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A question for those that spend a lot eating out.

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Mostly my OH and I will spend a max of £100 (about $160) on a meal for two if we are eating out somewhere special - so only two or three times a year.

Now I know of people who will regularly spend at least three times this on a meal for two and often tell me that I am missing out by not eating at the various Michelin starred restaurants they frequent.

Now we could afford to spend £300, but choose not to. Partly because I feel the rule of diminishing returns applied (would we get £200 more enjoyment over our £100 meal - unlikely) and because I feel that it is slightly frivolous to spend what is one month's supermarket bill on one night out.

I understand that some of the £300 will be used to pay wages of staff, but I guess a lot will go to the restaurant owner/head chef, but I do kind of feel that a lot of top restaurants are ripping off their customers.

So my question to those of you who do partake of fine dining, how do you get over the moral issues. Is it something you ever think about? Do you ever feel you have been ripped off?

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  1. Eating out is a hobby for us - going beyond the need to just get fed. And, yes, we're prepared to spend money on it. Cost of meal for two is, on average, in the £75 - £100 bracket - some meals will be less, others more.

    I don't really think about the amount we spend and certainly don't have a moral issue over it. I happily accept that some folk couldnt afford to spend as we do, or choose not to spend that amount or, simply, wouldnt enjoy the experiences as a hobby.

    You ask whether I've ever felt ripped off. Well, no, not really. I've felt experiences havnt been value for money - but we've always gone to a place knowing how much it was going to cost. And I confidently say I've had more poor value meals at the bottom end of the market than I have at the top end. BY way of explanation - we recently had a meal at a local bistro type place, that we've been to several times. There's a set menu of three courses for £15.95. A bargain, you might think, and usually you'd be right. But this was really poor cheap and nasty ingredients badly cooked. On the nother hand, for our last anniversary, we went to the Waterside Inn where the set menu is £152 per head. It was a lovely evening - fantastic food, cooked as you might expect from a Michelin 3* chef. It was worth every penny (to which, add the cost of a 400 mile round trip, overnight hotel , lunches, etc.) .

    As to the potential rip-off. the above still applies. There's a rule of thumb in the restaurant trade, generally applying that a third of the menu price will be food costs, a third will be staff wages and a third will be gross profit for the owner (out of which rents, company taxes, sundries, etc will be paid, as well as the owner's net profit). Whe you realise that, then you have to be concerned about the quality of food being served in apparent "cheap" places.

    6 Replies
    1. re: Harters

      Cheers Harters - maybe I should give the Waterside a try at some point.

      I enjoy food and cooking, so often I look for something that I couldn't create at home - but do quite often look at my plate and price up what it would have cost if I had cooked it at home.

      I guess it maybe because my OH and I are the "wealthy" side of our families (no kids) and I feel that I couldn't justify spending huge amounts when my sister is scraping the money together to replace the tyres on her car (and yes I do help her out when she will let me).

      1. re: PhilipS

        My partner occasionally goes on a guilt trip as we are the "wealthy" side of the family as well. It tends not to last too long and, if it does, I remind her that we made different life choices than other family members which means we have a more secure financial life now we've retired.

        1. re: Harters

          +1!

          Hunt

        2. re: PhilipS

          While I seldom "do the math," I think that what you state is why I am not a big fan of "steakhouses" (very popular in the US). I want something that we cannot do better at, back home. Same for a wine list: I do not want the "stuff" in my cellar. I have many bottles of that. I want a sommelier to reach a bit, and broaden my horizons, or introduce a pairing, that I would never have thought of, even if I have fine examples in that cellar. I try to not go with "old favs." and will usually try a producer, a Region, or similar, that I do not own many perfect examples of. I want everything to be better, or at least different, than what I have at home, and I am a great griller, and my wife could be a chef, if she were not so good at other things.

          Good points,

          Hunt

          1. re: Bill Hunt

            I think that I am lucky in that I have not mastered steak cookery yet. (and neither has my dh).

            As someone with a multitude of allergies, steak and a baked potato is often the only thing that I can have at restaurants.

            I definitely have issues ordering a few dishes out that I always do better at home...maybe it is best for me to stop trying to cook the perfect steak, because then I'll never have to regret having to order one in a restaurant.

        3. re: Harters

          Haters,

          Great point! Well-stated!

          Once, we lived in New Orleans, where I contended that "folk lived to eat." Then, we moved elsewhere in the US, where I maintained that "folk ate to live." I still stand by those terms, and descriptions.

          Now, with that said, the price of a restaurant is no guarantee, that one will have a marvelously memorable experience, but in general, my experience points in that direction - just not always.

          Over the decades, the continents and the miles, the "rip-offs" have been very few, and far between, however, there have been some, and those WERE memorable.

          I loved your comment that "fine-dining is a hobby." I share that with you, and would not have it any other way. Like I said elsewhere in this thread, I have few vices, but fine-dining IS one.

          Hunt

        4. There is NO moral issues at paying a big amount of money for a high end restaurant.

          At high end restaurants, most of the money does not go to the owners, it goes into paying employees, rent, equipment, silverware/flatware, food products, wine, ...

          Do not believe that all chefs make tons of money; yes a few very visible chefs do make money, but most of them, even for very good restaurants just survive.

          I got ripped off more often by middle-level restaurants trying too much to be high-end restaurants by offering ordinary food in "swanky" settings.

          Most of the high-end restaurants I've had the luck to eat in were quite generous, serving good quantity of high quality food (from start to end of meal)

          5 Replies
          1. re: Maximilien

            "Do not believe that all chefs make tons of money; yes a few very visible chefs do make money, but most of them, even for very good restaurants just survive."

            LOL - our local "celebrity" chef must be the exception as he added a brand new Porsche and Land Cruiser to his fleet last year.

            1. re: PhilipS

              Does that chef offer great dining experiences?

              If so, then I would never begrudge them success. Often, a great chef was not always in that role. Often, they were doing line-work, for many, thankless hours.

              Now, that does not mean that all "great chefs" can coast, with absentee restaurants, that barely accommodate the diners. They do not get a "free pass," at least from me. Even after the name has been made, I expect them to satisfy me - keep my interest, and make me feel great joy, at dining at their restaurant. Several of the biggest "media chefs" in the US, have never impressed me, so I do not feel that they are any longer worth their new Gulfstream. OTOH, there are a few, who still keep me on the edge of my chair, and I do not have a problem with their fame, or their fortunes.

              In Dec., we're doing a personal trip to London, and are dining with Gordon Ramsey for three of five nights. So long as he, his staff, and his restaurants, come through for us, we'll help pay for his Range Rovers. Not sure what else is in his stable, but so long as his folk do their jobs for us, then hats off to him.

              Also, we have several "world-class" chefs in our city, Phoenix, AZ, USA, who are very successful, but there is hardly any charity event, where they, or their restaurants, are not an active part. Most "pay back" to the local community, and that is greatly appreciated.

              Hunt

              1. re: Bill Hunt

                I ate at one of Cat Cora's (former Iron Chef) restaurants a couple years back, and it was one of the most disappointing meals in the last five years. So I'm right there with you, Hunt, on chefs coasting... I was actually bordering on angry, since I got suckered in by the name, paid through the teeth, and the food was not good. Note, I don't say that it wasn't spectacular. It was not even good.

                1. re: kubasd

                  Sometimes, I think that it's a "corporate thing." A chef does well, gets noticed, and either forms a corporation, or is recruited to one. Things might go well, or maybe not. Possibly, much depends on how much "skin" the chef has in the game.

                  I have dined at several "absentee chef" restaurants, that left a lot to be desired. Could be various reasons for that, but I see it all too often.

                  However, we just did Joel Robuchon's in LV, and everything was excellent. Now, we had just done his L'Atelier in Paris, and our sommelier mentioned that the two restaurants, L'Atelier and Joel Robuchon in LV were Chef Robucon's favorites, so though he was not there (his L'Atelier in LV was one of our favorites, throughout the world), the management runs things, as though he was.

                  I have found the same with several Gordon Ramsay restaurants in the UK - Chef Ramsay has never been in attendance, but you would never know it from the great food and service. Not sure how much better they could have been?

                  Sometimes "the magic works," but sometimes it does not. It just depends.

                  I have never dined at a Cat Cora restaurant, so cannot comment there, but with some experiences with absentee chefs, I do not doubt it for a moment.

                  Hunt

            2. re: Maximilien

              And, when you spend money at a high end, non-chain resto, most of your money is going back into the local economy via wages, rent, locally sourced food, etc. Versus spending an equivalent sum at Walmart where far, far less goes back into the local economy.

              I wouldn't feel morally bad about it. Let your money trickle down.

            3. "So my question to those of you who do partake of fine dining, how do you get over the moral issues. Is it something you ever think about? Do you ever feel you have been ripped off?"

              What moral issue. I enjoy eating out, I spend my own money that I earned doing it, and I choose where I eat. There is no moral issue. Is it immoral to buy a nice car, watch, house, gift for friends, or whatever if you can afford to do so? I don't think so.

              2 Replies
              1. re: dinwiddie

                To cover all of your questions - NO. And, I feel no guilt in enjoying life. I give back, almost as much as I take, and feel no guilt for my life choices. Fine-dining is a big part of my life (unfortunately at the expense of a lot of great food, at other restaurants), and so be it.

                Great points!

                Hunt

                1. re: dinwiddie

                  Amen dinwiddie.

                  Not sure what moral issue I am supposed to have.

                2. I dine out often, say 3 times per week for lunch and 4 times per week for dinner, on average. Never have I ever felt any moral compunction for doing so.

                  In terms of dinner, around $100 for two is pretty standard, but this is mostly at pizza/sandwich/pub type places. I generally feel as if I get good value at these places, as they are generally establishments that I have come to know, understand and enjoy. Occasionally, maybe once every two weeks, I will go to a place I've never been before at this price-point, and the results can be hit-or-miss, but there have definitely been more hits than misses. Even at places that miss the mark, I generally feel that I get good value, even if the food, beverage or service isn't quite to my liking. It is rare that I feel ripped off when I dine out at this price point.

                  Once a week I like dining out at high-end establishments, either those I've been to before or one of the options I have yet to try. These dinners will often be in the $300-$400 range for two. I almost never feel ripped off by these experiences. The food, drink, service and venue are all generally top-notch at this price point, and I understand paying for it. The chef, cooks, servers and other staff that I know at these higher-end restaurants are not living lavish lifestyles, by any means.

                  Like Maximilien says upthread, I most often feel ripped off in that middle range, where I am paying around $200 for two at a place trying to be swanky but serving mediocre product with subpar service. As a result, I rarely dine at such places. There are exceptions, but I tend to enjoy myself more and feel my money is better spent at the low-end or the high-end rather than the midrange, where everything is often meh...

                  1. We eat out a lot especially when we are in NYC. We've "been there and done that" with the high end fancy places like EMP, Jean Georges, DelPosto etc. and found that your rule of "diminishing returns" applies.
                    When it's just us or us and friends we'll go to a neighborhood place that has great food and service without the tuxedos and fancy tablecloths.
                    When we are out for business we'll wow our out of town business associates with the high end places if that's what they desire.
                    Last year we took our mid West business assoc. to Jean Georges. He and his wife loved it but they said they want something with a little more NYC flavor this year. We'll take them to the Grand Central Oyster bar for appetizers and then to Katz's for a nice pastrami sammich and all the trimmings.

                    1. It seems opinions are the same no matter which board you pose the question on.
                      http://forums.egullet.org/topic/14323...

                      1 Reply
                      1. re: davidne1

                        I thought Philip's post sounded familiar. I'm relieved my views have been consistent.

                      2. I don't really think there are any moral issues. I work hard for my money and people choose to spend money on cars, gadgets etc and food is no different.
                        Having said that I don't eat out at expensive places all that often but it's all about value for money rather than the actual cost.
                        I have spent £150 or 2 at Arbutus and Wild Honey and felt , not exactly ripped off but dissatisfied as the food was quite good but not great and could have had better food for that kind of money elsewhere.
                        Conversely I recently spent twice that at Roganic and felt it was worth every penny

                        1. I have no moral issues regarding the price of a good dinner but indeed feel ripped off far too often. We love eating out and occasionally splurge a few hundred on a nice meal and when everything comes together we don't resent it at all and gladly do it again but when we don't feel the value is there, it does leave a very bitter resentment. That's probably why our expensive nights are often with a tried and true place and our experiments, though frequent are at less expensive places.

                          1 Reply
                          1. re: rednyellow

                            We tend to do similar, when we're in San Francisco, about 2x per month. We spend gladly, but do tend to frequent restaurants, that have delivered - over and over.

                            Going back, I usually only got to dine with my wife on one night, out of three. On the other two, I would venture out, and try many other restaurants. Then, I would take her (on our one night together) to only the best of my experiments. Now, I have her company most nights of each trip, so we DO experiment together, but usually between some "old favs." and especially at the price-points, that we encounter.

                            Hunt

                          2. PhillipS,

                            "OH?" Not familiar with that acronym, and nothing that I can come up with seems to fit.

                            Now, as for dining out. We travel a lot. Much of it is for my wife's business, and she only gets US$75 per day, with no wines/liquor, for meals. We love fine-dining, so we budget for OUR extra expenses. It is our major vice (I gave up "fast cars," and "fast women," when I married her, 43 years ago). Even in Las Vegas, NV, USA, I do not gamble, but I DO leave money on the tables - they are just in restaurants. We feel the same way, regarding fine, or great wines.

                            I do agree that upping the bill, may well lead to "diminishing returns," but not always. While we are much the "poorer" for it, some of our most memorable dining experiences have been quite expensive - though, in the overall scheme of things, well worth every $, or £ (we dine in the UK 2 - 4 times per year, mostly in London).

                            In our case, we have no children, so no grandchildren, to whom we might leave something. One nephew does get my wine cellar, and we've paid for a few others' educations, autos, etc., so we are "living high," but greatly enjoying it.

                            At home, we do a lot of nice, home-cooked dishes, and seldom throw away anything, as we recycle dishes, and have some interesting meals of left-overs. Still, when dining out, we have been known to spend quite a bit.

                            Looking back to the most memorable meals, about 70% are at the upper-end, BUT the other 30% are at lower-end restaurants. It just depends.

                            As for telling you that you are missing out, I cannot do so. We just returned from London and Paris. In Paris, we dined at three multi-starred restaurants, one new place, without a rating yet, and then a bistro, owned by one of those Michelin starred chefs. They were all good, but in the final analysis, one starred restaurant, and that chef's bistro were at the top of the heap. One starred restaurant, left much to be desired, where another was good+. The new restaurant was up near the top of our list. Some lived up to the reputation, where some did not. One rose to the occasion, and it will be interesting to see where they rank, a year from now. In some cases, stars did tell the story, but not always. I have found similar, around the globe. Those Michelin stars can be good indicators, but do not always tell the full story, at least not every meal, on every night.

                            That is why I enjoy CH, over many rating entities - I want full reviews, and not just stars, forks, whatever. Same thing with wine reviews. I do not want points, or any other rating, but do want tasting notes, that I can translate to my tastes.

                            As for my dining, I find no moral issue, as I owe almost nothing, and my life is starting to wind down. I pay high tax rates, and will soon pay much higher rates. Still, I contribute massive sums to certain charities, so might as well enjoy the few "good years," that I have left. If I can have memorable meals with my young wife, then I feel that my $ is well spent. If each experience is perfect, on each of those, then so much the better.

                            I know that I am not being helpful, but that is not my intention.

                            Interesting thread, and good luck with it,

                            Hunt

                            2 Replies
                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                              Thanks for your post Bill - OH is "Other half".

                              I guess for me, coming from the poor side of town, even though I can now afford to eat high end, I harp back to my roots and it just doesn't sit right with me.

                              I do however, spend my money in other ways - usually on travel, but even then I am looking for a bargain. One of the best meals I had in Singapore cost about £1.75 in a back street curry house where we were the only Western faces in the place.

                              1. re: PhilipS

                                Phillip,

                                Thank you. Now it seems so very obvious, but was just over my pointed little head.

                                I too came from "across the tracks," but that was mostly due to failing family fortunes. Stuff happens. My mother still held onto one aspect of "happier times," and would save for a dining trip to New Orleans, where she would get to dress in clothing, that she never had the occasion to wear, otherwise. Guess that some of that rubbed off on me - plus loving great food.

                                Just did an event in Las Vegas. I did not spend a penny on the gaming tables (never have in maybe 20 trips), but DID leave $ on table - they were the dining tables, and I do not regret it.

                                As for flying, guess that I am lucky (or unlucky as I must fly almost every week to get the perks), as we normally get to upgrade to FC, or at least BC, on most flights. When we cannot, we just add the difference and buy. As I age, I can no longer do 15 hr. flights in coach, and still function, without two days to "recover."

                                Now, if UAL would only improve the food in BC and FC... I can wish, can't I?

                                Hunt

                            2. My wife and I have worked very hard in our careers to be able to go and eat where and what we want. We both come from humble beginnings and, although we are not rich our bills are payed and our bank account is never empty (due to careful saving and many hours of work each week). My daughter (Judith) is grown with kids of her own (she just gave birth to my 3rd and last grandchild Sunday) and my wife does not have any kids of her own, so the only dependents we have are our two cats (Missy and Mason) and our dog (Indy). We don't eat at expensive restaurants every week, but there are some very nice gourmet restaurants near us in Canada and we indulge when the mood strikes us without thought or guilt.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: PotatoHouse

                                That sounds great! I understand your dining fairly well. As we have no children to leave anything to, we indulge our vices - food and wine (wife also loves shoes... but I do enjoy my cigars), and would otherwise be spending our children's inheritance - but there are none, and I do not feel that I need to give the US Gov any more, than I do.

                                If it brings joy, does not harm anyone (actually keeps many employed), is not illegal, or immoral, then I say "Go for it!"

                                I give you a big +1

                                Hunt

                              2. I think I'm a bit younger than most of the responders. Still have kids at home. Wife and I both work. Work quite a bit. A 40 hour work week would be a significant reduction in my hours. So that means we eat out. A lot. Not unusual to eat out dinner several nights a week. For a nice local place for a Wednesday dinner, it would cost us about $150 (£100) for two. That's not a special dinner. Just would rather not cook and we need a good meal with wine. Throw in the kids and it goes up. Probably once a month we spend a bit more and will have a $300 dinner for 2. If its a special occasion, it could be $500 to $1000. Do I feel guilty about spending that much? No. Why should I? Because we and others like us are willing/able to spend on food, there is an industry that's supported. It starts with the farmers who grow the food and ends with the servers who put the plate before me. Lots of people in between those two depend on diners for their livelihoods. There is an article in this week's NYT where the food critic told readers to go out and dine in the areas that were impacted by hurricane Sandy because their survival depended on people eating out. It will help the businesses recover. So what moral issue is there? I can afford it, it supports a lot of other people. All good to my thinking.

                                As to when I feel that a meal wasn't worth it, I will echo those who have said that its far more likely to happen in a lower cost place than in a high end spot.

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: Bkeats

                                  Great sentiments, and ones to which I ascribe.

                                  As for the NYC aspect, I understand completely. While we no longer live in the Deep South, we are both from there - Mississippi Gulf Coast and New Orleans. We made special efforts to get back and stay and dine, after Katrina, and then the BP oil spill. While we could not turn the economies, or the fortunes around, we did the best, that we could.

                                  We are planning a NYC dining trip, as soon as we can manage the time.

                                  As for the "disappointments," it has been about 60:40 for us, with more at lower-end restaurants, but far too many at higher-end places. Just did two nights in Las Vegas, and with two high-end spots, it was 50:50 - one excellent, in all respects, and one disappointing to me. Luckily, the couple with us enjoyed both, so all was not a loss.

                                  I probably "cut slack" to the lower-end spots, than I do, when spending big $'s, but still review each with the same objectivity, if I possibly can. I expect much more from a Restaurant Daniel, or a Joel Robucon, but also expect very good food from a mom-n-pop - just without the frills, and the wine list... [Grin]

                                  Hunt

                                2. I see it as being no different than any other sort of high end discretionary spending - Buying an expensive car, designer clothing, jewelry, the lastest and best electronics, trips to tropical resorts (or expensive urban centres), etc.

                                  None of these things are strictly necessary. And whether they are worth the money depends on the financial status and priorities of the customer.

                                  For some people, dropping $300 on a meal is a minor expense. For others, it's an expensive treat but worth it for the food quality/ambiance/status. Other people would find spending $50 for a meal out to be an unnecessary extravagance.

                                  I know people who absolutely have to have the latest, best techie gadgets, but wander around in poorly fitting, cheap clothing, and others who will go without food to buy a designer purse. For any combination of priorities, you'll find one person who thinks it's perfectly reasonable, another who thinks they're idiots, and a third who is simply amazed that they have that much money to spend on something that isn't needed for basic survival.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: tastesgoodwhatisit

                                    Well stated, and a very good observation.

                                    Different folk have different priorities. I want very nice, safe and luxurious autos, a nice home, lovely wardrobe (few designers, as with my age and body shape, few "designer's" stuff even fits), comfortable travel, very nice accommodations and great dining experiences. I love creating memories - good ones. Same goes for my wines. They must provide enjoyment, and value for the price, at least to me. We just split US $ 2,000 for wines for a dinner, and the enjoyment factor was great. We could have spent 100x that, and not sure that we'd have gotten THAT much more in value. [One wine did "die" too quickly, but was good, while it "lasted."] Still, our two couples loved the evening, and felt that we got the value. The evening was special to the four of us, so well worth it to me. Oh, I did dress well, but unless you count Brooks Bros. as a "tony designer," then not quite "with it." My lovely wife's purse and shoes probably cost what my entire wardrobe did, but still modest by many accounts. Among the four of us, there was not one iPhone 5... [Grin]

                                    Hunt

                                  2. On the frivolity of it all -

                                    Spending a lot of money on a single meal IS kind of frivolous. But I think it's every person's right to act frivolously at times. Frankly, posting on chowhound is a frivolous use of one's time. Does that mean I should feel bad about doing it? Do you?

                                    Very, very few people give all of their money beyond what they need to survive to charity and spend all of their time trying to make the world a better place. While I personally think an entire life dedicated mainly to amassing wealth, spending wealth, and pampering oneself is kind of a waste, one or two frivolous hobbies does not make a frivolous person.

                                    On being ripped off -

                                    To be honest, I don't go out to expensive dinners very much. Rarely, at best. But an interesting point - as someone who seldom drinks wine with meals, I'm fairly sure I'm NOT getting ripped off on those rare occasions. The profits on food alone at most high end places are very small. In a lot of ways, when you eat at most fine dining restaurants, you get a meal that uses expensive ingredients and is very expensive to prepare at a price not much above what it cost to the restaurant - and this bargain is subsidized by alcohol sales. So for that, I thank people who drink more wine than I do.

                                    At any rate, the restaurant business as a whole - fine dining included - has slim margins and a high failure rate (at least in the US). If you want to feel ripped off, consider your cable provider, your insurance companies, (maybe other examples would be better for the UK?) etc.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. re: cowboyardee

                                      When all monetary obligations have been taken care of (one's other bills, and debits), then I see no issue with enjoying life. Yes, I could get by at Applebee's, but I choose not to. I go for what amuses me, and provides great pleasure (at least that is my goal).

                                      Unlike you, I do gravitate to higher-end restaurants, and quite often, but that is just what I enjoy. I seldom feel "ripped off," though, on occasion, I do - not a comfortable feeling, but I live with it, and learn from it.

                                      I do indulge myself, and my ever-lovely wife, and that is pampering, but she's worth it, and I enjoy it. I work hard to insure that she has the best life possible (by our monetary standards), and only hope to come close. Along the way, I get to tag along, and enjoy. Her smile at a fine Montrachet, or her comment on the way back to the hotel, are all that I require. I am just glad, fortunate and thankful, that this is possible. She does deserve much more, and I am working to provide that for her.

                                      As for the restaurant business, I completely agree with you - they are part of a business, and part of the economy. I am supporting them, as much, as I can.

                                      The gambling industry is part of the economy too, but that is not one of my vices, like fine-dining is. Someone else must step up and help them. It is just not my thing.

                                      I also agree completely on the profit margin concept. Great, fine-dining requires heavy expenses, and at all levels. The rents are usually higher, the ingredients usually more expensive, plus the trained staff cost more than a starter busser. That does not even touch the cost of housing, and maintaining a great wine list. I have never seen it, but would be interested to see the real difference between the profit margin between Le Bernardine and a hot-dog cart vendor, across the park. Might be interesting and enlightening?

                                      Thanks for the comments, and your observations,

                                      Hunt

                                    2. Comes back to what you value. Those in my circle make around the same money. But we have different priorities. Some have the big house but drive modest cars others the opposite. I'm not a car guy but love food and travel.

                                      1. My husband and I see fine dining as entertainment (or a hobby, as someone else called it) much more so than just fuel. Some people buy designer clothes, some buy expensive watches or jewelry, other buy fancy cars. All of these preferences are a financial "waste" to someone else. I see it as just a matter of personal preference in how you choose to spend your disposable income. In terms of it being a moral issue, I do not think it is immoral to spend your disposable income on yourself, rather than to live on the bare minimum and give the rest to charity.

                                        For the most part, we have been very happy with our expensive meals. They truly offered unique food and dishes that would be difficult to make at home or to get else where. For instance, I have eaten at The French Laundry and then I received the cookbook as a gift. One weekend, I cooked out of it with some friends. About 4 of us cooked all day to make one meal. I worked on one dish (deconstructed clam chowder) for several hours. It was all delicious, but not as refined as at the restaurant, and it's not like we can do so very often. we do our research well and we still enjoy the occasional fancy meal. certainly, when we travel, we often make restaurant reservations before the hotel! we have had great meals that were not fine dining also, and I wouldn't want all cheap or all expensive meals. But that is our personal preference.

                                        1. I have a friend who would never spend more than 50$ pp on a meal, but he's a closet socialist:) Seriously, why not feel guilty for buying organic, designer jeans or an iPhone? We live in a capitalist country, and if you've earned your money, you should be able to spend it however you want to. Rather than feeling guilty, how about we simply take a moment to be thankful, and try to help others who cannot afford such an experience? However, simply feeling guilty about being able to afford a fine dining experience just ruins the point of having the experience in the first place, and does nothing to help anyone else.