Monday, October 23, 2006

The French Paradox

A lot has been made of the French paradox concerning food. It seems that the French smoke too much, drink too much, and eat fatty foods, but they are measurably healthier than Americans. Few people are over-weight and obesity is non-existent. A quick tour of France answers this question. The French eat less and exercise more. Walking is the most common form of transportation and many people ride bicycles. Restaurants generally serve smaller portions.

The bigger puzzle to me concerns the huge number of small businesses. There are literally millions of small shops and cafes all over France with very few chains, big box retailers, and almost no franchises. The typical street in any French town or city is lined with dozens of small shops with the owner behind the counter. The variety is huge, the service good, and the prices are fair.

I guess my question is: How did we get to the point in this country (USA) where the big boys run the show?

Chains and franchises have homogenized the country to the point that it is very hard to go into a town and not find exactly the same restaurants and stores as the previous town. I recently looked at a copy of “Entrepreneur” magazine and was amazed to find that half the ads were for companies selling franchises. When did we get to the place where having your own business meant buying someone else’s ideas and plans.

America has a reputation for individualist and independent thinking, but that is not at all what you see when you look down any street.

By the way, stop by Homer’s Coffee House. It is the only one;and no, we are not planning on franchising.

Let me know what you think. Click on “comments” below. Maybe together we can figure out this dilemma.