I posted a message a couple of months ago about chains gaining in market share over independent restaurants. Slate had a humorous article today comparing the upscale chains.
It is inevitable that the culinary trends started by independent restaurantuers ultimately filters down to the chains. The best independent restaurants are constantly innovating (well, maybe not my favorite taco stand). The chains dumb down the independents creativity, and serve it to the masses.
As a free market kind of guy, I think the chains do chowhounds a good service by keeping things interesting. Admit it, the steak fajitas and faux tortillas at Chevy's aren't bad!
That said, I am going to Tapenade for dinner tonight.