There are many factors driving increased restaurant patronage. With people working longer hours and seeking greater convenience, taking out—or eating out—makes more sense. Time is money. And for many people, eating out can save time on cooking, cleaning, and shopping. The growth of a dining and food culture has also meant that the cost differential between restaurants and home cooking has narrowed, especially for Bobos who buy produce, meats, and precious specialty items at Whole Foods, Balducci's, and Trader Joe's.
I love that paragraph because it addresses the fundamental guilt that I have from eating out versus cooking. See for the price of one mediocre meal in LA, you can buy a week's worth of groceries. But you also need to factor in how much it "costs" mental for me to cook, if you hate cooking like I do. I hate cooking, I hate planning it, I hate preparing it, cutting things up, making a mess, I hate eating my own cooking because it's usually really bland, and I really really really hate cleaning up.I guess the point the paragraph is really trying to make is that shopping at Trader Joe's can be just as expensive as eating out, which I kind of agree with. So when you do a price analysis, one meal at a mediocre restaurant can get you a couple of days of groceries from Trader Joe's and a weeks worth of groceries from Vons.
My Heating Up™ method of "cooking" Trader Joe's prepared foods probably isn't that much cheaper than eating at Subway or Chipotle but it's still cheaper than eating at mediocre sit-down restaurants. And it helps me feel like I'm "cooking" and not going out to eat all the time. Because even if I had all the money in the world, I wouldn't go out to eat all the time. But I would probably hire a personal chef.
You can read the entire Slate article on Chipotle and the rise of the restaurants at: http://www.slate.com/id/2136885/?nav=fo