Sunday, October 4, 2015

Eating In and Eating Out

Weird things resonate with students. Professors are always looking for ideas that are “sticky” (to use the terminology popularized by Malcom Gladwell in The Tipping Point).

In Spring 2015, one of the sticky ideas was that spending on eating out has grown faster than spending on eating in, basically forever, so that now the amount we spend on either category is about the same.

Oops. That result was premature. So let me backtrack.

There is a comparison for which eating in and eating out are equal. Except that “eating in” has a pretty tight definition, and “eating out” has a pretty expansive one.

The figure quoted as “eating in” was for grocery store sales only. It did not include food bought at warehouse clubs, supercenters, or pharmacies. It doesn’t even include standalone retailers like bakers and butchers. Face palm.

The figure for “eating out” is more reasonable. But it’s not just restaurants. It’s caterers too. And bars (presumably it is counting just the food sold at bars, but it isn’t just Applebees). And it also counts contractors … like food service for SUU students (who may not really be able to cook much in their dorm rooms).

Anyway, yes, “eating out” is growing, but it’s more than just restaurants. And “eating in” is growing more slowly, but a lot of that is because we don’t go to Lin’s and Smith’s as much as we used to (or the Albertson’s, or Safeway’s that used to be located in Cedar City).

Read more about this in the article entitled “Don’t Believe the Hype: Eating In Still Tops Eating Out” in the May 15 issue of the The Wall Street Journal.

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