A lot has changed over the years, and one of the more noticeable changes that we as Americans have experienced is changes in our eating habits. Less and less people are dining out at restaurants for a variety of reasons and more and more people are eating at home and cooking for themselves.
With the rise in this dining trend, consumers have been looking for easy-to-prepare meal options that are both tasty and fun to cook. We’ll take a look at how dining out costs have risen exponentially and how other fun and delicious options have popped up.
Impact of Rising Restaurant Costs
Everything is going up in costs and dining out at restaurants is no exception. Driven by rising food costs and labor expenses, a standard dinner for two without any alcoholic beverages averages to over $50 now! This huge increase in the cost of eating out seems to be permanent and may cause many families to reconsider how often and when they eat out.
Even those who used to enjoy a simple Friday night out have cut back on their restaurant expenses. Many regular people just don’t see the value that the restaurant experience used to bring and they feel that they are better off cooking something fun at home rather than dealing with the hassle of eating mediocre food that doesn’t fully satisfy.
It’s essential to equip your kitchen with a cookware set that combines quality, convenience, and affordability.
The Rise of Eating at Home
The Covid 19 pandemic combined with a sub-par restaurant experience has caused many would-be diners to explore other options. One option that has often been overlooked in the past due to its reputation of low quality was frozen foods.
Many people would think of frozen food options or quick, easily prepared meals to be simple foods like chicken nuggets or sandwiches, but those days are over, and the frozen food revolution is upon us.
Frozen meal options have come a long way, with advancements in freezing technology and the sourcing of high-quality ingredients, leading to an increased appeal amongst those who would have previously stuck their noses to this style of eating.
Retailers like Costco have played a significant role in providing gourmet frozen food offerings that meet the demands of modern lifestyles, offering both convenience and culinary excellence.
Increasing the Quality of Frozen Meals and Entrees
The frozen food industry has changed dramatically over the years, and is hoping to leave its reputation as boring, child food behind. There are still many of the big brands who produce mediocre food offerings, but there are also new players in the game who are revolutionizing the industry.
The demand for heat and eat food is there and many companies are looking to capitalize on this new desire for gourmet food at home. Brands now are focused on sourcing high-quality foods and creating perfect cooking directions so the food can be enjoyed at home.
These new companies have to find the balance between costs, taste, and convenience, which can be tricky with meals that have to be frozen and stored in freezers until it’s time to consume them.
Costco’s Frozen Food and Value
As you can imagine, the new wave of frozen entree products isn’t going to come cheap. If you are looking for high-quality ingredients and tasty well seasoned food that is prepared by chefs, then you will have to pay a price for it.
Many times, grocery stores like Trader Joe’s or sell these individual frozen meals for $8-$10 per person. While still cheaper than eating out at restaurants, it’s not exactly the cheapest meal either.
This is where wholesales such as Costco or Sam’s Club come into play. These wholesalers are known for bulk items and affordable prices. And, thanks to the trend of gourmet or high-quality frozen food options, these retailers have also started to include higher-quality options than they have in the past.
Gone are the days when you would only find cardboard like frozen pizza or dinosaur chicken nuggets; now you will find exciting meals such as chicken tikka masala, marinated salmon filets, or even tonkotsu ramen imported from Japan.
Culinary Excellence Is the New Norm
Many retailers have noticed the trend and are trying to capitalize anyway they can. Both Whole Foods and Costco have partnered with some of the top-of-the-line companies who provide these freezer meals to meet consumer demand.
These companies are battling for market share, and we should be thankful, because the winner is us, the consumer. Costco has been known for its frozen food options for a while, but they have upped their game significantly over the past year as other grocery retailers have entered the fray.
The end result is the same affordability as we have had in the past when it comes to freezer meal offerings, but the quality has risen dramatically. The quality of these meals is so great that some websites even rank the frozen food selection at these retailers!
The Future of Restaurants
Rising costs and lower quality is not a recipe for success for any industry, and the restaurant industry is starting to feel the pain. Dining habits have changed from eating out 4 times a month (once a week) to now about once a month. Even popular restaurant establishments such as cheesecake factories, and chilis have felt the effects of diminishing crowd numbers.
While things are not looking great for the restaurant industry, it doesn’t appear that restaurants will go down without a fight. They can see the trend of people wanting high-quality food at home without the hassle of the restaurant, so many establishments have upped their to-go game and some places such as P.F Changs have full restaurants that focus only on to-go orders without the traditional dining experience.
Are these changes going to be impactful enough to keep customers coming back, or are they just gimmicks and quick fads that will pass. Will the frozen food industry take some of the market share and never give it back? These are things that only time will tell, but as a foodie, I’m excited to see where this delicious journey takes us.