I went to my first Spaghetti Warehouse
yesterday. The similarities to Old Spaghetti Factory
were overwhelming. It looks like someone (maybe Robert Hawk or Charles Tandy?)
visited an Old Spaghetti Factory on the West Coast, said "hey, what a great idea," went back to Dallas, and built an exact cargo-cult duplicate from memory. Old Spaghetti Factory was founded in 1969
, and Spaghetti Warehouse in 1972
, so it must have happened not long after Old Spaghetti Factory opened.
The two companies don't appear to be related at all, but the resemblances are too numerous and too exact to be coincidental. For instance:
- The name: Where does spaghetti goes after it leaves the Old Spaghetti Factory? The Spaghetti Warehouse, of course. (In Canada, it's apparently called The Old Spaghetti Warehouse.)
- The business strategy: The Old Spaghetti Factory:
Dussin pioneered the concept of developing restaurant properties in places others considered unworkable. These diamond-in-the-rough locations often are unique and distinctive—even historic—buildings in older warehouse districts where rents are low. As the restaurant's popularity grows, the area begins to improve. Other stores and businesses move in, bringing more people to the area. The Old Spaghetti Factory's traffic goes up, but the rents stay low. Spaghetti Warehouse:
Based in Garland, Texas, the company typically establishes outlets in abandoned factories and warehouses in the downtowns of large metropolitan areas, using any tax assistance for developing an urban downtown property to pay for the facility's conversion to a restaurant.
- The decor: Both restaurants feature a pseudo-Victorian mismatched aesthetic, with dark wood paneling, and elaborate glass lighting fixtures. Spaghetti Warehouse is done a bit more on-the-cheap, and features more random bric-a-brac. Most tellingly, both restaurants commonly feature seating inside a converted San Francisco trolley car in the middle of the dining area. Considering that one restaurant is from Portland and one from Dallas, it would be remarkable indeed if they both happened to come up with this bizarre idea independently.
- The food: At both restaurants, entrees cost around $8, and include salad and unlimited bread. A small loaf of sourdough bread is brought out before the meal on a small cutting tray, with a serrated knife and a cup of garlic butter. The available entrees are very similar. After your meal at the Factory, you get a cup of vanilla, chocolate, or spumoni ice cream. When kids are done eating at the Warehouse, they can choose from a cup of chocolate or vanilla.
- The locations: The states where Spaghetti Warehouse is located form almost an inverse map of the states where the Old Spaghetti Factory is located. It looks like they've expanded up to each other's borders, and there are now a few cities (like Atlanta) which have both chains.
This can't just be a coincidence. Does anybody have the inside scoop on how these bizzaro restaurant chains have co-existed for so long, or who ripped off who? Are they both copying some prototypical Old Spaghetti Dough Processing Facility in San Francisco?
Bonus question: Does anyone remember an 80's/early 90's comedy in which a guy was planning to start a restaurant chain called McRonald's (or McBonald's) which was basically an exact rip-off of McDonald's?