I thought I'd begin my first post about (broadly speaking) TGI Fridays. This wont become a gastro ramble by any stretch of the imagination, it was to take a look at the idea of the 'themed national restaurant', as an idea of the country it is trying to represent. What I find interesting about this style of food jaunt, is the question of what the interior design of each restaurant is trying to say about the country of origin. Whether there is a social commentary, or strictly just decoration.
After eating at TGI's a few times over the past few years, I've often thought - if done properly, what a fascinating job it must be to act as a buyer for some of the decorations and artefacts as part of the overall interior design for one of their new restaurants. One question I find myself asking in such a place is "what are they trying to sell as an experience to the british or international consumer?".
Ever since the 50's that through numerous channels, be it products, music, or fashion; the exportation of Americanism became attractive to other developed countries around the world, both in Europe and the far east. Quite often whenever you walk into an American themed bar, the standard Harley Davidson is in attendance, along with the obligatory college football sweatshirts, electric guitars, and surf boards. One could argue that is a semi - Californian portrayal rather than the broader social landscape of the rest of America. I suppose its an idealist suggestion or overview of the country, rather than a deep political or cultural commentary, an image that is most likely to appeal and therefore sell to the target consumer.
The risk of course is that for a business to be based solely upon the nationalism of one country, increases when a political event could lead to consumer opinion changing about specific brands tied to country. At the announcement of the invasion of Iraq in 2003, many europeans boycotted American owned businesses, sparking riots in Paris towards McDonalds, and taking Coca-Cola products off of the menu in restaurants in Berlin. Whether this really has an impact on sales figures is unlikely, but the power of the consumer, and their views should not go unnoticed.
If the boot was on the other foot, what would exported 'Britishness' look like? how would we sell ourselves in the Americas or elsewhere? In 2012 the UK Foreign Office attempted to do just that, brand 'Great Britain' exporting the idea of the nation to the rest of the world, portraying the country as a 'still' great nation, an attempt to place ourselves in the past and future of what the country can offer, the Great British Pub could fall into that category...
To summarise then, it seems that most modern international themed restaurants may decorate themselves to attract the consumer first, social commentary second. Which leaves the reserved idea of the exported British Pub a lot of work to do.
It could be a good starting place however, just make sure you get the home brew going out the back to get the punters in!