These restaurants are likely to be inspired by either idealized, nostalgic Americana, or a stereotypical image of an exotic place like Italy, Mexico, Australia, or Texas. The walls and ceilings are frequently festooned with decorations fitting the theme, such as sports memorabilia, road signs, vintage photos, old toys, guitars, and crab pots.
People actually from those places are likely to find the overly-processed, fancifully-named dishes served here almost unrecognizable. The appetizers range from the conventional mozzarella sticks and buffalo wings to Frankensteinian combinations like pizza nachos and southwestern egg rolls, while entrees run the gamut from traditional pastas and steaks to such monstrosities as cheeseburger quesadillas and Schezuan-style spare ribs, and are often served with buckets of french fries and salads that are anything but healthy. Portion sizes are usually gargantuan, as is the thickness of the menu. The dessert selection usually includes some hazardous-sounding chocolate creation involving the words "volcano" or "lava", and an oddly-flavored milkshake in a giant mug adorned with sugary treats is an option to wash your meal down with.
Many of these establishments have licenses to serve alcohol; when they do, you can be sure that they advertise all manner of proprietary neon-colored cocktails served in portions that seem designed to prevent drunk driving— either by an amount that couldn't intoxicate a flea or an amount that guarantees you won't be able to even find your car.
Often, everything from how customers are greeted to the way items are arranged on the tables are dictated by ultra-strict corporate guidelines, resulting in an eerily identical experience regardless of which branch of the restaurant one patronizes. Happiness Is Mandatory for the embarrassingly-dressed wait staff. Occasionally, a customer celebrating his birthday there will get an earful as all the restaraunts employees chant a custom corporate birthday song (since "Happy Birthday to You!" was copyrighted until 2015) while clapping.
It has begun to replace the Malt Shop as a stock setting in fiction, since there aren't many malt shops around any more. (Ironically, most of the few restaurants that go for the 50s malt shop vibe these days are places like Johnny Rockets and Red Robin, which are examples of this trope in their own right.)
- At the end of Kingdom Come, Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman go to Planet Krypton, a superhero-themed restaurant where the staff are all in cheesy knockoffs of DC superhero costumes and use some of their Catch Phrases as jargon and the food is named after DC characters and titles.
- In an issue of Batman Bruce Wayne, Dick Grayson, Jason Todd, Damian Wayne and Duke Thomas all meet at the Batman themed "BatBurger", Bruce of coarse hating every minute of it. On their menu is "BatBurger", "BatBurger Deluxe!", "BatBurger Deluxe Oversized!", "Bat-Mite Meals", "Night-Wings", "Robin Nuggets", "KGBLT", "Riddle-Me-Fish", "Killer Crocque Monsieur", "Two-Face Sandwich", "Ivy Salad" (not poison), "Bat-Mini's", "Bat-Soda's" and "Bat-Fries". They have a server dressed in a very cheap looking Bat-suit who pisses Bruce off by offering to "Jokerise" his fries (Jason actually enjoyed it). Dick and Jason pissed Damian off by getting him a Bat-Mite meal, which got worse when he received a Red Hood action figure with it. He then shoved his burger in Jason's face while Dick and Duke made fun of Bruce for eating his burger with a knife and fork.
- In Office Space, Peter, Michael, and Samir take their coffee in Chotchkie's. The over-enthusiastic waiter wants to know whether they want to try the pizza shooters, shrimp poppers or extreme fajitas, while his coworker Joanna chafes under the manager's insistence that she wear a certain number of "pieces of flair" on her uniform.
- Waiting... takes place in a restaurant called Shenaniganz.note
- In Idiocracy, the Fuddruckers chain is still around in 2505, though its name has long since degenerated into a reference to anal sex.
- One scene in Talladega Nights: The Ballad of Ricky Bobby has Ricky dining at Applebee's with his parents and his two sons; Ricky's father gets thrown out after arguing with the waitress over the onions on his steak. The climax also features gratuitous, Played for Laughs Product Placement for Applebee's.
- It's briefly mentioned in Nanny Ogg's Cookbook that these exist on Discworld, with the theme being dwarfish culture. Real dwarfs hate the places, partly because of the kitschy stone-effect wallpaper and fake hammering noises, and partly because of the food, which consists of human dishes done up to resemble rat, and bread which is dense and crunchy but lacks the fundamental inedibility of proper dwarf bread. The Compleat Ankh-Morpork City Guide has an entry for a restaurant called Thank Gods It's Octedaynote , but does not include further details.
- In Christopher Moore's Pine Cove series there are several English themed restaurants in the small town of Pine Cove.
- The fourth Uglydolls "Ugly Guide" has a section on "Family Restaurants". Included are things such as treasure map place mats, old bikes, and huge ice teas with tiny straws and restaurant tokens.
Peaco: I know old bikes on a wall make ME hungry!
Ox: Is that decor or was there an accident?
Deer Ugly: My garage sale has come back to haunt me!
- One MADtv sketch takes place at a J.J. Fuddermucker, a parody of Fuddruckers.
- The Ben Stiller Show features a sketch at TJ O'Pootertoot's, a family-friendly restaurant which hosts a deep, dark secret.
- How I Met Your Mother: In one episode, Barney and Ted pretend to be out-of-towners to meet girls, and get acquainted two girls who claim to be true New Yorkers, but their idea of New York dining is a chain restaurant called "Taterskins." Ted has a hard time biting his tongue.
- A sketch featuring The Birthday Boys featured a waiter who listed flavors of buffalo wings like "Mild, Spicy" and the third one he'd list would be an over-acted reaction rather (incredibly hot or tasty).
- One episode of The Chaser's War on Everything had Charles Firth visiting the Outback Steakhouse, an Australian-themed casual dining restaurant, and flipping out over how phony he found the place.
- Community: In "Comparative Religion", tough-guy bully Mike, waiting to fight with Jeff, tells his gang "Look, this dude don't show up, we're definitely going to Applebee's, right? 'Cause I'm getting into a fight no matter what!"
- Will on The Fresh Prince of Bel-Air briefly works at one that has a Welcome to the Caribbean, Mon! theme and the employees dress as pirates.
- In The Good Place, the group visits an Eagleland-themed restaurant in Australia, where everything is based on stereotypes of the US.
- Parks and Recreation has the dinosaur-themed Jurassic Fork.
- McFriendly's, a restaurant that Zonker gets a job at in Doonesbury is a parody of these kinds of restaurants. "Every entree is guaranteed to be bigger than your head!"
- Cul de Sac: The Otterloop family often dines out at P.J. Piehole's. Petey had a fear of the rowboat hanging from the ceiling falling on him.
- In the Grand Theft Auto series, the Al Dente's chain is a parody of Olive Garden, its ads specifically making fun of the inauthentic Italian theme and the waistline-inflating portion sizes.
- Papa's Wingeria clearly invokes this feel.
- Mafia III has one of these in the form of the Briar Patch chain of restaurants scattered across the circa-1968 New Orleans expy of New Bordeaux, with a mascot based on the Br'er Rabbit character meant to both parody Big Boy Restaurants (more popular at the time than they are today) and satirize the Deep South's use of racist caricatures that were still somewhat common during that contentious era. Civil rights activist, black nationalist, and pirate radio host Charles "The Voice" Laveau calls them out for this during his radio show, "The Hollow Speaks"; highlighting the connection between the restaurant chain's founder and the abandoned theme park, "Baron Saturday's Fun Park" which was closed only three months after opening due to protests over racially insensitive imagery. It shows, given that some of the locations are still segregated, even after the passage of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. At one point, protagonist Lincoln Clay meets an informant in one to begin a new chapter. Lincoln can (usually) find adrenaline shots in their first-aid cabinets and roughly $40 in their cash registers.
- Also seen in various locations around New Bordeaux is a parody of the real life Waffle House chain called "Perfect Waffle" using the same logo and typeface but changing the yellow in the Waffle House logo to white.
- In Escape from Monkey Island, part of the villain's nefarious plan to convert the Caribbean's economic basis from piracy to the service industry involves the creation of the "Planet Threepwood" chain of restaurants, based on the life and times of the game's protagonist. It features various pirate-themed decor (most of which was actually stolen from his house), and a waitress dressed as a very loose interpretation of his wife. Naturally, nobody believes he's the real Guybrush Threepwood.
- In Animal Crossing: New Horizons, the Diner Wall items allow you to give your home this look, in "stuff on the wall" flavor.
- Sealab 2021 features the "Grizzlebee's" chain, which provides several intrusive bouts of Product Placement whenever it's featured in an episode.
- Hinted at (but never shown) in The Brak Show, with the nautically themed "Fish Pockets", where customers can get their picture taken with the mascot Gary Grouper. note
- The Simpsons episode "Bart Sells His Soul" features "Uncle Moe's Family Feedbag", featuring "all kinds'a crazy crap on the walls" and a Navy deep fryer that can "flash-fry a buffalo in 40 seconds."
Homer: Forty seconds? But I want it now!
Dr. Hibbert: Alright, where would you kids like to eat tonight?
- Not to mention the various restaurants mentioned in passing from earlier in the episode:
Young Son: The Spaghetti Laboratory!
Young Daughter: Face-Stuffer's!
Teenage Son: Professor V.J. Cornucopia's Fantastic Foodmagorium and Great American Steakery!
- In "Natural Born Kissers", the Simpson family dines at the "Up, Up and Buffet!" A restaurant built from the cabin of an old airliner, including fake turbulence and silverware stored in the overhead compartments. According the writers in the DVD commentary, the restaurant was based on a former establishment in Los Angeles named "Dive!" that was inside a submarine-shaped building.
- One SpongeBob SquarePants episode sees Mr. Krabs sell the Krusty Krab to a chain who makes it into "Krabby O'Mondays," complete with wall bric-a-brac and Friday's-style striped tables.
- In the Daria episode "Life in the Past Lane", Tom takes Daria out to "Phineas T. Firefly's", a restaurant clearly modeled after T.G.I. Friday's. The overly enthusiastic waitress is enough to get them to leave.
- Regular Show's Wing Kingdom is a very obvious pastiche of Buffalo Wild Wings and TGI Friday's, having the exterior design and food of the former and the interior style of the latter (complete with Tiffany lamps and mounted moose head).