As of this writing Oakland and Berkeley seem to be quite the hotbed of new restaurants to be opened by chefs with exciting backgrounds and talents. As these restaurants open it makes it much easier for those in the suburbs to experience decent food by talented chefs. This is a welcome development, yes driven by economics, but still welcome as it spreads out the geographic area that good food is available outside of San Francisco. Let's face it, unless you are in SF or Napa Valley, pickings are pretty slim. Yes there is Chez Panisse and a few others in Berkeley but that's about it. You have the occasional gem like Manresa or Cyrus in Los Gatos or Healdsburg respectively, but mediocrity tends to reign.
Those who know me know that one of my gigantic pet peeves is the subject of Chain Restaurants. They stand for everything that a discerning diner should abhor. Often quantity wins out over quality and you receive large plates or poorly prepared or even worse, reheated pre-prepared food from a box. Bad service, impersonal environments and just generally bad form all the way and for whatever reason, Americans eat it up!!! I'm not against Chain Restaurants because they are Chains, I'm against them for the PRODUCT they deliver. Everything about them is lowest common denominator. If you think about it, there is also an economic reason to not support Chains. Chains are operated out of a corporate office somewhere outside of San Francisco. They don't use local purveyors so product purchases are not made locally and wages paid are very low. All money received by the business goes into a corporation account, not a local one and hence you have virtually all the money save for sales tax and meager wages leaving the area. The money doesn't get distributed throughout the economy, local purveyors don't sell food to the restaurant, the corporate office is outside of the area so those employees don't spend money in the area and the staff who work for the restaurant don't have any reason to work within the community of restaurant owners and workers because their company has no interest in participating. It's all about short term gain and long term destruction. San Francisco has the right attitude by fighting Chains in many cases but even then, there are still many of them around. Once you get out of SF, oh my god, they're everywhere.
So what to do? Pretty easy, DON'T PATRONIZE THEM!!! If you don't patronize them, they go away. Try eating local and see what happens. There are a lot of good options and you are supporting your local economy in doing this also. Maybe you don't get quite as much crappy food on your plate for the price, but what you will get is decent locally produced food and your restaurant dollar will stay in the area and help the economy.
Something to think about.