Happy Friday everyone – today I’m talking about feeling ripped off at the restaurant, and the cost of a homemade breakfast versus eating out. The great thing about Friday is that you can start planning what you’ll be making for breakfast on Saturday. A few weeks ago I made some cinnamon rolls Friday night and put them in the fridge, so they could just rise & bake in the morning.
That same weekend, I happened to look at my local town Facebook page. The latest thing in my town is posting receipts from a breakfast diner that recently opened and complaining about the cost. Of course, why these people didn’t look at the prices online before going, I have no idea. Suburban entertainment, I guess.
Amazingly these posts are gathering hundreds of comments – some from people posting copies of their own receipt, others from people complaining about the people who are complaining, and some from people suggesting other restaurants that serve breakfast at more reasonable prices. Internet discussion at its finest!
Many of these people were talking about the cost to make a comparable breakfast at home. This gave me an idea. “Todd,” I said, “we should totally do a breakfast challenge on the website! It would be really interesting to see the real cost of eating out versus making food at home.” Since this is a subject I’ve tackled before in analyzing the cost of homemade cookies versus storebought, and in homemade pizza vs. pizza kits and takeout, I knew this was a job for CMO – Price Investigator.
Breakfast Challenge – The Menu
So what did I decide to make? For comparison purposes, I made a delicious all-out breakfast. Usually on the weekends breakfast is pretty simple – homemade muffins, pancakes, or waffles. But for this meal I decided to include some extras. All of this is made from scratch.
- Waffles, with real VT maple syrup (purchased on our road trip from Cabot)
- Fried potato cubes for the kids
- Potato pancakes for me & my husband
- Scrambled eggs
Breakfast Challenge – Time Breakdown
I made the whole breakfast while my husband was out mowing the lawn. I started when he went outside, and had finished by the time he got back inside. Total time was roughly an hour. Then we spent about 15 minutes eating, and another 10-15 minutes cleaning up. So overall the time to make, eat, and clean up the whole breakfast was roughly 1.5 hours.
In contrast, to drive to the restaurant would have taken about 15 minutes each way. Taking my three boys inside, waiting to be seated, waiting to order the food, waiting for the food to come, eating and leaving would have taken at least an hour. So I estimate the total time to be equal.
Bonus – at home I can do fun things to entertain the toddler, like let him play with the flour. At the restaurant he would have to sit in the high chair for an hour, and wait. If you’re a mom (or dad) you know how well two year olds sit patiently and wait. If you’re not a mom or dad, the correct response is not well at all.
Breakfast Challenge – The Cost
Here’s where things get interesting. This breakfast made enough food to feed all five of us, and make us so full we didn’t have lunch until 3 PM. So it was more of a brunch, really.
Total costs, in all their glory:
- $1.53 – Waffles
- $1.50 – Real VT maple syrup (purchased on our road trip from Cabot); made 9 waffles
- $0.50 – Fried potato cubes for the kids
- $1.45 – Potato pancakes with onion, cheese and chives for me & my husband; made 4 good sized pancakes
- $0.44 – Scrambled eggs; 4 eggs worth
- $1.00 – Bacon (nice, thick applewood smoked bacon); four pieces total
- $1.63 – Sausage; two and a half links
- $0.75 – Coffee; six tablespoons fresh beans ground and brewed in my French Press
- $1.33 – Incidentals like butter for cooking, oil for frying, salt, and pepper
- $0 – Chives from my garden for the potato pancakes
TOTAL COST…drum roll please – $10.16 for five people, or around $2.50 each.
And remember, this is a pricey brunch meal. Normal weekend meals might cost only $3 or so for coffee and waffles.
What would the cost be at the restaurant generating so much conversation in my towns Facebook page?
- $25.77 – It’s $8.59 for ONE plain waffle, but they’re big. So I’ve assumed one of the restaurants waffles equals three of my homemade ones, which is pretty generous.
- $5.96 – $1.49 PER ORDER for real VT maple syrup.
- $17.16 – Scrambled eggs; 4 eggs worth; plus home fries for everyone. Price includes toast, which I didn’t make or I would have exploded, because they don’t have any plain scrambled egg options. No delicious potato pancakes, alas
- $5.98 – Add on bacon for two people
- $5.98 – Add on sausage; likely not as big as the homemade
- $4 – Coffee; your usual diner coffee variety (watery, not so good)
Total of this comparable breakfast – $64.55.
But CMO, you’re thinking, this is a bit crazy. I can’t possibly eat that much food! So comparing it to the restaurant is a bit unfair.
OK, if we just said it’ll be waffles, syrup, and coffee for everyone (well, water for the kids and coffee for the adults), we’re still talking a cost of around $37. The cost to make just that for breakfast would be $3.78 for five people. So you’re paying ten times as much to eat out! It’s no wonder people in my town are complaining about the cost.
Usually, a profitable restaurant spends about 28%-35% of their earnings on the actual food. The other 65-75% goes to labor, overhead, and profit. That’s why eating out is so much more expensive than eating at home.
So Why Eat Out…Ever?
Don’t get me wrong – I love eating out once in a while. It’s a fun treat, you can get something different than usual, and you don’t have to clean up. My personal favorite food to eat out is food from Asia that I can’t make very well at home – Japanese, Thai, and Chinese cuisine (real Chinese food, not Americanized) come to mind. It’s not that I can’t make these at home, but I eat them rarely and I don’t typically have the ingredients on hand.
Sometimes you just want a break from cooking and the same old food – and that’s OK. Just make sure you’re not literally eating your financial future by choosing eating out over achieving your goals and dreams.
I Want To Hear From You!
What do you think about this difference in cost – do you see similar things in the restaurants in your town? Do you like to eat at home? Did this post make you hungry? Or do you just think it’s silly that a town page with 18,000 people on it complain about the high cost of eating out? Let me know in the comments!
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