It's no secret that dining out is generally more expensive than making something at home. The added price goes toward operational costs and is carefully planned to ensure that the restaurant can turn a profit. Still, some items are so heavily marked-up that it's hard to justify paying for them. For instance, pizza can be priced at around ten times the cost to make, and that's before you add any toppings. Or the cost to add an egg is typically the same price as an entire carton from the store. Read on to learn which food items you may want to skip the next time you dine out.
Pizza Can Cost Ten Times More Than Its Ingredients
Have you ever wondered why fast food pizza is so much less expensive than the pizza you order at a restaurant? While you may want to think that it's the ingredients, the hard truth is that even the quality pies only cost about $2 to make, according to national restaurant consultant Frank Klein.
Still, restaurants will often charge $12 to $20 for the entree. And then there's the dollar or two charged per topping, many of which cost the restaurant less than 50 cents. You're better off getting a kid's cheese pizza for $7 and at least getting a side with it!
Burritos Contain A Long List Of Cheap Ingredients
Since burritos are bulky and full of various ingredients, it may seem like they're worth the ten or so dollars. Market Watch broke down the cost to make a burrito in order to prove that a standard one made with carnitas isn't worth the whopping 346% markup, and that's including avocado!
They recommend spending an extra few bucks on a fancy burrito that features ingredients like crema, cilantro rice, black beans, and tri-tip steak. The pricier ingredients make this kind of burrito closer to a 160% markup, so you can at least feel a little better about the price tag.
Kobe Beef May Not Be Authentic
Kobe beef may have a high reputation, but that doesn't mean it's worth throwing away a hundred dollar bill on the coveted entree. Eater warns that there are only nine restaurants in the United States that are licensed to sell the Japan-based meat.
That means that odds are, you're paying $100 for inauthentic Kobe. You should also be wary of markups for other menu items that claim to contain Kobe, such as $20 hotdogs or $50 burgers. Similar to the faux crab meat used in many sushi rolls, fake Kobe is common and pricey.
Sushi May Not Consist Of Quality Fish
Many sushi rolls many not consist of the high-quality fish that the price tag implies. Chef Capon warns that he's seen bags of frozen products used in maki rolls, and diners have no idea where that fish is coming from or when it was cut.
He adds that the spices sushi chefs use can hide questionable flavors. That's why authors Larry Olmsted and Josh Ozersky warn that you may not be getting the sushi you think you are, and that you likely won't be able to tell the difference either way. Though it may taste delicious, be wary of the hefty price.
Steak Frites Might Use Dicey Cuts Of Meat
Steak frites is often one of the more affordable steak entrees, and there's a reason for that. Chef Capon warns that diners should be wary of Steak frites that don't specify the cut of meat. He says, "There are different meat tenderizers, as well as certain tools that pull at the muscles and tendons to make a cut a lot more tender."
That means that you could be getting a questionable cut that's been manipulated and upcharged. If you're going to pay a hefty price for a steak and some french fries, be sure the quality is worth it.
Wedge Salads Are Predominantly Water
Wedge salads are notorious for being a huge ripoff, predominantly because their biggest ingredient, iceberg lettuce, is mostly water. The other handful of ingredients include a few cherry tomatoes sliced in half, blue cheese dressing, bacon, and red onion.
All in all, wedges have so little nutritional value that they hardly deserve the name "salad." Though the side is delicious, it certainly isn't worth the $10 or so it costs. You're better off getting a green salad with blue cheese dressing and adding bacon.
Truffles Aren't Always The Real Thing
Truffles are a kind of fungus that are coveted in the food industry since they are rare and packed with flavor. Often, restaurants will offer the option to add shaved truffle to a meal or to substitute truffle oil. Both come with a large upcharge, so you'll want to be sure it's the real thing.
Chef Capon warns that many truffle oils and butters aren't made from the actual fungus, but rather are concocted with chemicals. He's also seen some places use dried portobello mushrooms as fake truffle shavings. If you're going to pay the price, be sure you're getting that distinct taste.
Eggs Can Cost $1 To $2 Dollars Each!
A carton of eggs costs about $5 for the organic kind, and you can bet that many restaurants are sticking to the cheaper versions that are only a couple bucks per dozen.
Still, you'll end up getting charged a dollar or two just to add a single egg to your breakfast or burger! Similarly, omelets are marked up an average of 500%! The simple ingredients typically add up to only a little over a dollar, and it's not very hard to make a mean omelet at home.
Guacamole Is Expensive As An App Or An Add-On
Guacamole is delicious, so we don't blame you for paying $2 to add it to every dish you order. Still, it's more than a 200% markup and extremely easy to make at home. The pricier guacamole is the kind that comes as an appetizer.
Especially if the waiter prepares the guacamole tableside, you're looking at $10 or more for an appetizer that costs a fraction of that to make, including the chips and salsa! You might think that having a server display how easy it is to make guacamole would make people reconsider ordering it again!
Soda Is Marked Up More Than 1,000%
According to Business Insider, on average, fountain soda has a 1,150% markup! That number climbs to a whopping 2,000% if you get it bottled! Granted, that's if you only have one glass.
That percentage is minimal compared to soda water. Though it's merely carbonated water, the beverage is typically priced the same price as a flavored soda drink! We recommend requesting some sliced citrus fruits to add to the water and get more bang for your buck.
Pancakes Are Cheap But Still Overpriced
You may be surprised to see pancakes on this list since you can get a tall stack of them for around $10. While that may seem like a steal, it may be worth considering what you're actually getting: a pile of flour, sugar, milk, and butter. You may as well order a cake for breakfast!
It's no wonder a serving of pancakes only costs restaurants about a dollar to make. And even if they add in fruit, you only need a handful of berries to cover a stack of pancakes, and you can bet they'll charge extra for that.
Pasta Is Cheap And Easy To Make
Even restaurant owners agree that there's no real reason to order pasta when dining out considering how ridiculously easy and inexpensive it is to make at home. Restaurant consultant Linda Lipsky even admitted to Forbes that when she was a manager, she wanted guests to order the pasta because it was marked up 700%!
Even pasta dishes containing meat or fish are easy to prepare because the sauce dominates the taste. Plus, picking up a sauce at the grocery store or preparing one from scratch gives you supreme control over the nutritional value of the meal.
Chefs Agree That Chicken Isn't Worth The Price
Chicken is a go-to for diners because it's leaner than beef and less expensive than fish. However, it's also much easier to make than the other two and is one of the more overpriced options when you consider how inexpensive the meat is to buy.
That's why chefs who participated in a Food Network survey agreed that chicken and pasta were the least likely items they would order at a restaurant. Take the chefs' advice when they tell you there's nothing special about the preparation compared to what you would do at home.
Veggies May Be Cheaper As An Add-On Than As A Side
If you're trying to keep a balanced diet, be sure to pick an entree that already comes with veggies rather than ordering a side of them. Sides of vegetables can range from $5 to $10 for something that costs a dollar at the store and probably took the chef two minutes to sautée.
A cheaper option may be to see how much adding the vegetable to the dish would cost. Some restaurants will only charge a dollar or so to mix in half as many vegetables as would come in a $6 side.
Cheese Isn't Always Included In The Price Of A Burger
Have you ever been to a restaurant and ordered a burger only to find out that there's an upcharge if you want cheese? Though a slice only costs about 30 cents, restaurants will often charge $1 to $2 per slice!
Burgers are already priced at a 300% to 400% markup, so adding another $1.50 can make a big difference. Then you factor in the cost of a fried egg, bacon, avocado, or other add-ons and before you know it, you're paying 10 times the cost it takes to make the meal.
Sour Cream Is Typically Marked Up More Than 400%!
Like hot sauce, salsa, mustard, and so many other condiments, sour cream is cheap enough that it should be free at restaurants. As we've seen, they already markup so many items that the 20 cents a serving of sour cream costs wouldn't make a big dent, especially since it's not an extremely popular item.
Still, many restaurants charge an extra buck for a side of sour cream, which is a 426% markup. If sour cream is your go-to when eating spicy foods, we recommend choosing something milder when you eat out.
Appetizers Can Cost As Much As Entrees
Have you noticed that appetizers aren't much cheaper than entrees these days? There's actually a reason for that. Restaurateur Jody Pennette explained to Forbes that appetizer prices have climbed over the past couple of decades because diners aren't typically as concerned about their cost.
Since entrees can hover around the $30 mark on the lower end, a $25 appetizer seems cheap by comparison. In reality, you're paying for something that is likely marked up even more than the entree without realizing it.
Rice Is Still Heavily Marked Up Even Though It's Cheap
You may have noticed that a side of rice is one of the least expensive items you can find on many menus, coming in at around $2.00 for a side. While that may seem like a great deal, the price is actually huge compared to what restaurants pay for it.
According to Statistica, the average cost of a pound of dried white rice was 71 cents in 2019. That translates to about 11 cups of cooked rice, or roughly five sides. In short, you're paying $2.00 for something that costs the restaurant less than 15 cents to purchase.
Coffee Drinks Are Typically Basic And Overpriced
Many restaurants only have regular or decaf coffee, as opposed to lattes, cappuccinos, and other beverages that require more expensive ingredients to make. Still, they will charge $3 or more for a simple cup of black coffee.
As coffee only costs them about 30 cents per cup, that's quite a markup. If you enjoy cream and sugar, you can at least rest assured that you're getting a little more for the price. Still, it may be worth it to pay a visit to a barista on the way to the restaurant or after you've left.
Dover Sole Isn't Worth The Price
If you cook fish at home, you're probably already aware of how much more expensive it can be to purchase it at a restaurant. Since fish can be challenging to cook just right, you may still find it worthwhile to pay the extra price to have a professional prepare it.
However, Dover sole is one of the priciest fishes restaurants serve, and it may not be worth the price tag. One entree can cost around $75! Chef and restaurateur Josh Capon told the Chicago Tribune that many diners wouldn't be able to tell the difference between a Dover sole and a less expensive type of fish.