Restaurant Foods That Are Ripping You Off

Photo by: Getty
These Foods Are Ripping You Off-
By Nadia Arumugam

If you thought you bagged a bargain by skipping the $29 burgundy-braised short ribs and opting for the $18 baked ziti with mushrooms, ... more 
Photo by: Getty
These Foods Are Ripping You Off-
By Nadia Arumugam

If you thought you bagged a bargain by skipping the $29 burgundy-braised short ribs and opting for the $18 baked ziti with mushrooms, marinara sauce and chicken, you'd be wrong. With food costs only accounting for about 18% of the menu price, the pasta dish is where the restaurant is making the most profit. Believe it or not, the beef is actually the better deal, since it costs nearly half the menu price to source and prepare it.

If price alone isn't the best indicator of value on a menu, what criteria should we use to ensure the most bang for our buck? "Choose labor-intensive, time-consuming, complex dishes, that call for hard-to-find ingredients," suggests New York-based restaurant consultant, Clark Wolf. "If you can whip it up yourself in 20 minutes with stuff from your kitchen cupboard-do that," he says.

Wolf has a point. Avoid the ubiquitous, low-cost chicken breast dish. Dishes comprising of everyday, bulk ingredients like pasta or rice are cheap to prepare and as simple for the restaurant chef to put together as it is for the home cook. For this same reason, restaurants love brunch when they turn out highly-profitable, egg-centric meals, and bread, flour and dairy-based dishes, such as French toast, waffles and, pancakes.

And despite inflated prices in the appetizer sections, there are still parts of the menu where diners can find good value. Red meat and seafood dishes will get more bang for you less 
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Wed, Nov 9, 2011 2:03 PM EST

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