Should you get the guacamole on your burrito?
April 6, 2017 2:22 AM   Subscribe

Making a decent profit in the restaurant industry is a high hurdle. As a consumer, when eating out you’re paying for a lot more than just the food; it’s the excellent waitstaff, unique ambiance, convenient location, in addition to the delicious dish that makes for a memorable experience. In order to cover all of these costs and still make a slim profit (generally 3–5%), restaurants need to mark up ingredients on average 300%.
posted by veedubya (83 comments total) 14 users marked this as a favorite
 
The burrito example in the article shows a fundamental lack of understanding about great mexican food and the awesome power of the pork shoulder. And pinto beans. And basically anything else about burritos.
posted by hippybear at 2:40 AM on April 6, 2017 [12 favorites]


There are two ways to eat at a restaurant. One is to enjoy the meal, taste something new, eat something that you don't know how to make yourself, not have to clean up the dishes, &c.

The other way is to sit there the whole time, in front of every dish or every item on the menu, saying "I could make this at home for a tenth of the cost."

One of these ways is more enjoyable.
posted by chavenet at 2:54 AM on April 6, 2017 [133 favorites]


The Simpsons - 24 October 1991
Man Seeking Advice #1: Reb Krustofsky, should I finish college?

Rabbi Hyman Krustofski: Yes. No one is poor except he who lacks knowledge.

Mother: Rabbi, should I have another child?

Rabbi Hyman Krustofski: Yes. Another child would be a blessing on your house.

Man Seeking Advice #2: Rabbi, should I buy a Chrysler?

Rabbi Hyman Krustofski: Could you rephrase that as an ethical question?

Man Seeking Advice #2: Um... is it right to buy a Chrysler?

Rabbi Hyman Krustofski: Oh, yes. For great is the car with power steering and dyna-flow suspension.
posted by mikelieman at 3:10 AM on April 6, 2017 [13 favorites]


For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.

grrroooooooaaaannnnnnnggggghhhhhaarrggggghjhjjhhh
posted by DoctorFedora at 3:30 AM on April 6, 2017 [75 favorites]


A 300% markup seems low to me. If your whole restaurant experience isn't at least three times better than a shopping bag full of raw ingredients, you need to seriously reconsider whether you're in the right business.
posted by robcorr at 3:53 AM on April 6, 2017 [17 favorites]


Aside from the fact that restaurants have to cover their operational costs, there’s a reason we pay more for food than what it’s worth in its raw form: the experience.

This is one of the most inane sentences ever written. I don't usually say "Hey, dear why don't we go out tonight and cover a restaurant's operational costs!" so I'm not sure what 'aside' means in this context.

Actually sometimes it is cheaper to go to a restaurant than eating at home. This is because they can provide you with a few slices or a small amount of something you can only make or buy in bulk. For example, I might want a bit of cilantro on my burrito. I know that tiny bit of cilantro is expensive compared to me buying a whole lot of cilantro and then having cilantro with every meal to make sure I consume it all! So maybe the cilantro isn't that expensive to me after all.
posted by vacapinta at 3:55 AM on April 6, 2017 [28 favorites]


Does the pope sh
posted by standardasparagus at 4:12 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Only 300%? Maybe for restaurants where quantity sold > quality sold, and staff wages are low. I've been led to believe that 600-1000% is more feasible for all stakeholders.
posted by Thella at 4:13 AM on April 6, 2017


Yeah, economies of scale are a heck of a thing. They raise the question of what you would rather pay twenty dollars for: one lemon, or ten thousand lemons
posted by DoctorFedora at 4:26 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


I don't understand how the article is answering the question of whether I should get guacamole on my burrito. Is that supposed to be related to markup somehow?
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 4:32 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


According to the National Heart & Lung Institute via this article

A cheeseburger 20 years ago had 333 calories. Today’s average cheeseburger has 590 calories, an increase of 77%.

For analysis sake, we'll say the cost of ingredients, labor and overhead has not changed in 20 years (adjusted for inflation), so that the only difference in the old hamburger and new hamburger is the 77% increase in the portion size.

Given the increase in size, one could surmise that the 590 calorie burger takes longer to eat than the 333 calorie hamburger. How much longer I don't know.

However, if the smaller burger, because it takes less time to eat, increases the number of table turns in a restaurant (and burgers sold), then the restaurant could expect an increase in the overall net profit dollar amount and margin percent, since the operating costs and labor costs are mostly fixed (its a simple model.)

Because I am bored, if a restaurant turns 100 hamburgers at 590 calories, and 101 hamburgers at 330 calories (one more burger because the smaller burger takes less time to eat), all else being equal, the overall net profit will increase $7.14, or 0.5941%. (Two extra hamburgers = $14.28 or 1.1765%, etc.)

Conclusion, hamburgers are too big.
posted by otto42 at 4:36 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


The whole premise of this article makes no sense. What kind of crabbed, misanthropic Dickens character would decide what to eat at a restaurant based on the difference (expressed as a percentage) between the cost of ingredients and the bill?
posted by No-sword at 4:46 AM on April 6, 2017 [12 favorites]


The other way is to sit there the whole time, in front of every dish or every item on the menu, saying "I could make this at home for a tenth of the cost."

I see you've been out with my brother. Never again.
posted by threetwentytwo at 4:47 AM on April 6, 2017 [35 favorites]


I'd love to see this done with cafes.

Honestly, some deference to the art, labor and creativity of good fair seems to be mssing here. Those ingredients are all relatively cheap till you put them in the right hands. The article seems to think I'm paying for the experience and the calories and forgets about the FOOD.
posted by es_de_bah at 4:50 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


The notion that you're paying for the food and not anything else drives me bonkers, because in some places it drives restaurants to just serve embarrassingly large portions. It doesn't really cost much more to prepare and serve a half-pound burger than a quarter-pound burger, but the sort of person who worries about "value" thinks paying twice as much for the half-pounder is a fair deal.

I very much grew up in a "eat everything on your plate because children are starving in [famine du jour]" household, and I hated eating in these massive portion restaurants. When I finally could afford fancier restaurants with smaller portions, it was a huge relief.

Anyway, I don't think the author is espousing the value-driven worldview; they were clearly just asked by their employer to write something "data-sciencey" with their data. We should all just relax.

because children are starving in Guy Fieri's Faminetown
posted by phooky at 5:06 AM on April 6, 2017 [9 favorites]


"The other way is to sit there the whole time, in front of every dish or every item on the menu, saying "I could make this at home for a tenth of the cost."

It's a reliable way to identify people who believe that time and quality of experience are worthless, though. So there's that.
posted by mhoye at 5:06 AM on April 6, 2017 [10 favorites]


I like to imagine the author surrounded by piles of raw materials in their home, eating like a whole onion stacked on an uncut bun with a frozen meat patty. The ketchup is still in the squeeze bottle and the author takes drags on it between bites.
posted by fleacircus at 5:07 AM on April 6, 2017 [19 favorites]


Why pay for anything more than the food with the lowest markup?

Why pay for any variety in food, when you could just subsist on Soylent shakes purchased in bulk?

Why even bother ingesting calories, as doing so will merely prolong the tedium and drudgery of one's banal life?

Why not just lay down quietly in a ditch and wait for the sweet release of death?
posted by Mayor West at 5:12 AM on April 6, 2017 [77 favorites]


> For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.
> grrroooooooaaaannnnnnnggggghhhhhaarrggggghjhjjhhh

What? The only objection I take to that statement is the assumption that previous generations did not think of food like this. The essential differences are the variety of foods available and how this affects public interests and tastes. Read some M.F.K. Fisher or watch some old Julia Child TV episodes for a quick education on how our forebears dealt with food when rudimentary nourishment was not a sole consideration.
posted by ardgedee at 5:15 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


I'd like to subscribe to Mayor West's newsletter.
posted by Faint of Butt at 5:15 AM on April 6, 2017 [12 favorites]


"The other way is to sit there the whole time, in front of every dish or every item on the menu, saying "I could make this at home for a tenth of the cost."
It's a reliable way to identify people who believe that time and quality of experience are worthless, though. So there's that.
posted by mhoye at 8:06 AM on April 6 [+] [!]

Or, you know, it's a way to spot people like me who grew up in bad poverty, and even though we've just crossed over to regular-old-poor, we still carry that anxiety that comes along with $25 being the only thing standing between you and a literal disaster.
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:18 AM on April 6, 2017 [17 favorites]


I just want to know which Nando's side dish is the best deal in terms of calories per dollar. I like the coleslaw, but the rice is good too and it seems likely that it's a much more efficient choice. But where do the peas fit in? Is there some mathematical trickery that could justify mashed potatoes as well? Of course it's all irrelevant beside the more difficult choice between "hot" or "extra hot".
posted by sfenders at 5:21 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


20 years ago, cheeseburgers were the staple of the lunch rush - a quick bite to eat midday. Now they're premium attractions at dinner service, so their calorie count is going to rise to meet that of other entrées on the menu. If the calorie count on a typical veal Osso Buco or Steak Au Poivre has crept up to keep ahead as well, that would be more interesting news.
posted by Slap*Happy at 5:23 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


FWIW fleacircus I did used to eat salads that way in grad school. Bell peppers and carrots are pretty good whole.

That having been said, why are we stopping at the food at the ingredient level? That food came from seed (either of the animal or vegetable variety), and surely the amount of seed used to produce the ingredient costs less than the ingredients do. If we value neither labor nor time (WTF?), then the markup from seed is surely much higher.
posted by nat at 5:24 AM on April 6, 2017


Unfortunately, the dining "experience" in my neck of the woods seems to consist entirely of tiny 4-top tables crowded together in a loud room, where the walls are festooned with umpteen flat-screens blasting every possible sporting event and oversized entrees that come with an entire Idaho's worth of fries. But, hey, microbrews on-tap!
posted by Thorzdad at 5:26 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


[T]he higher-end meal you purchase, the better the deal you’re getting.
Just because a restaurant is making less profit doesn't mean you're getting a better deal. If you value the 2 burgers the same then it's a better deal to buy the cheaper one. Regardless of the restaurants profit margins.
posted by zinon at 5:29 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


This article makes a lot more sense when you realize it's a marketing tool to showcase the graphing capabilities of PlateIQ, which you can now use to helpfully show exactly how much you should hate yourself compared to the cost of guacamole. Hint: your self-worth has a high markup!
posted by Tevin at 5:34 AM on April 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


> For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.
> grrroooooooaaaannnnnnnggggghhhhhaarrggggghjhjjhhh

Millennial Libras and Leos do, sure, but Sagitarii regardless of generation see food as meditative, a kind of prayer or self-reflection; while ENTPs and guess-culturers take a puritanical stance, stoking their feelings of virtue by eating harsh bracing meals of ice cold grubble.

As for cow, she liks the bred.
posted by xris at 5:44 AM on April 6, 2017 [43 favorites]


Why not just lay down quietly in a ditch and wait for the sweet release of death?

Enjoy Arby's
posted by RobotVoodooPower at 5:51 AM on April 6, 2017 [53 favorites]


> For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.

Millennials, huh?
posted by FirstMateKate at 5:51 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


“The idea is to eat well and not die from it - for the simple reason that that would be the end of my eating.” - Jim Harrison
posted by JohnFromGR at 5:53 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I am always interested in seeing what ingredients cost a resto. Americans, myself included, have an eating disorder, among other things. If the food is made well, tastes terrific and the staff are human beings, then this can be one of the great life experiences. Just my 2 cents.
posted by DJZouke at 5:57 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.

That's weird, I thought they just consume mice and other rodents whole by opening their mouths wide and "walking"" their lower jaw over the prey as their backward-curving teeth grip the animal -- one side of the jaw pulls in while the other side moves forward for the next bite. The millennial drenches the prey with saliva and eventually pulls it into the esophagus. From there, it uses its muscles to simultaneously crush the food and push it deeper into the digestive tract, where it is broken down for nutrients.
posted by gwint at 6:05 AM on April 6, 2017 [27 favorites]


You're thinking of the mutant generation, gwint. Easy to confuse them.
posted by yhbc at 6:07 AM on April 6, 2017


That one's easy: Yes. I should get the delicious guacamole on my burrito.
posted by Lyme Drop at 6:10 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


There's a lot here that doesn't make sense to me. Why split most of the tables between "upscale" and "standard" and then not talk about the difference? Also, what's with the eggs in the denver omlette costing less than in the spinach? The split isn't addressed as upscale vs standard, just denver vs. spinach.

I think there's a data quality issue that they aren't talking about, probably because Tevin's point that this is more marketing than analysis is accurate
posted by Gorgik at 6:12 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Almost all of the "nice" restaurants in our area are BYOB, and I was just saying the other day I don't understand how nice restaurants can make money if they're not selling alcohol. Surely being able to sell alcohol at a high markup could help give some cushion.
posted by ThePinkSuperhero at 6:16 AM on April 6, 2017


So, I'm a fair amateur baker (I can bake the stuff on The Great British Bake Off and people ask for more, seems accurate?) when I go to a restaurant I don't sit there and complain about being able to make that myself or whatever (very often I can!). I look for the thing I can't make or haven't ever tried or haven't even heard of before and I order that. This makes dining more enjoyable.

What the hell is the point of going to a restaurant (not fast food or a food court or some such) if you aren't going to at least try to enjoy yourself?


Life is short people, look for things to be happy about.
posted by oddman at 6:17 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


I'm not sure what the point of the article is, but for some people anything with numbers is like an exercise wheel.

This being said, I'd like to see the breakdown for desserts-- restaurants encourage diners to get dessert, so I expect that's where a lot of the profit is.
posted by Nancy Lebovitz at 6:19 AM on April 6, 2017


From what I know his pizza numbers are in the right ballpark. Pizza can be very profitable and cheese is your biggest cost. BUT he says flour is $15 for a 50# "case." In my life I have never seen a case of flour, only bags.
posted by nestor_makhno at 6:26 AM on April 6, 2017


Most excellent to see w/ millenials to snake people extension

just think of the exothermic reactions to this shit basically
posted by hleehowon at 6:29 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


I'm not paying for the guac. I'm paying to not do dishes.

Which is a bargain at twice the cost.

And wait till this guy finds out a 7 dollar box of fried rice costs 32 cents and is made from leftovers....
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 6:38 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


Or, you know, it's a way to spot people like me who grew up in bad poverty, and even though we've just crossed over to regular-old-poor, we still carry that anxiety that comes along with $25 being the only thing standing between you and a literal disaster.
posted by FirstMateKate


THANK you. Until I read that comment, this thread was feeling decidedly...well...privileged.

The idea that you should look down at a menu and see a prepared food item that you could relatively easily fix for yourself at home for a fraction of the cost, should be something that just rolls off of your feathers because, you know, "ambience" and "experience", seems to completely ignore the very personal, psychological and utilitarian aspects of money. And especially, how that can be for people (like me) who are comfortably well off now, but have been quite financially distressed more than once in my life.

I occasionally enjoy eating out, especially when it's to experience a new food or a particular new dining experience that I haven't yet encountered. But I've also been around people for whom dining out is their go-to activity, even if we've been to the same place a dozen times before and we order rather standard fare that offers, imho, no real new experience, etc. in those cases, I definitely look down at the prices on the menu and groan inwardly at the cost.

It doesn't make someone crabbed and Dickensian, I don't think. It probably just means that they'd rather be doing something else with their money because they place a different value on service, for example.

Having a server asking you what you want to eat, them waking away to tell the cook, them refilling your drink, and then carrying the food from the kitchen to the table is not a very efficient process from the diner's perspective. It is a contrived system because it is efficient for the establishment. I understand that. But it nevertheless makes dining a series of trying to negotiate some simple requests that we accept because we're all just used to it being that way. In fact, one if the marks of an excellent server is how well they can smoothed out the contrivances.

Maybe also part of it is because I'm an introvert, but in most cases, I'd rather avoid the contrivances altogether. I'd much rather be doing those sorts of things myself (I know exactly what and how much I want to eat, how I prefer my steak, how to carry my food from the kitchen to the table, when my fork is dirty, where the drinks are and when I want another, etc.) than having to engage with a stranger to negotiate these things to do what - if I were at home - I would be able to do much more efficiently, without thinking, and at zero added financial cost.
posted by darkstar at 7:04 AM on April 6, 2017 [15 favorites]


I'm surprised soft drinks weren't mentioned in the article AND haven't been mentioned here yet.

Because the margin on a Cola-Cola, even a 32-oz refillable cup sold for $1, will eclipse the margin on any burrito or burger sold anywhere by anyone.

I know of at least one restaurant chain where, during some promotions, the entire operation serves as a loss-leader for their soft drink and potato chip sales.
posted by JoeZydeco at 7:16 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


A restaurant could do a 500%, 600%, 700% markup for all I care if they could just figure out a way to keep the damn noise down. I've never understood the "ambiance" of being unable to hear the staff or one's dining partners.
posted by JanetLand at 7:22 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


fuck the cost of raw ingredients, I mainly go to restaurants so I don't have to deal with dirty dishes
posted by AFABulous at 7:23 AM on April 6, 2017


I fully recognize that a lot of people find enormous pleasure in driving high-performance cars at high speeds. I dislike driving and don't find much pleasure in it and I rarely drive fast, so the added value of a "better" car has very little value for me compared to a boring sedan. It would be a poor use of my money to buy a high-performance car, even though lots of people enjoy driving high-performance cars.

If you don't enjoy going out to eat, if you just see it as an extremely inefficient way to get a meal that costs far more than it has to, then... don't eat out maybe? You're not getting the value, so it's pointless for you. Nobody's telling you that you have to enjoy eating out.
posted by Tomorrowful at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


There are two types of people reading this thread: people who've never working in restaurants, and people who immediately know which of the rest of you are shitty tippers.

Incidentally, Nancy Lebovitz, you're exactly correct.
posted by 7segment at 7:26 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.

I think I am concluding that the false premise that there is such as a thing as "the millennial generation" is built almost entirely on the fact that people have camera phones now.
posted by monju_bosatsu at 7:30 AM on April 6, 2017 [8 favorites]


The idea that you should look down at a menu and see a prepared food item that you could relatively easily fix for yourself at home for a fraction of the cost, should be something that just rolls off of your feathers because, you know, "ambience" and "experience", seems to completely ignore the very personal, psychological and utilitarian aspects of money.

It's fine to say going out to eat isn't worth the money, and it definitely sucks when your social group wants to spend more money than you can afford on restaurants and that's the only time you get to see people. Been there and insist on picking up the check just to spite the physicians and lawyers who never did it for me when I was in grad school.

But when the criticism is how much less it would cost to buy the ingredients for the food you're eating, it just makes you sound like you mistakenly wandered into a restaurant that you thought was a grocery store.
posted by straight at 7:36 AM on April 6, 2017 [5 favorites]


rice in a burrito? Go, and never speak to me again...
posted by judson at 7:39 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


By the way, I tend to tip 30% or more, because although I don't particularly place a high premium on the service for its own sake, I am adamant that the people doing those jobs should get paid a decent wage, plus I loathe people that take out their generalized frustrations on their waitstaff by being shitty tippers.

(This does not, of course, tend to make me enjoy the experience of dining out more.)

As for just not dining out, many times, I just don't. I'd far rather have a dinner at a friend's house, etc. But often a relationship calls for a dining out experience (romantic, familial, work-group, etc.). So the social pressure isn't easily ignored and, though sometimes it's a fine dining establishment, usually its oh look here we are again at Chili's, and no thanks I'll just have a glass of water with my enchilada.
posted by darkstar at 7:42 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


The article in general was frustrating to read because it seems to be written by someone who's only ever made food in a video game. Use your Cooking Skill to Combine the Ingredients! You spawned 3 Hamburger!

Like, sure, he didn't have the numbers on the labor costs, but you can't just look at what raw beef costs. You also have to account for it being formed into patties, and cooked. Whereas lettuce basically just needs to be washed.

In fact, you could have an ingredient that was literally free (water, perhaps, close enough?) and have infinite markup according to his math. Yet ice sculptors definitely aren't making an infinite markup. He's kinda dancing around other costs in the article, but it's just...off. Like trying to examine the solar system and how it works, how the planets all interact, but not actually mentioning the impact of the Sun at all.
posted by explosion at 7:43 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


By the way, I want everyone here who's incensed about this article to remember that feeling next time someone comes along with a tech teardown and starts in about how a modern smartphone is "only about $60 in parts!" and we're all getting robbed. Because that is how hardware designers and manufacturers get to feel all. the. time.
posted by phooky at 8:01 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Metafilter: You spawned 3 Hamburger!
posted by benzenedream at 8:31 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


trees are free, so why does my furniture cost so much?
posted by AFABulous at 8:33 AM on April 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


So the main problem I have found with my evaluating the menu by how easy and cheap it would be to make something at home is that the category of things that are cheap in a restaurant but inconvenient at home largely consists of all the delicious, delicious deep fried everything made up in a pressure fryer. It... would not be healthy.
posted by Zalzidrax at 8:38 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


A restaurant could do a 500%, 600%, 700% markup for all I care if they could just figure out a way to keep the damn noise down. I've never understood the "ambiance" of being unable to hear the staff or one's dining partners.

I know exactly how you feel. This past weekend, my wife took me out for a birthday dinner at one of those Noun & Noun hip restaurants. The food was great, but they had the music turned up just a touch too loud, and so people were talking a bit too loud, and the whole place was just noisy. It was my only criticism of an otherwise wonderful meal.
posted by Fleebnork at 8:40 AM on April 6, 2017 [1 favorite]


Plateiq says it's 'restaurant accounting' software. From an accounting standpoint as a restaurant owner looking at costs of food the article may have merits, but don't really see it as a great discussion starting point.
posted by typecloud at 8:47 AM on April 6, 2017


compare to business software as a service, the land of 5-10% cost of goods sold and 40% labor costs and the rest profit
businesses are profitable with a radical inequality in profit (ratios and lump amounts). same deal with industries
posted by hleehowon at 8:49 AM on April 6, 2017


I always buy a Coke at my deli when I have plenty at home just because I know it's a reliable profit center for them and it allows me some idea that they may be around the following year.

I am apparently their "best customer" as in the one who spends the most money there each year. Not sure if that's a life accomplishment or demerit.
posted by maxwelton at 8:52 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I'm very impressed by top-quality restaurant prices. Whenever I try to make something really good - be it pasta or pie - the ingredients come in at over $50. How could I profit from selling that?

One secret must be meticulous re-purposing, asparagus stalks and lobster shells brewed into a broth, etc.
posted by StickyCarpet at 8:55 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


THANK you. Until I read that comment, this thread was feeling decidedly...well...privileged.

I can see that perspective. But for me, saying you can make this at home is basically an early red flag that this meal is not going to go well. This is based on my experience of having a lot of family meals and some friend meals where this was an opening remark that would be slow-building avalanche of complaints and criticism against every menu item, the service, the decor, the parking, and maybe sometimes even who you are dining with. I understand this is what happens when someone doesn't want be at a restaurant for sometimes very legitimate resons, but I kind of had too many moments where fun meals devolved into passive-aggresive sniping or even straight up arguments that when I want to have a truly enjoyable and worry free meal, I usually end up going by myself.
posted by FJT at 9:02 AM on April 6, 2017 [6 favorites]


Mayor West, I hear Blue Apron is pivoting to a rebrand as Sweet Release of Death and opening a chain of pop-up Soylent automats in underutilized Bay Area drainage ditches. Download the app to find one near you!
posted by Svejk at 9:10 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Also, the ability, time, and environment to make meals from raw ingredients that taste as good as restaurant food is a privilege that can be a lot harder to attain than the cost of eating out once in a while.
posted by straight at 9:22 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Why not just lay down quietly in a ditch and wait for the sweet release of death?, etc.

My ability to enjoy restaurant food has somehow survived this article's vicious attack. I think the author bent over backwards to make the point that eating out can be awesome even if the markup is high.

My biggest complaint about the article is that the concept of "markup" doesn't try to estimate the labor cost. The markup on a pizza, as a multiple of the ingredient cost, should be far higher than the markup on a low-end salad whose assembly is basically pulling things out of bags (maybe even just "bag") and placing them on a plate.
posted by gurple at 10:14 AM on April 6, 2017


I was going to say something similar to straight's comment. I can spend $20 on ingredients for a nice meal at home and what happens if I burn something or otherwise fuck it up? I have to throw it in the trash. Whereas in a restaurant I would just send it back if they served it to me that way, so my restaurant meals will be reliably good-to-fantastic. When I can afford it, I'm fine for paying for less risk.

(Bars are a different story; except perhaps for the fanciest drinks, most are trivial to learn to make yourself, and it's hard to make something completely undrinkable. Also, you're assured that it won't be watered down. For me, the markup on alcohol goes entirely to the ambience. I find you almost always get what you pay for with that.)
posted by AFABulous at 10:15 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


So what goes into a meal at a restaurant? What are the costs? What kind of culture tries to address these questions without using words like:
shop, carry, clean, cut, chop, cook, sautee, fry, broil, wash, clean, prepare, injury, repetitive stress, blood, burn, scald, spine, feet, hands, early, heavy, wet, or cold?
I was happy to see the word "privileged" in the comments above but strangely I can't seem to find: undocumented, immigrant, exploited, fired, harassment, poor, poverty, Latino/latina, "of color", workers, labor, dignity, or gratitude.
I guess it's all about the ambiance...
posted by jcrcarter at 10:23 AM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


> For the millennial generation — food is more than sustenance. It is entertainment and self expression.
> grrroooooooaaaannnnnnnggggghhhhhaarrggggghjhjjhhh

What? The only objection I take to that statement is the assumption that previous generations did not think of food like this. The essential differences are the variety of foods available and how this affects public interests and tastes. Read some M.F.K. Fisher or watch some old Julia Child TV episodes for a quick education on how our forebears dealt with food when rudimentary nourishment was not a sole consideration.


That wasn't an objection. It was an oblique way of pointing out that food is also masturbation.
posted by srboisvert at 10:27 AM on April 6, 2017


I have so much to add to this thread but right now it's lunch and I have to prep the taco bowls then wash a bunch of dishes
posted by BitterOldPunk at 10:52 AM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


I was happy to see the word "privileged" in the comments above but strangely I can't seem to find: undocumented, immigrant, exploited, fired, harassment, poor, poverty, Latino/latina, "of color", workers, labor, dignity, or gratitude.
I guess it's all about the ambiance...


If you're eating practically any food in the U.S. it's thanks to the hands of immigrant labor, so you can't just selectively apply that argument to restaurant food.
posted by ultraviolet catastrophe at 11:03 AM on April 6, 2017 [12 favorites]


I can see that perspective. But for me, saying you can make this at home is basically an early red flag that this meal is not going to go well. This is based on my experience of having a lot of family meals and some friend meals where this was an opening remark that would be slow-building avalanche of complaints and criticism against every menu item, the service, the decor, the parking, and maybe sometimes even who you are dining with.

I believe this is called "yucking other people's yum." And it's rude, especially if you're not paying for the meal. Sure, you can feel like dining in a restaurant is a waste of time and money all you want, but sheesh, keep it to yourself, at least until you get home. Or just don't go.

Wet blankets tend to find their social lives suffering. Nobody likes a Compleat Complainer or a self-righteous lecturer.

One thing I do know I pay for when I go out to eat is no prep or clean-up. This can be a real biggie when dining at home. It's so nice to order the food and have it brought to you, and then someone else does the dishes, cleans the table, etc. If I could have a Rosie the Robot help with prep and cleanup at home, that would be a godsend, but so far, we haven't got much further than the Roomba.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 11:36 AM on April 6, 2017 [4 favorites]


Things like this where people use raw numbers and a shaky grasp of economics to make a point about "markup" and stuff grind my gears. Someone upthread mentioned the "Smartphones are only $X in parts!" example, and that's a good one, it also tends to be a plague on freelancers and creative types.

In my spare time, I make/design t-shirts, and any time people start asking about the individual prices of things ("Say, just out of curiosity, how much does a plain t-shirt cost? Hmm, ok, and how much does the ink cost? Interesting! So...) I know it's leading to this kind of "So, if I were to give you $x+y+z, you'd make a custom t-shirt for me, right?" Like they've "tricked" me with math somehow, and don't understand why they aren't being rewarded for their cleverness.
posted by Uther Bentrazor at 12:07 PM on April 6, 2017 [7 favorites]


"So, if I were to give you $x+y+z, you'd make a custom t-shirt for me, right?"

So, if I provide the mower and the gasoline, you'd mow my lawn for me, right?
posted by straight at 1:57 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


So, if I provided the zygote, you'd carry a child to full term for me?
posted by Chitownfats at 2:31 PM on April 6, 2017


I don't understand how the article is answering the question of whether I should get guacamole on my burrito.

I thought it was savvy application of Betteridge's law: of course not because both the limes and avacados that go in it are increasingly run by the cartels. I mean, unless you're going for "ironically woke" and get some camarones de los pescadores esclavos underneath.
posted by Ogre Lawless at 3:05 PM on April 6, 2017


The discussion about eating out vs. making the identical item at home for an assumed fraction of the price is very timely. This weekend, inspired by an instructional video my niece posted on Facebook, I made a homemade version of a Taco Bell Crunchwrap Supreme.

It was fun to make and gave me a nice sense of accomplishment when it more or less looked and tasted like the original. But I had to laugh when I realized it cost me $20+ to make an item that is $3.29 at the restaurant (I suppose you can argue that I can reuse some of the excess ingredients, but I'm unlikely to use the super extra large tortillas or large bag of tostada shells before they go bad).
posted by The Gooch at 4:02 PM on April 6, 2017 [2 favorites]


Serious Eats wrote an article sort of along the same lines that I found really interesting - Why Is My Vegan Entree as Expensive as the Meat? The whole article is worth reading, but in short, pricing accounts for labor and overhead, plus the menu as a whole has to make sense (e.g., it doesn't really work to have five dishes around $20 each and one dish at $4 or $75).
posted by insectosaurus at 4:42 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


There are two types of people reading this thread: people who've never working in restaurants, and people who immediately know which of the rest of you are shitty tippers.

Three actually.

There are also people reading this thread for whom tipping is a quaintly anachronistic ritual engaged in by foreigners.
posted by HiroProtagonist at 6:35 PM on April 6, 2017 [3 favorites]


To me part of the appeal of eating in a restaurant is the variety that all the diners can have without the inconvenience of having to make all of the dishes. I mean it is nice to not to have to clean up as well, but I'm a really good cook and know that I can make the dish as good or better than the restaurant will, but I'll only make one dish for everyone. It would be cheaper for me to make it as well, but what I'm paying for when we go out to eat is the ritual of having a meal, and the ability for each person to have something different and it not be a big deal. Otherwise you're always doing lowest common denominator cooking depending on the guests. Someone doesn't eat pork therefore all pork off the menu, but then someone is a vegetarian so all meat is off the ingredient list. Then there is a vegan so all milk and even honey are off the lists. Throw a coeliac into the mix and you've got to ensure that there is no gluten and then everyone is essentially eating beans for every meal, because that is the lowest common denominator. Beans are good, but I find it nicer to go out to a restaurant with a group so I can get what I want and they also can get what they want.
posted by koolkat at 1:09 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


If you can find a restaurant that can reliably serve anyone's taste from a full carnivore to vegan to a celiac patient then I applaud where you live and hope they franchise.
posted by hippybear at 3:51 AM on April 7, 2017 [1 favorite]


Restaurant industry business research shows you're better off spending more money in the restaurant industry. Film at 11.
posted by johnabbe at 3:21 PM on April 7, 2017


JFC even after reading all your comments and knowing what I was in for I could barely get past the first paragraph.

He posted a follow-up that's actually slightly less inane, in that it actually accounts for silly little things like utilities and labor costs instead of just hand-waving them away.
posted by aspersioncast at 1:14 PM on April 9, 2017


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