But Where's the Beef?

In fact, he argues, the zoning law has not prevented national chains from invading the Square. "By my definition of a chain, [the ordinance] doesn't seem like it's doing anything," says Bartley. "The chains are here. I think it's a reality."

Familiar chains like Pizzaria Uno, Bertucci's Brick Oven Pizzaria, TCBY and Au Bon Pain already dot the Square landscape--although Ron Shaich, co-founder and CEO of Au Bon Pain, insists his French-styled cafe is not "fast food."

"I'd be insulted if people thought of us that way," he says. "We're not a big company. We're home grown. This company has a soul. It is very much a part of Harvard Square."

Au Bon Pain, which opened in 1983, has become a landmark in Harvard Square and is the company's flagship and "favorite store," says Shaich. The chain, which was born in Boston's Faneuil Hall Marketplace, has outlets throughout the Northeast and generates several million dollars in revenue each year.

Although Shaich is not unilaterally opposed to fast food restaurants penetrating the Square, he says the community should think seriously about the overall effect of allowing a McDonald's to move in. "I think a community has a right and responsibility to zone and plan and control it," says Shaich. "As somebody who lives in Harvard Square, I think it is important that the whole of Harvard Square remains something."


For many students with a late-night urge for a Big Mac and a shake, however, raspberry and cheese croissants and Orangina just don't cut it. On the other hand, what would happen if the Chessmaster started hanging out at Mickey D's?

"It doesn't seem odd to me that Au Bon Pain is there and McDonalds isn't," says Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures Jann Matlock.

"Au Bon Pain is a cafe with outdoor seating, it's a meeting place. A faculty member can go there for coffee with a graduate student--you don't get that at McDonald's," Matlock added.