Eating out is expensive, especially if you have a few drinks. The nicer restaurants run even higher in terms of price. I’ve been able to go to some very nice restaurants for special occasions, but most of the time through grad school, I was eating sandwiches from the school co-op food store for meals. After living by myself for a while, I still buy most of my meals as I eat them, instead of getting groceries, though I certainly get groceries more than I used to. Living in DC is not quite like NYC, but I can still scrounge up a meal nearby if I need to.
But these expensive meals. Yes, they use unique ingredients, and they are well-cooked. But are they marginally worth the large increase in price? Is the service so good that one enjoys a meal quantitatively better, as if as respite from a harsh day of mistreatment? Are there so many people paying for meals on corporate cards/on someone else’s dime that price is meaningless?
I do like to apply the Chipotle Theory to meals, when I go out. The theory is as such: am I enjoying this expensive meal, that I had to wait for the kitchen to cook, to deal with waiters and whatnot, more than I would just going to Chipotle and eating a $7 burrito?
Most restaurants can’t come close to equaling the happiness/dollar ratio that Chipotle has. Granted, some people don’t like Chipotle, and others require Chipotle-Away:
But I love Chipotle. And only a few places have been able to surpass Chipotle’s deliciousness for me.
It’s a simple test that you can apply to your dining experiences as well.
Come to think of it, maybe we need a new resource that will help us evaluate true economic utility of the goods and services we like to buy.