Nope. Not that one. The CIA, to a foodie like me, always means the Culinary Institute of America. I have been to the CIA in San Francisco, and it is a beautiful facility. A truly magical place to learn, cook, and dine.
As you can imagine, since they train chefs, the CIA supports dining out. I like to dine out in moderation, choosing to eat in most often because of health and budget concerns. I feel that it is usually a healthier option to cook your own food, and there is no way my budget could support eating out multiple times a week. So when I dine out, it needs to count! I want good fresh “farm to table” meals.
Greg Dreshcer of the CIA recently spoke about the american budget and eating out. He said “Consider these statistics from our annual report: In 1980, only 15% of a family’s food budget went to food from outside the home. Restaurants were primarily for special occasions, and restaurant industry sales were just below $120 billion”.
I can certainly comment on that. In 1980 I was one of 5 kids in my family, but 2 of my brothers were already out of the house. When I went out with my parents and the other kids, it was a special occasion for sure. When we did go out for dinner, my folks could not often afford to take us out for fine dining. We usually to the local VFW hall for a Friday night fish fry during Lent. (It doesn’t get more midwestern and catholic than that!). I would say that the 15% referred to probably reflected my family at the time.
Mr. Drescher goes on to say “Today, 47% of American food dollars are being spent on restaurants and other food service operations: The industry’s sales have soared to $660 billion”. Wow! That is a huge number! Almost half of our food dollars go out the door. As I said, I enjoy dining out, but for my family, it is, like it was for me as a kid, a special occasion. But the dollar amount wasn’t really the focus of Mr. Drescher. The good news is that restaurants and chefs are now responding to a plea for healthier restaurant meals. Yay!
The consumers can really make a dent in good food choices offered at restaurants. If the consumer becomes a bit of a squeaky wheel, we can really make a difference in healthier food choices while dining out. That is our challenge for today. Start questioning the dining staff at restaurants and gently demanding healthier options. If half of our food dollars are going out the door, then we have a voice. Make it heard! Encourage and support your local chefs that are featuring healthy food on their menus! If they are getting 47% of our food dollars, then speak up.