14 March, 2019
Applebee's $ 1 cocktails and the exquisite joy of good-bad taste
Applebee knows us better than ourselves. In 2018, the fast-paced company managed to reinvigorate its brand by giving up menu items "can not say" and doubling "comfort".
It worked. As Chipotle closed 65 channels and Choe's vegan darling broke up, Applebee came out victorious. Weekly sales in comparable stores increased 7.7% by the end of 2018, according to estimates from a brand manager.
The ever-elusive "millennium" market was particularly supportive of Applebee's new brand image and its special $ 1 and $ 2 cocktail series. Despite our supposed attachment to high-end craft products, the millennial generation could not resist the siren of kitschy mermaids such as Strawberry Margaritas or Dollar Jollys, a special holiday offer made of vodka and Jolly Ranchers at the cherry or green apple.
While it is easy to put the depressed economy as the main factor behind the popularity of these cheap drinks, is there anything else happening here? What if people really like this alcohol because it's bad?
The subtleties of ironic consumption, decried by writers of the "new sincerity" like David Foster Wallace, are nuanced. Lovers of beer, wine and serious cocktails can make fun of some trends, but their taste is as subjective as anyone else. In addition, who decides who is the "taste maker" and who is just sticky?
The re-evaluation of the "bad" aesthetic is deeply related to the concept of "camp", which existed long before cultural critic Susan Sontag defined it in a 1964 essay. Sontag describes a certain sensitivity, belonging mainly to homosexuals, but not exclusively, in which a work of art could be appreciated outside the realm of perception of good or evil. The camp celebrates the artificial, overdone, spectacular failures of culture.
"[Camp] does not say that good is bad or evil is good. Its purpose is to offer to art (and to life) a different set of standards – an additional set of standards, "Sontag writes.
Or, to summarize: "It's the camp: the tragic ridiculous or ridiculously ridiculous!" Explains a character of the legendary filmmaker John Waters in an episode of "The Simpsons."
You can see the impact of the camp everywhere, horror movies at the Met Gala. Is it possible that our national esteem for unpleasant drinks is part of this tragicly ridiculous sensibility?
My second drink there, a $ 11 Long Island iced tea (the most popular cocktail of the place, said the same waitress, arrived) arrived in an oversized glass tumbler. And while it looks like a cleaning solution, I can confirm that I was already puffed enough by the time I finished.
This visit to Applebee provided me with a remote feeling of the exquisite pleasures of the Sontag camp gun, such as "deer-free deer movies" or the ballet "Swan Lake". The restaurant was filled with various families. and the couples having a very nice dinner, but there was something deeply banal, almost dystopian in the scene. There were touch screens on each table, allowing you to order Disney movies and video games to watch while you ate.
On the other hand, the experience also has something liberating. Its flawless banality enabled us, the participants, to abandon our expectations in terms of "quality". We did not have to worry about the quality of our cocktails or the implications of family meals with screens. We could simply embrace the absurdity (and perhaps the tragedy?) Of this business.
Jay McInnes, an independent critic at The Scrappy Progressive, a beer blog that considers himself "really pompous," had a hard time thinking of Applebee's camp as "the camp." from other sectors.
On one side, McInnes says, "This is a place where people will drink … It has a massive appeal. There are many parents of 40, 50 or 60 who want a simple drink and have few expectations. It's a good evening! People want cheap, sweet liquor. It's here. "
For a smaller subset of economically advantaged or intellectually minded young women, a trip to Applebee offers drinking irony and snooty disdain for the dominant culture. For these customers, drinking at Applebee is devoid of the "feeling of tenderness" described by Sontag and essential to the camp.
"There is a kind of rejection of normcore as a culture but a simultaneous celebration of its transgression. I do not understand it, but it's there and it brings in some money, "says McInnes. "If you conceal it with irony, you can go to one of these places because you know what a chain offers you: a consistent product presented with a clean, friendly face."
"It's something that young, wealthy academics would do," says McInnes. "Hey, look at those poor people, let's go to Applebees as they do." He says, "How can I reduce my consumption to the maximum while getting a story about it." Later, with your friends, at the $ 15 bar, you can say, "We were at Applebees drinking this really normal drink, but this new conceptualization of a margarita is really much better."
Daniel Ng, an O Ya somieller in New York, has a different and less cynical reading of Applebee's success.
"I think what people appreciate about quality wines or craft beers is that they are generally very complex and have many nuances. And it's great, Ng says. "But I think there is a time and a place for everything. Sometimes you do not want a very hoppy beer to accompany your food, on the other hand, you want something really drunk, which you do not have to think about.
"The nice thing about Applebee's drinks is that people do not really need to chew them up. It's simple. They have a lot of sugar and people like sugar. And there is nothing wrong with loving sweet things. "
Ng thinks that nostalgia is the main motivator of those who ironically drink good things in the neighborhood.
"For some of my friends who grew up in the suburbs, Applebee has been a big part of their childhood," says Ng. "It was a place where you would go with your friends in high school. It was perhaps the first restaurant where you went without your parents. "
Here is the colorful exuberance of tiki.
Rob Nitschke, DJ at Otto's Shrunken Head of the tropical institution of New York City, said that a bright decor and sweet and alcoholic drinks were essential to the seduction of tiki. "The culture is excellent too: when it's good, there's a level of bidding," says Nitschke. "If you call yourself a tiki-bar, you will not look like an ordinary pub. There should be a water feature, blowfish lights, pictures of hula girls, color It should be fun to sit in the room. "
"Everything was a pose and performance", Hamish Bowles, of Vogue, wrote about the culture of the camp at Versailles, at the time of Louis XIV. He could just as easily describe the tiki bars.
Tiki has been the subject of much-deserved cultural criticism, but a thoughtfully designed tiki bar provides a much-needed escape. "Historically, tiki was an outlet for people who would not let themselves go," says Nitschke. In the 1950s buttoned, being served a glass by a "girl in a coconut bikini" felt racy and subversive.
Today, some critics view the resurgence of tiki culture as a reaction to the socio-economic anxiety and neo-conservatism of the Trump era. Of course, this is hardly a camp either.
In his book "Shock Value", Waters reminds the reader that "there is a bad taste and a bad taste". Applebee's diluted cocktails would likely be considered the latter; but, once again, like all things, the good Pepsi is in the eye of the beholder.