Saturday, February 21, 2009

The United States of Fried Chicken

I despair at the monotonous homogeniety of many UK High Streets these days. This week I've been all over London and you could have picked me up and plopped me down anywhere and still all I'd see is fast food restaurants, off-licences, Gregg's bakers, pound shops and bookies. It's all very sad and depressing. Even more annoying is the lack of local shops run by small local traders. The Big Boys and multinationals have pushed them all out. The local traders therefore cling to corners on road junctions and other non-High Street places like that.

When I was a kid, traders proudly displayed their family names on shop fronts. It was Gilbert's Ironmogers, Barnett's Gents' Outfitters and Eddy's Toyshop. Nowadays, we seem to have drifted over to literalism with shops unadventurously named after the products they sell. Look at these three all spotted on the same road in South London on Thursday. What do you think they sell?

I'll admit to a slight confusion with 'Saladmaster' as I couldn't figure out how you could be an 'authorised dealer' for salads. But 'Fags and Mags', 'Apples' and 'Lamps R Us' - no problem.

Then there's the fast food outlets. Do they all choose their names from some kind of a template? I envisage a kind of table with the first column containing words like Hot or Spicy, or a person's name or the location. The second column has the foodstuff itself. The third column would consist of words like shack, hut etc. Consequently, by picking one from each column, you'd get names like Royal Fish Bar or Leyton Ribs Shack, or even Spicy Chicken Hut. See what I mean?

I've also noticed that many fried chicken restaurants - all Colonel Sanders' clones - avoid copyright and trademark infringements by cleverly choosing a diffferent US state . Clever eh? Having names like Tennessee Fried Chicken or California Fried Chicken throws KFC off the litigation scent! But I wonder ... are all 50 states represented in UK High Streets? If so, what a great book idea to visit the United States of Fried Chicken!

Not that I could ever eat in any of them anyway. Not until they stop using factory chickens anyway.

7 comments:

Stuart Peel said...

Sad isn't it ? Not only do all high streets look similar, there's a general grottiness to them. When you're surrounded by ugliness, it makes you feel pretty dreadful.

SweetPeaSurry said...

I didn't see a Starbucks picture up there, don't you have Starbucks there yet?

Stevyn Colgan said...

Stu - In my line of work you read a lot about how the physical environment affects perception and behaviour (sometimes erroneously called 'Broken Windows Theory')by sending 'signals' to residents that no one cares about them and to the bad guys that here is a place where they'll be safe to operate. It's all very sad.

Surry - Amazingly, Starbucks tends to appear on slightly more affluent High Streets over here. The 'coffee culture' and its attendant prices are beyond many. Starbucks is also competing with other brands like Cafe Nero and Costa. Of course, there is a McDonalds everywhere you go ...

chris hale said...

I'm still waiting to see a Utah Fried Chicken shop...

Thankfully, we have a few independent fishmongers, bakers, etc. here and I've started using them in preference to the supermarkets. Long may they flourish!

Blog Princess G said...

Those are some ugly signs... yes, a great shame. I remember where I grew up in England the signs for the haberdashers and the butcher, and the feel of the sawdust on the floor and the cool, meaty smell. Sigh, guess I'm getting old, but I loved the more gentle signage that worked well with the building it was nailed on to.

I boycott Starbucks. They have a great knack for crushing independent cafes, sometimes by putting two Starbucks on the same intersection, waiting till the indie cafe has gone under, then one Starbucks closes up and moves on. Sounds like a dread disease to me.

Anonymous said...

those first few are not even in london, they are in Gants Hill, Newbury Park area, which is Essex. But I know what you mean about the homegenisation of our high streets, we don't want to get like the states with strip malls...sorry for being a pedant

Stevyn Colgan said...

Anonymous - Nothing wrong with a bit of pedantry. However, it is worth pointing out that Gants Hill is part of Greater London, sitting within the London Borough of Redbridge. The Essex postcode is quite arbitrary, just as the whole of the county of Middlesex is spread across the London boroughs of Enfield, Ealing, Brent, Harrow, Barnet, Hillingdon, Hounslow and Haingey; the address my say 'Middlesex' but it's all part of the monster that is London. Thanks for your comment ... I too hope that we don't become a nation of strip malls and shopping centres. Hateful.