Fifty years ago – 1965 – Americans spent $88 billion for food. Of that amount: 1) $4 billion (5 percent) was the value of food from home gardens and donations, 2) $58 billion (66 percent) was spent mostly at grocery stores for eating at home, and 3) $26 billion (29 percent) was spent eating out. (Source: USDA-ERS)
Fast forward to 2014. While final numbers are still being tallied, estimates are that Americans spent $1.47 trillion for food. Of that amount: 1) $24 billion (1.6 percent) was the value of food from home gardens and donations, 2) $716 billion (48.8 percent) was spent mostly at grocery stores for eating at home, and 3) $727 billion (49.6 percent) was spent for eating out.
The trends over the last 50 years have been dramatic (see infographic on Dolllars Spent Eating Out). In 1965, the U.S. Population was 194 million. The 2014 U.S. population was 319 million. So, while population over the last 50 years grew by 65 percent, dollars spent eating out over the same period grew by 2,770 percent – a 28 fold increase.
Today, approximately 50 million people eat out every day. What folks eat, when going out, is partially illustrated by the sales of the top 10 U.S. Restaurants (See infographic on Top 10 U.S. Restaurants). Hamburgers, coffee and sweets, sandwiches, pizza, tacos and chicken – virtually all of them in fast-food format, take top honors.
Surprisingly, is how far McDonalds (number 1) is ahead of the pack. Subway, the number 2 restaurant, has sales of only 1/3 that of McDonalds.
Glaringly absent from the list are all of the family sit-down restaurants with – perhaps – higher quality food.
While we have some control over what we eat at home, that control is limited by the wages of many which cannot absorb higher quality foods. Social pressure, protests and lobbying efforts for restaurants to improve the quality of food served has not all been wasted. A number of fast-food restaurants have tried to improve the quality of their offerings by offering salads, fruit and using non trans-fat oils. How America approaches eating out is gaining in importance relative to how America cooks at home.