Is the Low Cost of Fast Food Worth the Price?

The eternal debate over whether it’s cheaper to stay at home and prepare your own food versus going out to a restaurant does not appear to have lost any ground. In fact, the rise of online social networking usage among Americans has only managed to propagate the flames of discussion. Food and money are two of the most talked-about topics in the social media realm. People love to share their thoughts about the intersection of culinary and monetary topics.

General wisdom has always championed the art of saving money by staying home. The rationale behind this belief mostly applies to Western nations where free market philosophies and capitalism have taken root. It makes sense to think this way since it can be assumed that, as a business enterprise, a restaurant solely exists to make money by luring hungry people out of their homes. A family of four can stay home and enjoy a lovingly prepared pasta dinner instead of heading out to Luigi’s. In this case, Luigi has clearly not made any money from that family, but it doesn’t mean the family has not spent any money at all.

A tenet shared by many restaurateurs is that, in order to break even, a menu must price its meals items at least 300 percent higher than the cost of acquiring the recipe ingredients. That means that if a pasta dinner for four at Luigi’s is priced at $32, Chef Luigi must have spent less than $10 on ingredients if he stands to make any profit. We know that Chef Luigi buys bulk ingredients from distributors, therefore, he gets much better prices than a family shopping for groceries at a supermarket.

Surely a family can buy enough ingredients to prepare pasta for four under $32, thus tilting the scale of the argument in favor of staying home, but this doesn’t take into account several aspects of cooking at home. Just like Chef Luigi has overhead expenses to worry about, so does the family cooking at home. There are energy costs to consider, like driving to the grocery store and powering the electric or gas stove. Then there is the cost of maintaining the kitchen, which is basically tantamount to maintaining an adequate roof over the head of the family. Is it then really cheaper to stay at home and cook?

A large social media contingent likes to point out that major fast-food chains are able to keep some of their menu items on sale for less than one dollar, while there aren’t too many items that can be purchased at the supermarket for under a dollar. This contingent explains that mindset: Instead of staying home or going to Luigi’s, a family could save a lot by going to their local fast-food franchise. Unfortunately, fast foods are rarely healthy alternatives, however.

High food and energy prices tend to affect families more than established businesses like Luigi’s. Giant fast-food chains are more adept at doing business than Chef Luigi. But for all the corporate moxie that fast-food conglomerates practice, they can’t beat the cheerful experience of sitting down with family to enjoy a home-cooked dinner.

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