Everyone has a favorite economic gauge apart from the indicators from which the government and Alan Greenspan make their prognostications of the future. Long skirts, for example, are associated with bad economic times. And packed airplanes with boom periods.
One indicator some swear by is the increase over the last year or two in doggie-bag requests, even at upscale restaurants.
Now, the National Restaurant Association says, one in five who eat out are asking to wrap up their leftovers. And they take home even the smallest of portions. Restaurateurs blame the sagging economy, which they think has revived “waste not, want not” mindsets.
A more likely indicator in the restaurant trade emerges from an industry study that shows that for the first time since 1990 the average number of restaurant meals per person in the U.S. is down. In the 12 months ended in February, meals out slipped from 141 per capita to 137.
Still, that's not a worrisome drop, especially in light of the fact that Americans today are still eating out 15 times more a year than they did 10 years ago.
Taking home the leftovers is a far more complex proposition.
Fine dining costs big bucks largely because the portions served must be well beyond the appetite of average eaters to justify the price. After appetizers and a drink or two, there often isn't much room for the entr e.
The amount of food, combined with the appealing prospect of dining at home in one's jammies on high-end leftovers for a day or two, beats getting overstuffed in one sitting. Besides, doctors tell us that calories eaten at night are more likely to settle in.
Frugality isn't the issue. Not at all. It's quality of life. Don't look for good times to change the practice. Besides, the styrofoam industry needs the money.
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