A sign of major imbalance in an unhealthy society?


This report makes troubling reading.

Restaurants continued to increase their share of spending in April, reaching 54.9% of the food dollar, according to U.S. Census data released Tuesday.

That was a 260-basis-point increase from April last year, when the share was 52.3%, said analyst Mark Kalinowski, president and CEO of New Jersey-based Kalinowski Equity Research LLC.

“Even more impressively, as best as we can tell, this 54.9% market share figure for April 2022 is an all-time monthly high for the U.S. restaurant industry,” Kalinowski said in a note released Tuesday about the April U.S. Census data.

. . .

“If you need to eat — and I haven’t yet met the person who didn’t need to eat — you have got to buy the food from some place unless you’re growing it yourself or you have a neighbor who grows it,” he said. “The fact is the restaurant industry offers a lot of convenience. It offers experiences that the grocery stores can’t match.

“It is so firmly a part of the American fabric now that Americans don’t necessarily want to cut their restaurant spending,” Kalinowski said.

There’s more at the link.

Why is it troubling, you ask?

  1. A “restaurant”, for the purposes of the report, is any place that sells or serves food outside the home.  A fast-food joint like a McDonalds, Burger King or Wendy’s is considered as much a “restaurant” as an Appleby’s, Red Lobster or Chili’s (or, for that matter, a fine dining establishment).  Trouble is, the food at most such outlets is carb-laden, oil-soaked and salt-sodden, to name only a few pitfalls.  It’s tasty, sure, but it’s also far less healthy than it should or could be.
  2. It’s also far more expensive to buy a burger, or a plate of pasta, or whatever, at a restaurant than it would be to make it at home.  I reckon a family may spend four or five times as much to buy the dish elsewhere than to cook it themselves – and in a time of tight budgets and rising prices, that makes no economic sense at all.  Even worse, more and more current expenditure appears to have been charged to credit cards, rather than paid for out of disposable income – a very dangerous state of financial affairs.  Sooner or later, those bills will fall due.  What happens if they can’t be paid?
  3. It may not make economic sense, but it may make the best use of a family’s time to eat out rather than cook.  We’re so busy these days, what with work, commuting, etc. that many simply don’t have time to prepare a meal at leisure, then sit down and enjoy it together, then help each other clean up.  The restaurant is an obvious way out of that – but it also illustrates how poor some families may be in the time it takes to hold that family together, to build, maintain and sustain “the ties that bind“.  In that sense, this over-reliance on restaurant food may be a harbinger of much more serious societal problems.  That’s made even worse by the fact that individual family members may go to different restaurants or fast-food joints, at different times, to get their food:  or they may order it delivered to their respective tastes.  The shared experience is absent.
  4. In the “old days”, housewives used to take pride in their ability to cook appetizing meals for their families.  When I was in my teens, the girls at high school used to take (compulsory) “home economics” classes for the equivalent of Grades 8-10, and could take it all the way to Grade 12 if they wished.  The boys took woodwork (or what American schools called “shop”) instead.  The “sexual revolution” and women’s rights movements have done away with all that.  Modern girls would probably find it degrading to be “discriminated against” by such “old-fashioned” and “patriarchal” classes.  They may be right:  but it also means that a central core of the traditional family is conspicuous by its absence.  There’s an old saying that “The family that prays together, stays together”.  It might equally well have read, “The family that eats together, stays together”.  Sadly, today neither practice is commonplace – and it shows in the crumbling, almost moribund institution of our families.
  5. Remember what happened to supermarkets in the early days of the COVID-19 lockdowns?  They couldn’t get enough essential supplies to deal with the sudden, vast increase in demand from consumers who were suddenly unable to go to work, restaurants and the like.  Restaurant supply chains shut down, because they had no market to service, while retail supply chains choked on the sudden increase in demand.  That’s changed for now – in part because all supply chains are beset with problems at the moment – but it could happen again in another emergency.  Are we any better prepared to deal with it?  I doubt it.  What will happen if those who rely on restaurant meals can’t get them any more?
  6. In a real emergency, when little or no food may be available for an extended period, how many families have reserve supplies to cope with that?  If they mostly rely on restaurants to eat, the odds are they won’t have much food at home.  Even if they do, how many of them know how to safely preserve and cook their reserves?  I know some people who’d burn water if they tried to boil it.  I shudder to think how they’d flambée fry eggs, or char cook bacon, or incinerate roast a chicken!
  7. Last, but by no means least, what about all those people who rely on restaurants to earn their daily bread?  Wait staff, cleaners, bartenders, cooks, delivery drivers (for both raw materials and meals ordered for delivery) . . . they almost all lost their jobs or were furloughed during the COVID-19 crisis.  The odds are very good that they’ll suffer the same fate if there’s another interruption to the restaurant trade, for whatever reason.  Uneasy lies the head that wears the cook’s hat?  If not, it should!

Those are just a few of the things that come to mind on reading that report.  I’m sure there are others.  I can’t help but think that this is a potentially dangerous imbalance, and thus a very unhealthy state of affairs.



  1. It was the mid to late 1970's when my Jr High (now Middle) school began putting boys into Home Economics (with functioning kitchens!) and girls into shop class. Both were removed a long time ago. The one biggest takeaway from that class was that a Tablespoon was the 'big' one, after getting it mixed up with teaspoons when making cookies.

    It would be helpful if the statistic was broken down by family income. I honestly don't eat out much because it is expensive, and I'm not exactly poor.

    1. In HS I took Home Ec. I also took wood, metal, and auto shops. I took wood and metal shops in Jr High.

  2. Another question about the statistic is this: What percentage of "eat out" people are child-less (or grandparents)? We don't eat out much, and when we do, we have no children at home to drag along.

  3. Until Covid and the gross money printing, it was almost as cheap to eat out to a point as it was to bother cooking. I liked Golden Corral buffet and would make it a point to grab the good stuff like the beef pot roast and what I considered the good stuff since it would cost me more to make that at home.

    Even the prepared salads and such at the grocery store were not a bad deal.

    Breakfast has always been cheaper to have at home.

  4. I am surprised missed here is the expansive welfare system. Fastfood joints advertise that EBT (WIC, inclusive) are accepted by the restaurant.

    What percentage of the restaurant take is EBT transactions?
    This would be a metric, or condemnation if so inclined, of the fed programs of 'free money'.

  5. As to point #3, I call BS. Well I remember working 16 hour days when I started a business during a depression. Yet still, me being single, was able to prepare and cook breakfast and dinner at my abode. And care for my dog.
    We all have the same amount of hours in a day. Many folks are poor at managing their time. I am not great myself but I have learned the requsite attitude for organizing.

  6. I was recently looking through an on-line copy of my high school yearbook from back in the 70's in Texas for the first time in many years on the occasion of the untimely death of a Homecoming Queen at age 64. I don't really live in the past too much. There was actually an extra curricular club called "Future Homemakers of America". I had forgotten about that. They'd put you in prison if you tried to start that today.

  7. I recall reading that most EBT users use fast food restaurants for all their meals. They don't stock food at home. When the card system stops working, the card holders will be responding very quickly. A few yeas back, it appeared that a test was run, where the cards stopped working for maybe a day. Riots ensued. That system was quickly restored to functionality.

  8. Eat out now, this is in many ways your best chance to enjoy the luxury for at least several years.

    The difference between a fast food and a decent meal establishments is fairly small (fast food is expensive) – do it right and go to a nice place with your loved one(s)

    My dad taught me to cook and sew, he was prior military and both skills were necessary when I joined and frankly through my whole life. He also taught me to work on a car and plenty of other skills. Point is today neither sex of kids can cook, change a tire, saw a board, hammer a nail, wire a light, fix a toilet, etc. Sexual equality means both sexes are ignorant and unable to take care of themselves or each other.

  9. My kid just finished high school last week, so I have to talk past tense I suppose now. That's a change.
    My wife and I like cooking, luckily, and our son enjoys it as well. Now that we're older, we don't eat much processed food, and since I'm at sea half the year, I prefer eating real food in my house. Plus, being cheap, it keeps me from getting crabby.

    When we have visitors at my house, I know that it's seen as quaint that we don't watch TV during meals and there are no cell phones used at the table. I also don't accept disposable dinnerware in my kitchen. I don't give a damn if I'm eating a hot dog on a piece of wonder bread, I'm eating on a real plate, and using proper silverware if required (and often if not required. Brazilians eat pizza with a knife and fork. They're odd people and my wife gives me that look if I fold a slice in half and stuff it in my maw).
    You make time, that's my answer, even if you're just eating a frozen pizza, you try to move heaven and earth to eat together if at all possible. We hear the same stuff from friends and relatives "Oh, that's so nice! We should do that!" They never do, though.
    I have friends whose kids have these whole extensive secret lives, and the parents have no idea. I know, though, since the kids eat at my table sometimes.
    I think it's one of those things, like teaching kids to shoot, or giving teenagers cups of well-watered wine on the holidays, that serve as a general good on multiple levels and that have fallen out of practice to great detriment of those involved.

  10. If you go back to ancient cities like Rome, most people did not eat at home. The plebs ate out – homes were just for sleeping.

  11. Proud member of the small crew who took both shop and home economics. Learned to do wood working, metal work, metal casting, welding, sewing, baking, and budgeting. Connecticut public school system late 70's, early 80's. Then the Department of Education was created and things have gone downhill since, with "social" media pushing things faster.

    My son didn't learn any of that in middle or high school, but he had a semester long class on being a good "digital citizen."

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