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Does eating out stink where you live?
Old 10-11-2008, 09:00 AM   #1
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Does eating out stink where you live?

I mentioned in the austerity thread that eating out seems to be a poor experience lately. Thought I'd part out this piece of the discussion.

We've noticed a couple of things in eating out lately. Prices are up ~20%. Food quality seems to have been lowered...gristly, fatty meat, stuff being removed from the plate or being charged extra for. I noticed some of the fast food joints took the drink machines back behind the counter so you cant get free refills.

We just ate out at an old mexican joint thats been around for 30 years, always decent food and cheap. First thing we noticed is that we got new menus with the prices raised 20%, and we didnt recognize any of the waitresses.

I ordered a combo plate and asked for crispy tacos. The waitress seemed confused and repeated it back to me while writing it down and then asked "Did you want us to cook them longer, is that what you mean by 'crispy'?"

Uh, yeah...you work in a mexican restaurant and dont know what a crispy taco is... :

Food stank. Awful. I had a shredded beef and shredded chicken taco, and neither had any seasoning at all. Tasted like boiled meat in a taco shell. My chili relleno was flat and had a cup of oil soaked into it. The rice and beans were dry and had no flavor at all.

Pretty much the experience we've had 8 out of the last 9 times we've eaten out. The only good meal we had was at one of the local vietnamese places.

Anyone else notice the 'cost cutting' at their local food places?

The good news is that this is making it easy to skip the expense of eating out....

In a similar vein, I've noticed that most of the people working in the grocery stores and at Costco dont look familiar anymore either. I wonder if they're cutting the expensive employees and hiring in cheaper new people.
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Old 10-11-2008, 09:22 AM   #2
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We don't go out to restaurants very often, but we do take-out once a weekend.

I haven't noticed quality going down, but the price increases are obvious. Entrees are up $1 to $1.50, a pizza dinner for the 4 of us is up $5 or $6. I'm the one who tries to get everyone to stay within the parameters of the coupon deals and they look at me like I'm being cheap. Well, if I didn't encourage cheapness no one else would.
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Old 10-11-2008, 09:30 AM   #3
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I'm in a big asian city and we are seeing similar things in some of the places serving lunch around the office. Prices up 10-20%, quality is down, and even a few have gone out of business. I began slowing down on eating lunch in restaurant about the beginning of the year, and rarely eat out at all now, preferring to brown bag it. We still go out about once or twice a month when we are here, but trying eat healthy inevitably means more home cooked meals...not a problem in my book.

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Old 10-11-2008, 09:42 AM   #4
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It's funny you bring this up - We went out for dinner last week at our favorite Mexican resturant - been there 10+ years same owners. The food was still very good but, the portions were at least 1/3 smaller and I saw a new message on the menu - "extra chip baskets cost $1.50". One of the reasons I like this resturant is that they have real good authentic red chili salsa - they used to bring out 2+ cups with the chips - now maybe a cup. The price of produce is becoming obvious.

We are going to our favorite Italian resturant tonight...........
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Old 10-11-2008, 09:50 AM   #5
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I'm "mister cheap" too. We almost always eat out only when I have a coupon or a discounted gift card. In case people hadnt noticed, Costco is selling a lot of gift cards for some local and regional chain restaurants for ~20% off. They have a $100 starbucks card for $79 if you've got that particular addiction.

The "Entertainment" books are also pretty good deals, although I'd go online and see what restaurants are in it for your area before buying. In our town there are a good dozen solidly decent restaurants and a ton of casual/fast food places. After about the halfway point of the books usable date range they often dump the books for $10-15.

Seems like the restaurants that are still decent in our area are the ethnic versions, primarily far east cuisine.

Our favorite "steal of a deal" is ordering vietnamese Pho to go. I hadnt tried this until a couple of years ago. All the vietnamese places near us will do it. The stock goes into a styrofoam soup container, and all the rest of the stuff...noodles, beef, sprouts, peppers, lime, etc...are all individually wrapped and go into a separate container. At home you heat the stock, put all the "stuff" into bowls and pour the stock over the top and let it steep.

An "extra large" feeds all three of us quite well for ~$7.50.
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Old 10-11-2008, 10:21 AM   #6
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We've had the opposite experience (disregarding prices rising over time). SO laughs and says that if you suddenly see new people cooking, you will be fine if they are Asian or Mexican/Spanish because they bother to learn their predecessor's recipes. There were favorite Italian places taken over by Koreans or Indians; and a French place by Chinese.

The French joint had been there for generations, we went mainly because they served until 11:00 p.m. when SO and I were working a lot of overtime. Around 10:30 they started preparing Chinese banquets for the staff and soon re-opened as upscale Chinese but would still cook a few French dishes for those of us freaked out by transitions.

One place didn't do so well just because the new owner didn't get to know the regulars; he would faun over alcoholics, logically thinking that that is where the profits are. But it put off us regulars who don't drink very much, we stopped going and there is no longer a 45-minute wait to get a booth.

We rarely ate out when I was a child so for me it is a very special rebellious taboo luxury rather than something for watching the pennies.

I find the portions too big almost everywhere I go. Maybe it's cost effective to go a little higher on the price scale and take some of it home?
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Old 10-11-2008, 10:27 AM   #7
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I dont mind the bigger portions if you can make two meals out of it by taking it home.

My coup of the month was going out to the local bbq joint with a 2:1 coupon on the "kids eat free" day. We got three variety platters, took most of it home and ended up getting 3 meals out of it for all three of us, for $14.
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Does eating out stink where you live?
Old 10-11-2008, 11:46 AM   #8
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Does eating out stink where you live?

Not at all!! Quite the opposite. Food in New Orleans is still wonderful. Restaurants have begun to offer at least one or two healthy selections too, if one simply insists on a reasonable lifespan. But the other stuff... mmm...

Last night we went to a new restaurant. Actually, it is one that Frank has been to many times but not for about 20 years. This is a restaurant on a small street right in the middle of a residential neighborhood (must have been grandfathered in when zoning was first imposed), and is pretty much unknown to anyone but regulars.

Due to market events I threw health and caution to the winds, to just this once eat my sorrows away. I ordered the chicken parmesan and a more heavenly dish has never been created. I truly think it was the best chicken parmesan I have ever had in my life. Frank ordered the stuffed shrimp. Both came with salads first, and we also had all the hot buttered fresh-baked French bread we could eat. The wait staff acted, and was dressed, as in expensive restaurants and was polite, competent, swift, and helpful. The others dining there were delightful old New Orleanians, for the most part. The atmosphere was great, with real linen napkins and tablecloths, low lights, and beautiful floor to ceiling antique woodwork and paintings.

Total bill for two? $28

The portions are too big in most restaurants here, too. I wish we could order half a portion, since it is difficult to have enough self control to stop half way through and get a to-go box. Often Frank and I split a meal between us, and cope with the problem that way.
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:15 PM   #9
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I have noticed the higher prices and lower food quality too, especially at my favorite Thai restaurant. The beef used to be lean and tender, now it's tough and fatty. And prices have gone up 20% since last year. But it's OK, we eat out less than once a month.
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:22 PM   #10
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I generally eat out only when a financial planner throws a free gig at the Outback or simular eatery nearby my place. The price is still the same, but the entertainment err presentation, seems to be more conservative recently.
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:31 PM   #11
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Eating out is still good. Prices have gone up on a couple items. Service is still fine.
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:33 PM   #12
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I took a woman out for a drink and lunch Thursday- I really needed a nice break from getting my head pounded in the markets.

It was great, the service personal and attentive, the food and drinks v.g.

I mostly go back to the same places where I have always liked it, and try to get to know the manager and waitstaff.

Ha
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:34 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by cute fuzzy bunny View Post
Our favorite "steal of a deal" is ordering vietnamese Pho to go.
I agree, and the nice thing about pho is that the meat in it isn't edible by any other standard, so the price hasn't gone up. But for some mysterious far east reason, it tastes great in the pho.

I do agree about the quality/quantity changes in restaurants. But it's not limited to eating out. I actually first detected the changes in, of all places, the cans of dog food we use. It's Mighty Dog, and I saw them making a major marketing push about changing from yellow cans to blue ones. Big deal. But when we started getting the blue ones there was more juice and less meaty stuff in it. I bought more of the yellow ones that were still on the shelf and did an unscientific measure by eye. There was probably 20% less meat in the blue cans. Of course, the yellow are off the shelves now.

I also noticed the same thing in things like cereal boxes and other grocery items. They have decreased the size while keeping the prices the same. It annoys me, but I can appreciate the cleverness of it from a marketing POV. Maybe now that oil and food prices are dropping and we're all going broke they'll up the amounts and quality again, and we can all get a good crispy taco.
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Old 10-11-2008, 12:41 PM   #14
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Other than prices up we haven't noticed a change, but we eat out maybe twice a month at most.
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Old 10-11-2008, 01:09 PM   #15
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Harley - I call that "invisible inflation" and there are a couple of older threads on it.

Some beer comes in 11 oz bottles, our canned dog food kept dropping an ounce or so at a time and I noticed the extra liquid as well. Used to have to gouge it out of the can with a spoon, now I can shake it and pour it out.

Entenmanns donuts used to be a dozen for a little under $4. Now its 8 donuts for the same price.

Somewhere along the line, a "pound" of coffee became 12 oz and now I'm seeing some 10 and 8 oz packages that used to be 12.

But maybe the shrink-sizing will be good for us. A couple of weeks ago I watched the old war movie "Midway" (yes, thats Erik Estrada with a speaking role near the end) and got a chuckle out of their drinks. Everyone drinking a coke had what looked like about an 8 ounce bottle...comically small. And when they went out for cocktails the mixed drinks were in little glasses that werent much bigger than a shot glass. They had to wince every time they took a sip, which leads me to believe that alcohol was far more potent in the 70's.

Its amazing how much things got "supersized" over the years. No wonder we're all fat.
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Old 10-11-2008, 01:35 PM   #16
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Harley - I call that "invisible inflation" and there are a couple of older threads on it.

Some beer comes in 11 oz bottles, our canned dog food kept dropping an ounce or so at a time and I noticed the extra liquid as well. Used to have to gouge it out of the can with a spoon, now I can shake it and pour it out.

Entenmanns donuts used to be a dozen for a little under $4. Now its 8 donuts for the same price.

Somewhere along the line, a "pound" of coffee became 12 oz and now I'm seeing some 10 and 8 oz packages that used to be 12.

But maybe the shrink-sizing will be good for us. A couple of weeks ago I watched the old war movie "Midway" (yes, thats Erik Estrada with a speaking role near the end) and got a chuckle out of their drinks. Everyone drinking a coke had what looked like about an 8 ounce bottle...comically small. And when they went out for cocktails the mixed drinks were in little glasses that werent much bigger than a shot glass. They had to wince every time they took a sip, which leads me to believe that alcohol was far more potent in the 70's.

Its amazing how much things got "supersized" over the years. No wonder we're all fat.
Yeah, even the beer I'm drinking has shrunk. No wait.........burp.
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Old 10-11-2008, 03:48 PM   #17
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We are fortunate in that there are lots of "reasonable" - not fantastic restaurants where we live. However, a while back Rubio's changed their menu from offering free chips with every meal to making them an extra.

One thing I did notice is things do seem quieter when we do eat out. We went to Roy's during the week, normally the bar would be full and you would not be able to get a table without a reservation. At 6.30 p.m. there was only 1 other couple in the bar, and for the duration of our meal there were plenty of spare tables. A lot of the occupied tables did seem to be filled with business people eating on an expense account. To me this is a sign of things to come.

All things considered I am happy for restaurants to reduce portion sizes and hopefully help fight obesity and the wastage that happens.
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Old 10-11-2008, 05:19 PM   #18
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We've noticed a couple of things in eating out lately. Prices are up ~20%. Food quality seems to have been lowered...gristly, fatty meat, stuff being removed from the plate or being charged extra for. I noticed some of the fast food joints took the drink machines back behind the counter so you cant get free refills.
Anyone else notice the 'cost cutting' at their local food places?
Well, first off, you know enough about cooking to be able to tell the difference. Our average Family Nords dining-out experience, a couple times a month, is best described as "pearls before swine".

Second, Costco has been charging us $10.95 for that cheese pizza for as long as we can remember... at least three years and probably longer.

Third, although our favorite Thai restaurant (Thai Kitchen in Waipahu) has changed owners to the new generation and cut back on their space, they're still under $25 for a humongous take-out lunch. The new owner has some of her own ideas and now their catering business is huge. So maybe their volume is holding down their unit costs.

Fourth: same experience at Bravo's Restaurant in Aiea. But as you may already have alluded, after a closer examination I've concluded that they tend to favor hiring the younger/hotter waitresses.

I think Hawaii has enough restaurants that the owners can't easily get away with passing price increases on to their customers.
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Old 10-11-2008, 05:53 PM   #19
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The Feet family has been cooking at home for many years now--one way to control the quality and quantity of what one eats. The only time I eat out, is when the office goes out for lunch. I am seeing a steady rise in lunch menu prices, not surprising considering the restaurants' costs (materials, insurance, rent) are rising. Haven't noticed a drop in quality of food; meanwhile, service in these big-box lunch warehouses never was anything to write home about.

Ice cream that used to come in half a gallon cartons is now 1.5 quarts. Ice cream manufacturers also love to pump lots of air into their product and call it "lower fat" or "twice-churned," and pretend it is so you will have healthier ice cream. I recognize a scam when I see one.

Meanwhile, I would like to pose a respectful question. Posters in the ER forum seem to be very independent thinkers compared with the general population, and I often see posters advocating self-control with regard to spending, LBYM, delayed gratification, not using credit, etc. In this thread, a couple folks have connected portion sizes in restaurants--maybe humorously--with obesity. It puzzles me how people with the smarts and discipline to retire early, can blame anything other than genes and personal behavior for obesity? Putting more on the plate would cause my dog to eat more, but I, a human, stop when I'm full, and ask for a doggy bag for the rest. Kind of like not buying that big-screen TV, because we are saving for FIRE. As far as I'm concerned, a smaller portion of food just means less left over for next time.
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Old 10-11-2008, 06:19 PM   #20
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Not at all!! Quite the opposite. Food in New Orleans is still wonderful. Restaurants have begun to offer at least one or two healthy selections too, if one simply insists on a reasonable lifespan. But the other stuff... mmm...

Last night we went to a new restaurant. Actually, it is one that Frank has been to many times but not for about 20 years. This is a restaurant on a small street right in the middle of a residential neighborhood (must have been grandfathered in when zoning was first imposed), and is pretty much unknown to anyone but regulars.

Due to market events I threw health and caution to the winds, to just this once eat my sorrows away. I ordered the chicken parmesan and a more heavenly dish has never been created. I truly think it was the best chicken parmesan I have ever had in my life. Frank ordered the stuffed shrimp. Both came with salads first, and we also had all the hot buttered fresh-baked French bread we could eat. The wait staff acted, and was dressed, as in expensive restaurants and was polite, competent, swift, and helpful. The others dining there were delightful old New Orleanians, for the most part. The atmosphere was great, with real linen napkins and tablecloths, low lights, and beautiful floor to ceiling antique woodwork and paintings.

Total bill for two? $28

The portions are too big in most restaurants here, too. I wish we could order half a portion, since it is difficult to have enough self control to stop half way through and get a to-go box. Often Frank and I split a meal between us, and cope with the problem that way.
Hmmm - pre Katrina, Italian, upstairs, not too far from Elysian Fields and Gentilly.

The name escapes me. Probably isn't there anymore.

heh heh heh - she says they are dogging it on soft shell crab Po-Boys around town - the competition needs to step up for the good old days. Prices have drifted up here in KC and I'm not enough of a BBQ expert to do other than eat - may get picky later.
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