Sunday, August 29, 2010

Season 52 Restaurant Review

A big chain tries to develop a fresh cuisine concept at the high end of casual dining. Darden has worked through to add to it's successful Red Lobster and Olive Garden chains with a formulaic and well funded approach to concept development. Past efforts include China Coast and Bahamas Breeze. They usually define a niche, build decor around it, then try to make food that brings people back. I call this the Rainforest Cafe approach. People go once to see the "wow", then never go again to pay the high prices for too big portions of bad food served perfunctorily. Cheesecake Factory is the exception. Big chains can execute "good enough" food and service to satisfy most Americans. Look at Outback's Flemmings steak house.

Of course Darden has never been noted as a really good operator, nor had success making new concepts work. They do a great job getting the touchpoints aligned with a concept. Season 52 is a big departure from this approach.

The exterior of Season 52 is modern and sleek, not a gaudy Disneyland restaurant. Too austere? Possibly. Inside is another story, and this is the company's strength. It is clean, high quality, open and casual.

We enjoyed Garlic Chicken Flatbread and Oak Grilled Buffalo Burger. The flatbread was very well balanced, delicious. The burger was served absolutely plain, perfectly cooked, with some really delicious house made condiments on the side.

Service was unusually good. The server asked our names and used them throughout the meal. Kind of borderline patronizing, you know: "Paul and Mary, would you like more water now?" but she did a great job of expediting things when we told her we were in a hurry. You could see how difficult it was for her to not follow the service steps she wanted to use.

I would go back here again.

- Paul/ BlogPress/ iPhone

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