Very disturbing article in today's WSJ - that chains like the Olive Garden, Outback, Chang's etc are eating the lunch (so to speak) of the independent restaraunt operators. The story profiles a Chicago Bar and Grille owner who gets his profits crushed as the chains surrounded him. He did everything to stay alive (ditching the white linens - saves $3000/mo) but in the end, he closed shop and surrendedred to the walmartization of the restaruant industry. The article extrapolated on the experience of this one operator and clearly showed that this is indeed a national trend. As chow houds, I'm ure we generally do not patronize the foodatronic chains but I do worry that in 10 years we will lose much of our eating options to the general trend outlined by the WSJ. Even Wolfgang Puck is on the cookie cutter binge; he owns nearly 70 restaraunts nationwide based on the success of his 'formula' at Spago. What can we do as chowhounds to discourage this homogenization of taste and culture? Imagine going to eat lousy food in a place that seems nice because the ambiance matches your outfit?