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A recent open letter from the National Restaurant Association in Nation's Restaurant News seeks to rally the industry around a proposed campaign to "debate the notions currently going unchallenged in the public forum" - notions suggesting consumers can save significant sums by eating at home.While it's true that the mass media - TV, talk show hosts, etc. - has promoted this theory, it's not clear how well their message has resonated with consumers. According to NRA, research shows that it has struck a chord and that's not unsurprising - it's been the kind of year that virtually everyone has felt crimped economically to some extent.That being said, we believe that there are many, still, for whom dining out is a way of life- they have not learned to cook, don't have time, and many simply don't have the inclination, regardless of the impact of "Julie and Julia."I love to cook, but also love to eat out. In the three years since my partner's death (he cooked for us for many years), I have had countless cuts, burns and bumps on the head from walking into open cupboard doors. I could be the poster girl for "cooking at home is hazardous to your health!"The industry needs to find a way - either through a major campaign or simply through individual restaurants conveying the value of their services to their customers - to make its message heard, loud and clear.There is nothing that beats the convenience of a well-made meal, and sometimes, it's cheaper than buying all the ingredients needed to make it yourself. The industry needs to let consumers know that it's okay to go out, enjoy the experience, and come home well fed and relaxed.
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  • I hereby nominate Terri Hitchcock for Commissioner of Homeland Security.
  • I cannot tell you how many pieces of toast I have burned to a crisp because I forgot they were under the broiler in my toaster oven and I wasn't in the kitchen waiting to remove them - I'd come back into the room and see the oven glowing red - or smell them! It took me a while to realize I had to set a timer to remind myself to check on them - duh!
  • Missing from the calculation above (for those of us that aren't gifted, like yourselves):

    Increase in life insurance/house insurance: $50/monthly
    Replacement fire extinguisher: $100
    Unconsumable food: $85
    Alarm reset: $35/incident
    The emotional loss of having the fire chief ask you to stop trying: priceless
  • PS You are so right - eating out is not always about convenience - it is a celebratory moment, a gathering with friends to share and enjoy and communicate. Three cheers for those opportunities!
  • I just got home from a very late dinner at Stella's in Boston's South End and am happy to tell you, eating out is alive and well! As we left the restaurant at 1:45 a.m., people were stillcoming in! The food, drinks, and service were all excellent. There was a very urbane yet neighborhood vibe - it was a delightful experience and could easily become a favorite. So when pundits and researchers say people are staying home to cook, I tend to think they are not talking about major metropolitan centers.
  • Susan, your posts always get me thinking...and not necessarily about what you wrote...
    Do people seek out restaurants purely for the food? No way. Apart from travelers, for whom eating out was first invented, few people eat out from necessity. Even more than in the home, eating out is a ceremonial event and can be considered as such. There are basically three types of eating out: convenience, entertaining oneself and entertaining others. Then there is the matter of choice, usually conspicuously lacking on the home menu (at least mine). Even the humblest "eat out" place has some choice, and this alone can provide an excitement that the home meal lacks. When entertaining others out, setting has to be considered carefully with reference to purpose. The main purposes of eating out with others are the same as their home counterparts: to impress on the one hand, and to be different on the other - to make a change. At home we do this by departing from the normal routine in dress, setting, and meal choice. When we go out, the latter two can be taken care of for us, and we have much more choice as far as style, setting, and expense are concerned. The point here is that it almost does not matter what food is eaten. A campaign to get more folks to eat out and to get others to eat out more often requires at least two campaigns really.
    People who don't eat out include those who don’t have the bucks, but also those who are scary of sanitary conditions, feel uncomfortable eating out alone, don't feel they are dressed appropriately, are too hungry to wait for a table and then the meal, have weird tastes, are afraid of unfamiliar foods, have allergies, feel conspicuous eating in front of others, are super healthy and very concerned about ingredients. People who really enjoy cooking a great deal are less likely to eat out regularly than are those who don't enjoy cooking as much. The pork industry got together and mounted 'the other white meat' campaign. It worked. And the egg folks resurrected the almighty 'incredible edible egg'. Makes sense that as an industry, restaurants can pull off an 'all for one, one for all' efforts and make the case for eating out.
    Merry Christmas!
  • I came across this post about the high cost of dining out, citing not only the cost, but twice referring to how unhealthy dining out can be. Read it and see what you think.

    According to the 2007 census data the median U.S.A. income was just over $ 50,000. A 40 hour work week for 52 weeks = $ 24 hr.

    Prep time for dinner @ 45 minutes = $ 18

    Groceries for two = $ 5 ( breast of chicken, rice pilaf, vegetable, coffee, brownie )

    Clean up @ 30 minutes $12

    TTL $ 35

    I grant that these figures are a bit arbitrary, but even at $ 15 a person, one can enjoy a decent meal at a restaurant, and leave a $ 4 tip.

    If anyone wants to further refine these figures, please feel free.
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