I'm thinking of opening my own hamburger chain and I'm going to steal the TGI Friday's formula, except I'm going to call my restaurants OFI Tuesday's

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The Independent Online
In prime locations scattered around the centre of London are a number of American-owned themed bars and restaurants called Thank God It's Friday's. They are usually found where most swingers would choose to let their hair down at the weekends, on those superstore drive-in malls containing huge electrical goods shops, giant Toys R Us stores and carpet warehouses. For the sake of brevity and to avoid being up on a blasphemy charge, Thank God It's Friday's is usually initialised on signs, napkins and menus etc as TGI Friday's.

Now I'm thinking, like a lot of other people in show business these days, of opening my own hamburger chain and, seeing as most successful chains just borrow the formula of other successful chains, I reckon I am going to try and steal the TGI Friday's formula, except I think I am going to call my string of restaurants OFI Tuesday's.

However, on reflection, there are a number of things that disturb me about Thank God It's Friday's.

For a start, despite the air of happy-go-lucky clutter and zaniness about the interiors of these places, every single detail has been calculated to the nth degree by the corporate head office situated in Dallas or Atlanta or whatever interchangeable US city they are based in. The position of every traffic sign screwed to the ceiling in every TGI Friday's all over the world is prescribed to the last half-centimetre. Every seemingly spontaneous, sassy remark made by a waitress in fact comes straight out of a script commissioned by the chain's bosses from such specialists in hard-edged urban dialogue as David Mamet and Sam Shepard.

Of course, most retail outfits are part of a chain these days. The day of the small independent trader is over. For example, the stall that you see in every market selling a jumble of seemingly random vacuum-cleaner parts may appear to you to be run by one plucky, though untidy, individual, but it is in reality part of the huge Mr Vacuum franchise operation. And it is no secret that I myself am one of the many franchisees of the Kolumn King organisation and my irony and anti-establishment views are supplied from a huge whimsy warehouse situated just outside Runcorn New Town.

But the other thing that bothers me about TGI Friday's is that usually it isn't, is it? It usually isn't Friday or even Friday's. By and large it is some other day. There is only a one in seven chance of It being Friday. So what's that all about? I mean, we live in a world of lies and illusion as it is: government foreign policy is naked pragmatism disguised by mealy-mouthed moralising; rapacious megacorporations parrot green slogans while continuing to despoil the earth; and royal princesses use the poor and ill as pawns in their games of power. With all this going on, we do not need restaurant chains confusing us about what bloody day it is.

And while I am on the subject, another thing that annoys me in the catering trade is when you see in the window of a sandwich bar a printed poster which says "Try Our Delicious Salt Beef". Now these posters are always the same in every shop, white letters on a red background, so presumably the sandwich bar owner did not print it himself. So what I want to know is: how do the printers know whether the salt beef is delicious or not? Do they insist on trying the salt beef before they print the poster?

If I had a printing business, I would certainly insist on sampling all the products of the food emporiums I did work for. In fact, come to think of it, if I subsidised the printing side of the business, could I make up the shortfall in free food samples? I must make a note to look into the economics of this.

But be that as it may, you can bet that most printers would not be as conscientious as me. No, most printers just sell Try Our Delicious Salt Beef posters without knowing whether it's delicious at all or whether it's all hard and gristly with all the dry flaky bits that should be cut off and thrown away but instead are sold to innocent Independent columnists in the Gray's Inn Road for pounds 2.15, and it's not the money, really it isn't! It's just that when you have been looking forward to your lunch ever since you got up five hours ago - well, once it's ruined, it's ruined, isn't it? And no amount of money can buy your precious moments of lunchtime back. After all, you can never stop in the same river twice. (And you can't try a pair of gloves on in British Home Stores for two hours without attracting the attention of the security staff - but that is another court case.)

No, once your lunchtime has gone, it has gone for ever - my God, how do these people sleep at nights?

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