One of life’s enjoyable activities is going out with loved ones to a cosy pub or favourite restaurant for an evening meal. Given a very hectic workload I managed to agree with the powers that be that I would work all hours of the week but never on a Saturday evening as that was to be reserved for going out for a meal. 

Many pleasant evenings were spent going to a wide range of venues and tasting various menus. It was not every Saturday night but probably an average of twice a month. It was never cheap but was just about financially manageable. Today things have changed beyond recognition. We are informed that two pubs are closing every day. Running such a business is now highly problematic. Food, fuel and staffing costs have escalated at an alarming rate. The inevitable consequence is that some if not all of these costs have to be passed on to the customere. Eating out has now become an expensive enterprise often way beyond the pockets of many working people. Recently the menu before me advertised a double chocolate brownie. This invitation was too good to ignore. On its arrival at the table it hardly constituted a single version and at £7.50 was not value for money.. How to absorb costs and keep clients happy is no doubt a constant headache for owners. One answer may be to cut down the range of menu options to save on the cost of ingredients. Do what you do well rather than overstretch the menu choices. 

Travelling through France some years ago our bed and breakfast accommodation did not do evening meals, Redirected to a local restaurant the lady host told us that the menu choice was what she was going to cook, There was no choice.  take it or leave it. The simple meal was delightful. An annoying experience is to see what looks like a good meal choice only to be let down when it arrives. A recent order of a steak and mushroom pie with greens turned out to be a 99 per cent mushroom pie with a vague hint of steak and peas not greens. At £16.50 it again was not value for money. Bad reviews travel five times faster than good ones. As a new customer the proprietor only has one chance to make a good impression. Making a killing on the first visit with inflated prices for poor quality meals is not good business. What is required is for the visitor to get a good first impression so that they want to return. 

One mistake that is far too common is for the plate to be overloaded with chips at the expense of the main ingredient.  Another issue is when the menu offers complex dishes which are beyond the skill level of those working in the kitchen. What exactly constitutes “fine dining” is beyond me. My limited experience of this is to have very small meals often put together with tweezers and eaten in one mouthful. Tom Kerridge offering a steak meal at £95 will only attract the wealthy few. The days of restaurants making large profits have gone. More of us chose to eat at home. We can but a bottle of wine cheaper than one small glass eating out. The advantage of eating at home is that there is no driving thus no worry about alcohol levels, and we can have the table all night. 

Despite the economic benefit of eating at home it is nice to eat out The challenge for the industry is to find creative ways to entice us to return. Eat in or eat out? Not an easy choice anymore.