Does Popularity Dumb Down a Restaurant’s Food?

Jase has a small, local Mexican seafood restaurant that he loves. "No English translations on the menu, no-frill place, bare booths and tables, dinged up flatware and plates," he says. "They specialized in seafood; mainly shrimp, no quesadillas, burritos or bean and cheese sides with combo dishes. But the shrimp was absolutely wonderful, very fresh, cooked just right and a dozen different preparations that you would be hard pressed to find anywhere close." The shrimp were also refreshingly rustic: "heads on and the whiskers all over the place. It was decadent to pluck the head off and suck all the juices out. They fried their chips fresh and it was served with this spicy homemade green salsa that was completely different from your more popular red salsa."

Unfortunately, there are recent signs that his beloved place has been discovered by the masses. Signs that include "someone wanting their shrimp dishes to be served with no tails and heads," as well as "noses being turned up at the green salsa and asking if there was a regular red salsa that wasn't so spicy." "The food was still pretty good and I was happy they had more customers. But somehow I couldn't help feeling it just wasn't quite the same place for me to sit and hang out sipping my beer any more," says Jase.

"I think you've noticed what is just the inevitable evolution of a restaurant," says thimes. "I think all you can do is be happy you were there when it was starting out and be happy for the staff and owners for their success. The only part that really upsets me is when they start to give up on the ingredients and techniques that I loved (e.g. stop frying their own chips, get rid of what sound like great shrimp for a cheaper frozen supply of shelled shrimp with no taste). I would expect that if they were making enough to stay afloat in the beginning then they should be able to keep those things and still make more money with the changes to service to accommodate more customers."

raytamsgv gives an insider's perspective: "My family used to be in the restaurant business, and we always gave the customer what they wanted even though it may have been absolutely hideous," he says. "One customer insisted on ordering only a plate of white rice and used half a bottle of soy sauce to flavor it."

"The difficulty lies in trying to figure out which customers will come back. This group must be appeased. If they guess correctly, they'll be in business for a long time. Otherwise, they'll probably shut down," says raytamsgv.

Discuss: Signs your local hole in the wall has been found by mainstream audience