Charleston-based restaurant group acquires 40 new locations

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Americans have made important strides in the culinary world. As seekers of food information, we have cultivated hundreds of food-centric blogs and Web sites. And as eaters, we are cautious and curious about the food we put into our bodies.

But as consumers, it seems, we are the same predictable, fast food loving Americans we have been for years. (Come on, admit it. It's a delicious guilty pleasure.)

Recently McDonald's reported significant revenue gains in 2008. And today in the Post & Courier an article states that the Charleston-based JEM Restaurant Group has acquired 40 Pizza Hut locations in Georgia and Florida.

JEM Restaurant Group said the restaurants are in Columbus and Macon, Ga., and in Jacksonville, Fla.

From the article:

Financial terms were not disclosed. The newly purchased assets include real estate, leasehold interests and restaurant operating equipment.

JEM now operates more than 100 Taco Bell and Pizza Hut franchised locations in South Carolina, Georgia, Alabama and Florida.

"This is a unique opportunity in a very difficult operating environment," said John McGrath, JEM's owner. "We believe the Pizza Hut and Taco Bell brands are well-positioned in the marketplace, and our parent company, Yum Brands, has excellent leadership at its helm."

Today’s economy favors cheaper food. As higher-end restaurants buckle, fast food joints once again are in bloom. Many people today cannot afford to splurge on organic or gastronomic delicacies. Instead we are forking over the couple bucks for a microwave pizza or processed taco.

One way to consider this news is optimistically. No matter your food preference, new restaurants mean new jobs. The long-term result could be that Taco Bell makes better food accessible simply because it puts more money in people’s pockets. (If the notion of a fast food worker spending his paycheck at the Farmer's Market or on a choice charcuterie plate isn't enough to inspire foodies everywhere, I don't know what is.)

At any rate, our taste for good, healthy food is alive and well. We know what we like and are interested in learning more. But for now fast food is sticking around. Just think of it as a temporary gray cloud -- created by the mass of automobiles idling at the drive-through -- that will eventually pass by.