Everyone knows that there are myriad reasons to eat at home. It is, by far, less expensive than dining out. The consumer who “dines in” can control the ingredients, quality, and timing of the meal. There isn’t any lava cake to entice the calorie conscious to cheat. Doesn’t that sound like a win-win? It makes Gildshire Magazines wonder why so many of us are choosing the restaurant route for our sustenance. The restaurant industry brings in an estimated $123 billion dollars a year in the U.S. alone. That kind of gross income doesn’t happen without advantages. We looked into some of the advantages restaurants have, as well as recent changes the restaurant industry is making to add appeal for today’s restaurant patron. As an added bonus we included a couple of customer warnings.
Convenience: Frequent restaurant patrons surveyed by Cornell University said that they would eat almost all of their meals at home…if someone else did the shopping. A trip to Denny’s starts to sound pretty good when you factor the time and effort to schlep to the nearest Piggly Wiggly for basil. Restaurants know this and are ratcheting up the convenience by offering expanded curbside service for an extra charge.
This kind of thing used to be the purview of throwback drive-ins (think Sonic), but nowadays restaurants such as Applebees and Olive Garden offer to bring your order to the car for an extra few bucks. Sure you can step inside and get it to-go for the same price as always, but the curb is superb for the customer who is in a hurry. Figure an additional 10% “service charge” for your friendly server to walk, oh about 20 yards.
Selection: The selection offered in a restaurant kitchen is impressive, and better-stocked than the one at home. Filling a home kitchen is daunting! After all, today’s family may consist of a gourmand, a dieter, a voracious teenager and a vegan with lactose intolerance and an alleged sensitivity to gluten. (Celiac’s Disease isn’t as common as we are led to believe, but “gluten-free” is necessary for the afflicted and has a “coolness factor” for others.) Suffice it to say the specialty demands are almost more than a shopping list can bear. Restaurateurs feel your pain and can safely charge an average of 14% more for specialty selections that match these various needs.
Facility quality may be a different story. Ten years ago, the federal government loosened the restaurant industry cleanliness requirements. (They called it “clarifying.”) Too many establishments were getting dreaded “B” grades for cleanliness. Receipts were falling! Since 2007 the grades have gone back up. One wonders if the restaurants are cleaner or did the grading get less stringent?
Camaraderie: The era of the family sitting around the dinner table to discuss their lives has been over for a generation. After school activities and creeping job-ism makes the workday last all evening. Social media and extreme individualism leave a trip to the restaurant the only time the family might look into each other’s eyes. Restaurants tap into that market by offering children’s specials and “Kids Eat Free” programs. *Customer Warning Number One* Be careful that you read the conditions. “Kids Eat Free” is usually only available with the purchase of a full-on entrée. That may be more than you were planning on spending for you and Junior together.
Gourmet: Restaurants are clever. Among tricks they use are the buzz words “gourmet,” luscious,” and “Cajun.” *Customer Warning Number Two* How does a dish become Cajun? Salt and pepper. Most states require nothing more than those two ingredients in the way of herbs and spices.
Is there anything more enjoyable than a night out and dinner with friends? Memories are made with coconut shrimp. Love affairs bloom over coffee. We’re all for the restaurant experience. A wise patron, though, is a patron who has a better night out. Bon Appetit’. If you see us enjoying a creme brulee stop and say “hi.”