So, apart from the food being the obvious reason for eating out, it's about the total experience too. It would seem many independent French restaurants appear to be completely unconcerned about this. In winter many are cold and unwelcoming, (I've even had to eat still wearing my coat!) and this applies to the staff too, of which there are never enough. Service is poor, slow and sometimes downright inhospitable.
I have found the chain franchises sometimes the better option if you like to dine in a warmer, cleaner and more up to date environment with usually enough "trained" staff, and although predictable the food is at least consistent. UK friends and clients alike, who visit during summer months after a just a few days often remark on the whole eating out shambles. "no one comes to France for the food any more, why would you?" I say give thanks for the warmer climate, for without that what the hell are we all doing here?