September 6, 2020

Cost of Eating Out vs Cooking at Home

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Here's some food for thought: A restaurant meal is roughly 5x as expensive as the same meal prepared at home.

If the same meal is cooked from a subscription meal kit, it's 3x as much.

As much as we love eating out, the amount spent on restaurant food can add up quickly.

Here are the surprising statistics on the cost of eating out vs. eating at home, including breakfast, lunch, dinner and drinks. Find out how much eating out is costing you below.

Cost of Eating Out Statistics

  • In 2018, a typical American spent almost half of total food expenses on eating out - roughly $3,500 per year.

  • In 2018, eating out accounted for roughly 25% of ones' basic shelter expenses.

  • A meal from scratch can cost almost 5x more when purchased from a restaurant than if it were cooked at home and 3x more when using a meal kit.

  • A typical US consumer spends roughly the same amount on dinner as all other meals (and nonalcoholic drinks) combined.

  • 50% of consumers report buying dinner out each week, compared to 53% of consumers who eat lunch out each week.

  • Dinner is the most expensive meal when dining out, costing $50 on average. Lunch costs $34, breakfast/brunch costs and snacks cost $13.

  • Almost 1 in 3 adults consume fast food on a given day.

  • About 42% of consumers buy lunches from fast food establishments on a weekly basis.

  • Dinner at a full-service restaurant costs roughly $64.

  • A survey in 2018 reveals that US diners spend an average of $36.50 per person at a restaurant.

  • On average, diners spend $5 for a meal at a fast food restaurant and $12 for a meal at a fast casual restaurant.

  • Couples spend 1.5x more than singles at fast-food restaurants and 2.5x more than singles at full-service restaurants.

  • Weekly food costs for children age 11 and under range from $22.80 to $38.00 for a thrifty plan and $42.20 to $76.10 for a liberal plan.

  • Weekly food costs for males age 12 and up range from $40.70 to $45.10 for a thrifty plan and $83.20 to $89.70 for a liberal plan.

  • Weekly food costs for females age 12 and up range from $38.60 to $40.40 for a thrifty plan and $73.00 to $79.30 for a liberal plan.

  • Couples under 50 typically spend between $93.50 to $185.90 on food each week.

  • Couples over 50 typically spend between $88.90 to $115.00 on food each week.

  • Americans over 65 typically dine at full-service restaurants for breakfast, brunch or lunch.

  • Restaurants generally charge customers 5x the face value of a beverage.

  • Fine dining restaurants usually markup wine about 200% of its original cost.

  • Food establishments typically mark up their food at least 300% of the original ingredient cost. (So, a restaurant meal costing $15 would cost $5 to make from
    scratch.)

  • Restaurants markup alcoholic beverages as much as 20x the amount of the beverage's face value.

  • Regular coffee from an establishment is typically marked up 5x more than the actual cost.

    Don't let the restaurant menu price fool you…
    For a single meal, the price charged at a restaurant appears to be less expensive: The total cost of ingredients needed for a homemade meal is higher for two-thirds of the analyzed dishes (pizza and hamburgers being the exceptions.)

    However, when we break the homemade price down by cost per serving instead of the total cost, the data tells a different story.

    Comparing a single-serving restaurant meal to a single serving homemade meal shows that cooking meals at home can save up to $9 per meal (depending on the dish). (Datafiniti, 2016)

  • Frequent home cooking substantially reduces eating-out expenses without significant increases whereas frequent eating out does not substantially reduce at home food expenses while significantly increased away from home food expenses.

  • More-frequent home-cooked dinners are associated with higher-quality diets at no extra cost. By contrast, frequent meals away from home are associated with lower-quality diets and higher self-reported food expenses.

  • The percentage of adults who consumed fast food increased with increasing family income.

  • Americans typically dine out 5.9 times per week for main meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner).

  • There is a higher chance of eating out with more members in a household.

  • There is a strong link between money spent on eating out and lack of time.

Cost of Eating Out Statistics (with Source)

How Much Couples, Kids, & Seniors Spend on Food

  • Americans over 65 typically dine at full-service restaurants usually for breakfast/brunch and lunch. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020)
  • Singles would spend more than a male or female as part of a couple at a fast food restaurant but less at a full service restaurant. (US Bureau of Labor Statistics, 2020)
  • Weekly food expense for children aged 1 to 11 ranges from $22.80 to $38.00 for a thrifty plan and $42.20 to $76.10 for a liberal plan. (USDA, 2020)
  • Weekly food expense for males aged 12 onwards ranges from $40.70 to $45.10 for a thrifty plan and $83.20 to $89.70 for a liberal plan. (USDA, 2020)
  • Weekly food expense for females aged 12 onwards ranges from $38.60 to $40.40 for a thrifty plan and $73.00 to $79.30 for a liberal plan. (USDA, 2020)
  • Weekly food expense for young couples under 50 ranges from $93.50 to $185.90 (USDA, 2020)
  • Weekly food expense for young couples above 50 ranges from $88.90 to $115.00 (USDA, 2020)
  • There is a higher chance of eating away from home with more members in a household. (Sanjeevi et al., 2019)

Restaurant Mark-Up Statistics

  • Restaurants generally charge customers 5 times the amount of the beverage cost so if you're buying a $5 draft beer, it probably costs a dollar wholesale. On the other hand, fine dining restaurants would have a lower markup for wine bottles, usually about 200% or twice the amount its original price. (Restaurant Report, 2020)
  • As a rule of thumb, food establishments typically mark up their food items at least 300% or sell at three times the amout of ingredient cost. A restaurant meal of $15 costs $5 dollars to make from scratch. (RestaurantOwner.com, 2020)
  • Alcoholic beverages at restaurants can cost as high as twenty times the amount of the beverage cost when purchasing bar consumables or as low as two times the amount when purchasing bottles of wine. (RestaurantOwner.com, 2020)
  • Regular coffee purchased from an establishment usually costs 5 times more than the actual cost. (RestaurantOwner.com, 2020)
  • The more time constraints a person has, the more likely the consumer will opt for convenience foods. (Garcia, M. et al., 2018)
  • Consumers who frequently eat out generally spend more on food. (Tiwari, A. et el., 2018)

Facts on Eating Out, Income & Cooking

  • Frequent home cooking substantially reduces away from home expenses without a significant increase in at home food expenses whereas frequent eating out does not substantially reduce at home food expenses while significantly increased away from home food expenses. (Tiwari, A. et el., 2018)
  • More-frequent home-cooked dinners were associated with higher-quality diets at no extra cost. By contrast, frequent meals away from home were associated with lower-quality diets and higher self-reported food expenditures. (Tiwari, A. et el., 2018)
  • Almost 1 in 3 adults consume fast food on a given day. (CDC, 2018)
  • The percentage of adults who consumed fast food increased with increasing family income. (CDC, 2018)
  • A meal from scratch can cost almost five times more when purchased from a restaurant and three times more when using a meal kit. (Priceonomics, 2018)
  • Americans typically dine out 5.9 times per week for the main meals. (Zagat, 2018)
  • A survey in 2018 reveals that US diners spend and average of $36.50 per person at a restaurant. (Zagat, 2018)
  • On average, a consumer would spend $5 on a meal at a fast food establishment and $12 on a meal at a fast casual establishment. (Franchise Help, 2020)
  • There is a strong link between expenditures on food away from home and the lack of time. (Sanjeevi et al., 2019)

Bottom Line

There's nothing wrong with eating out - we all feel like some tasty take-out from time to time. Just be sure you know the cost involved.

And if you're looking to cut down on food expenses, your kitchen is the perfect place to start, so get cooking!

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