Chain stores are a common sight in US and each one is a brand by itself and has a history to its origin. There are chain food stores, chain commodity stores, chain garages, chain book stores, chain coffee stores, chain electronic stores, chain grocery stores, supermarket chainstores and even chain Indian stores. You name a consumable and you will have at least one chain store spread across this country specializing in that commodity.
Lets kick off with food stores first. Food comes first, right ???. Be it food for the growling stomach or food for thought !!! McDonald's tops the list in brand popularity across the world, followed by KFC (Kentucky Fried Chicken).
The other more popular ones across America are the TacoBell, Dunkin' Donuts, Subways, PizzaHut, Jet's Pizzas, Wendy's and the list goes on endlessly. Be it Chicago , Detroit, San Francisco or Texas, you will find these stores sprinkled liberally all over the landscape. They serve burgers, French fries, tortillas, tacos, pizzas and donuts.
For the uninitiated, donuts are Indian Vada shaped sweet buns that may have been dipped in hot chocolate, cheese, cream and any other combination you can think of. Tacos are the Indian chapatti rolled up with a salad of your choice or a rajma like gravy. Tacos come in a variety of ways. There is a 2 layer taco, a 3 layer taco and a Jumbo 7 double layer taco. Pizza Huts too differ in the fact that
So what is common between all these restaurants. The only commonality among all these is the fat rich food that they serve... ;-). And do the Americans love these ? Well, they don't just love them, they thrive on them !!! That should explain the obesity factor clearcut !!!
These stores even compete with each other using funny but quite innovative slogans !!. KFCs have huge signboards that scream "Finger lickin' good".. Wendy's advertises "Where your family can have more for less". McDonald's have a bright smiley emoticon saying "Lip smackin' good". And Taco's which need to compete with all the other fast food outlets which offer bread and bun products, keep running TV ads that say "Think outside the bun !!!" That one really is a hard jab at all the others in the fray !!!
Unlike the Indian counterparts, these fast food outlets really are fast. All of them have "Takeaway counters" and "DriveAways". Driveaways allow a person to drive right around to the kitchen and place his order, pay up and drive away with his goody !!!. All without even alighting from his automobile seat. As I said earlier, these stores do everything to maintain the fat wrapped around the American tummies and keep the health experts sprouting one more worrisome wrinkle everyday !!!
Buuuuuuuuurp !!! That was food enough. Let's talk about the other chain stores. Lemme think...Yeah, the next best candidate on the list would be the FMCG. Here again you have a hoard of players. Walmart leads the list followed by a host of others like Meijer ( pronounced "Myer"), Kroger, Sam's Club and many more.
Walmart stands out distinctly because most others in the scene today have borrowed the idea from the Big Daddy of them all. Each Walmart outlet is nothing less than a monster outlet offering everything you would want to have in life under one single roof.
The Walmart outlets are also famous for their lowest prices in the market. They proudly display "Walmart prices...always reducing". This also has been the butt of many a joke. One goes like this "If Walmart prices are always reducing, then they ought to become zero sometime soon..." Now who woudn't love to see that day.
Meijer is another famous kid on the block. Meijer, I suspect is an Italian word for commodities.
The word Meijer somehow gives me the creeps for my brain has somehow associated it with the other infamous Italian word "Mafia". However, I love Meijer chain of stores much more than Walmart.
Now chain garages must really have come as a surprise, because it is not something that has yet caught up in India. You have Firestone, Belle Tires, Midas...quite fancy names, eh.. All have outlets spread across the US. However, unlike the previous two categories of stores we talked about, these, are based on an entrepreneurship scheme. If you have the money and moolah to invest and a good real estate spot to bank your cash upon, you can open a garage and get affiliated to these groups. Very much on the lines of computer institutes like Aptech, NIIT, etc having spread across India.
Chain Coffee stores are yet another common sight across America. The one that revolutionized the way Americans consume coffee was Starbucks.
The other that has carved a niche for itself is the Tim Hourton's coffee stores chain. Both these do serve amazingly intoxicating coffee. Two months into US and I am already a fan of the Starbucks Cafe Mocha .... With a cup of this in hand and a nice novel to drool upon in the other hand, I would say "Paradise Gained".
Book stores too are not far behind in the chain stores scene, though again you have a only a few names in the big league. One, the Barnes and Noble and the other the is Amazon.
Now comes another of my favorite category of chain stores. The Electronic chainstores. You have BestBuy, Circuit City and Radioshack doing the top rounds.
You name an electronic gizmo and these shops flaunt it, each one advertising lower prices then the other. You enter these shops and any amount of money you have in your bank account suddenly seems a pittance. Well, can't help it....that's the sad part of it.
As I complete this writeup, I would be doing grave injustice if I fail to make a mention of another sort of a chain stores that is making its presence felt. The Indian Chain stores are mushrooming in every US city and that speaks volumes of the growing Indian consumerism in the US. The most prominent among them is the Patel Brother Stores who seem to have a store in every major US city. That reminds me of my Uncle in Toronto who keeps reminiscing the days when he landed in Canada way back in the 1960s. There had been a single Indian store in the entire Great Lake Region and that was in Toronto. Times have changed and definitely for the better when it comes to aiding the Indian who is "globalizing".