions of the menu - good or bad?

Oh man. I'm in trouble if I have to avoid menus in English. I'm going for a little holidayette this weekend to the Isle of Wight and if I have to find menus not in English I'm going to be stuffed.

I'll go along with this - I'll try to find menus with pictures of the food - or those big back lit plastic or video menus over the order desks. Maybe I could look for the places with the plates of plastic food in the windows?

I'm sorry to offend but I often find English menus easier here....

Posted by
15545 posts

My rule, most of the time, is eat local, drink local. Sometimes, that "local" is a chain.

I travel because I enjoy it. I learn. I experience. I don't go to sociologically analyze why I do something, why others do somethiing, who is there, their status, etc. I DON'T CARE.

I don't travel with my nose up in the air thinking I am better than someone nor do I travel thinking I am inferior to others. (I have lived by a saying: "No one is better than me, and I'm not better than anyone.")

What you do is none of my business. How you travel is none of my business. You travel your way, I travel my way.

Whether or not someone eats in a chain restaurant while traveling is of no concern to me. I don't need to analyze the reasons for it. I just want to enjoy myself.

Posted by
735 posts

In our attempt to avoid illness we haven't been eating at our local restaurants for several years. Home cooking has always been preferable to both me and my partner. When we were dining out regularly it would never have been at any of the fast food chains. We have however continued to support the good local independents with carryout orders.

We did enjoy Pret a Manger in the UK a few times. In a pinch between museum visits we once ate lunch at a London Shake Shack. It was incredibly busy and appeared to be locals with very few American tourists. It was actually better than the new Shake Shack we have in Livonia MI. In other countries we have had a fast breakfast at MacDonald's several times or a simple soft drink with plenty of ice. I'd rather have independent authentic local meals. Sometimes though I find it wise to seek out something familiar for my partner whose food tastes are rather picky. He's got an unnatural fear of tomato pieces in food. Also, sometimes I tire of explaining every menu item to him and need a break from providing translation and guidance! We'd rather do without food than give Chick Fil A our money. Several times I chose not to eat at airports when I traveled for work if Chick Fil A was the only option. So I certainly will not patronize them during my travel for pleasure. It's depressing watching them moving into my area and seeing the local restaurants failing. Their new locations in southeastern MI seem to generate inordinately wild enthusiasm so I'm sure they won't miss us.

Posted by
1679 posts

periscope, I saw a "Popaj Fast Food" in Split. I don't know if it's part of the chain, but I assume so. It had Popeye's cartoon face on the sign.

Posted by
48 posts

I always buy fries at McDonalds, testing to see if they taste the same everywhere (like they said). I plan to try the KFC when I go to Nice, France next month, if it's still open. I want to see how this fried chicken tastes (I'm sure it will be good). I don't see any harm in trying some things, I don't eat at MCD or KFC.

Posted by
13 posts

I love finding McDonald's wherever we go in Europe. When my son was very young, it made his day to have a McDonald's hamburger in Ireland. In Paris, they had wonderful pastries that we would enjoy in the evening after a long day of sightseeing ... so much better than the apple pie sold in the US! We have gone to McDonald's for a coffee so we could use the bathroom by the Leaning Tower of Pisa and in Prague. In Italy, we took a day tour that got in late and that McDonald's burger and fries at 10:00 PM tasted heavenly! My husband is not a fan of McDonald's but he goes along with me because I sometimes need a break from the local cuisine and sometimes a McDonald's burger just hits the spot!

Posted by
5037 posts

I tried a Tim Horton's in Canada a couple years ago, one night on
Vancouver Island. We were starving and it was late. WORST food I've
ever had in a fast food chain.

Lol. You aren't totally wrong. Most people go for the coffee and donuts or other baked goods. Maaaaaybe a breakfast sandwich. But a meal? Only if there's nothing better close by.

Posted by
1679 posts

I don't even like Tim Horton's coffee. (Shhh. Don't tell. I might lose my Canadian membership card.)

Posted by
330 posts

We were in Pusan, South Korea in 2001 with a group of adoptive families with Korean-born kids…we had been in Korea for just a few days, but the kids went crazy when someone spotted a KFC restaurant near the beach. We all trooped in, and the staff went out of their way to welcome us, whipping out English menus and after a few miscommunications (one #4 meal ended up being four #1’s 😂), a good time was had by all, and our totally American kids had their fix!

Posted by
14580 posts

"We avoid US restaurants 100% of the time whenever we travel...." You are not the only one.

Posted by
10 posts

We have a rule whether traveling overseas or within the United States. If we can get it at home, we don't eat it traveling. We are traveling to experience something different. We love to try something local to wherever we are.

David

Posted by
7653 posts

Just saying...People always want to go where the locals go...guess what...that be McDonalds..(Second biggest market in France outside the US), Burger King, KFC, and other chain restaurants. Even if it is not a chain, the locals go where food is cheap, plentiful, and only OK quality.

You want high quality local...most of the locals do not go there, those place are for visitors.

Posted by
19149 posts

September, 1988, Mainz, Germany.

It was the last day of my second trip to Germany, and as we walked around Mainz, it seemed that there was a BurgerKing on every street, and the aroma of flame grilled beef patties filled the air. I wanted a burger so bad, but I said, "tomorrow I will be back in the US, and I will be able to get all the BurgerKing burgers I want. But I won't be able to get real German food." So I went to a German restaurant for dinner.

Posted by
915 posts

In 2019 while in Lhasa, Tibet, our group had enough Chinese food since we had been traveling in China and Tibet for several weeks. For lunch on our free day we talked our guides into going to Pizza Hut which was near the Jokhang Temple. Pizza was excellent and the beer was cold!

Posted by
1679 posts

The best French fries I've ever eaten in my life, bar none, were in a local cafe in St, Goar.

Posted by
19149 posts

I got really good fries from a street vendor in Boppard, Germany (with Mayo).

Posted by
1679 posts

Ooh, we missed that when we were in Budapest.

Posted by
293 posts

You want high quality local...most of the locals do not go there,
those place are for visitors.

This comment seems odd to me. If I think of all the best most interesting local places that I know of in my region of southern Germany, all serve mostly (overwhelmingly mostly) locals. That said, of course we also eat at Five Guys or Burger King or so.

Posted by
848 posts

It would be kind of a shame to miss the Starbucks Roastery in Milan. It’s pretty amazing.