I've posted many tips on saving money on food (see my collection here, here, and here.) Several of the tips listed in these posts talk about how to save money when eating out. But even if you take precautions, eating out can be expensive. I was reminded of this the other day when I saw the Smart Money piece titled 10 Things Your Restaurant Won't Tell You. In particular, item #3 stood out to me:
It's no secret that restaurants enjoy huge markups on certain items: Coffee, tea and sodas, for example, typically cost restaurants 15 to 20 cents per serving, and pasta, which costs pennies, can be dressed up with more expensive fare and sold for $25 a dish or more. At a fine-dining restaurant, the average cost of food is 38 to 42% of the menu price, says Kevin Moll, CEO and president of National Food Service Advisors. In other words, most restaurants are making roughly 60% on anything they serve.
Yep. Eat at a restaurant, pay $20. Eat at home, pay $8. Sure, you have to buy it and make it yourself -- and everyone can't get something different -- by still, this is a ton of money. You can see how someone eating out can spend a small fortune versus a person that eats mostly at home.
Another thing I noticed the other day while eating out (yes, I do it on occasion) -- the dessert prices are out of this world! They were asking $4.99 at Outback for a single-serving dessert. For that you can buy at least a half gallon of ice cream -- a whole gallon if they're on sale!
Of course I'm not suggesting that you never eat out. There are, after all, entertainment and convenience issues associated with eating out. But what I am saying is that we all need to realize how expensive it is to eat out, and to try and limit out restaurant trips to a reasonable level. Doing so can have a big (nice) impact on your net worth.