Legal Sea Foods takes to the airwaves to let the world know that although it operates multiple restaurants in multiple markets, it is, emphatically, not a chain.

Don’t even think about using the C word around Roger Berkowitz. The Legal Sea Foods boss is starring in a new series of commercials that goes to great lengths to explain that his company’s 30-plus collection of seafood restaurant concepts is a group of independent-like restaurants, not a chain.

"'Chain' is a five-letter word," Berkowitz says in one ad, "but it’s a four-letter word around here."

Legal doesn’t use the shorts ads to make the case why being a restaurant chain is a negative, although Berkowitz does mention Legal’s special expertise in sourcing and handling seafood. But he has strong feelings on the subject.

"We are the antithesis of a chain restaurant —look at the fanaticism we have for the freshness and quality of our seafood, or the care and detail we put into the design, menu and service at every single Legal Sea Foods location," Berkowitz argues. "I truly feel that 'chain' is a denigrating and completely inaccurate term for our restaurant group, and it's time we set the record straight."

The ad campaign, five spots in all, is already airing in New England, Boston-based Legal Sea Foods’ home base. It will soon appear in four other markets the company serves: Washington, DC; New York/New Jersey; Atlanta; and Philadelphia.

 Customers expect a lot from any casual restaurant dining experience. But when it comes to specifying their favorite chain, food quality trumps all.

That’s the finding of a new survey conducted by Louisville, CO-based Market Force Information. The firm asked 6,100 U.S. consumers to rate their satisfaction with their most recent casual dining experience and whether they were likely to recommend that restaurant to others. Individual category winners were:

• General menu—Cheesecake Factory

• Italian chains—Maggiano’s Little Italy

• Steakhouse chains—Capital Grille

• Seafood chain—Pappadeaux Seafood Kitchen

• Breakfast chain—Mimi’s Cafe

In every instance, customers gave the nod to the chain with the highest food quality score in its category.

Also of note: When asked how frequently they were likely to dine at casual restaurants in 2014 relative to the previous year, 12 percent answered more frequently, 28 percent less frequently and 60 percent about the same.

The latest Restaurant Industry Snapshot compiled by TDn2K’s Black Box Intelligence shows lukewarm results for July with persistent headwinds in place for the foreseeable future.

Same-store sales number for the restaurant industry rose slightly in July, up 0.5 percent. However, it was an easy comparison because July 2013 was a weak month during which negative same-store sales were recorded.

“The real story behind these numbers can be discovered when looking at the trend over a two-year period,” says TDn2K chairman/founder Wally Doolin. “Same-store sales growth on a two-year basis was only -0.1 percent for July, the first time this growth rate has been negative since February 2014.”

Same-store traffic numbers also recorded a decline. July traffic fell 1.7 percent, year-over-year and was flat from June.

“The latest traffic results highlight the fact that there are still some major challenges for the restaurant industry. These challenges come from a macroeconomic level in the form of a stubborn unemployment rate, gas prices that are still above $3.50, and disposable income continuing to grow at a very slow pace”, notes TDn2K’s Victor Fernandez. “Beyond this there is also the challenge of changing preferences in consumers. As an example, growth in the dinner and late-night day-parts has been declining considerably over the last year and may be a direct indicator that consumers are not favoring traditional chain restaurants when it comes to those critical dining opportunities.”