Thursday, November 20, 2008

So I went to a Mexican restaurant yesterday...

...And finally lost my mind with the menu. You probably have seen this menu. The menu is the same at almost every Mexican restaurant I go to. The specific item that has made me realize this is the Vegetarian Combo D: A bean burrito, a chalupa, and a quesadilla.

I know of 5 restaurants in Kansas, 1 in Texas, 1 in Oklahoma, 2 in Indiana, and 1 in Missouri that all have the same, exact, menu. The combinations are all the same, the lunch specials are all the same ("The Speedy Gonzales"), the appetizers are all the same.

Why are all these menus the same? (and yes, I realize this is a different topic for the blog but this is analyze EVERYTHING, not just "Analyze Animals")

My co-worker Eric Johnson and I came up with several hypotheses in our 9+ hours driving the last two days:

1. The restaurants are all owned or financed by the same firm.
2. Random chance (we'll call this the null hypothesis).
3. The food supply firms are selling/promoting this menu.
4. This is the menu all restaurants have in mexico. (which just pushes the question into mexico)
5. There was some 'immigrant worker' promotion years ago which started this and it has just been passed down.

I'm skeptical that this many restaurants all decided to label that particular combination of food items the "Veggie D". Mexican restaurants that don't have this menu (I know of several) generally don't have any Veggie menu at all.

Possibility 4 is one I can't get at, because I haven't spent any real time in Mexico. Anyone got any clues?

I am skeptical that a single entity finances all these restaurants across the country. Maybe something like this is happening, but how would these random guys who start the small town restaurants all over find the investors?

So I really think it comes down to 3 and 5.

The food service industry is the possibility I deem most likely. This thread on Chowhound seems to suggest this possibility, without having any direct evidence. There are only a handful of large-scale food suppliers in the country though: Dot Foods, Sysco, Keith, Hawkeye. I've been unable to find anything online that looks like this kind of menu being sold, but I'm sure they don't have everything online.

Quick Aside Here: The industry group that represents food suppliers (the International Foodservice Distributors Association) has an article on their website that is accompanied by pictures which, for reasons I can't even articulate, I find incredibly humorous ("Look at how serious I am"). Some of the quotes are equally priceless: "We are now insisting that they begin to bring their logistics people to our top to tops that we have with them throughout the year." That quote is repeated twice, so I doubt it is a typo, but seriously, does that mean something?

At any rate, I'm totally stumped. I asked reddit and got back a bunch of irrelevant gibberish. Anyone got any clues?

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