Chain serves up delicious nostalgia

The Future. Chain, the pop-up restaurant concept from actor B.J. Novak and world-renowned chef Tim Hollingsworth, has planted its flag in LA with a semi-permanent home and is making the memory of places like TGI Fridays and Olive Garden cool again. While its long waitlist and high prices may not conjure the same feeling as eating at Applebee’s, the brand’s success may demonstrate how a generation of chain restaurant-nostalgics have been waiting for the concept to be dragged into the modern age.

Memory meals
Chain is updating some familiar flavors.

  • Starting as pop-ups around LA, the restaurant has settled into a semi-permanent eatery — a rented home that includes indoor and outdoor seating for 50 people. 
  • Chain has a rotating menu of “elevated” versions of chain classics like Taco Bell’s Crunchwrap Supreme, Chili’s Southwestern Eggrolls, and Outback Steakhouse’s Bloomin’ Onion (same taste, better ingredients).

The restaurant only drops one meal at a time for a limited run. To dine, you have to get on the 15,000-strong waitlist, then pay an all-inclusive entry and meal ticket for $65 when your reservation finally opens up.

Fast fancy
While Chain has humble inspirations, its execution is anything but (thanks to Novak’s and Hollingswoth’s Rolodex).

  • John Mayer designed Chain’s logo, while the restaurant was designed by Nope and Yellowstone production designer Ruth De Jong.
  • It brought in VIPs such as Mindy Kaling, Roy Choi, John Legend, and Chrissy Teigen.

And other brands are taking notice of Chain’s cultural footprint — it partnered with Paramount on a Happy Meal satire called the “Stabby Meal” to market Scream VI and teamed up with Chili’s on a cross-promotion campaign.