Each week beneath my restaurant review in the Observer, somebody posts a comment complaining about the cost of the meal reviewed. Perhaps this week it was you. It happens literally every week, and every week some of us make an effort to respond. But I’m very bored of doing so. Hence, I have written this one-size-fits-all response to those crass, ignorant, virtue-signalling self-serving comments about price. For anybody who has ever whinged about the cost of meals in restaurants, this is for you.
The comments come in a variety of forms.
1. I could make that at home for a tenth of the price. (Along with ‘I could feed my family for a week on that’ and ‘only an idiot would spend that sort of money on a meal.’)
2. There is something obscene about spending this sort of money in a restaurant when there are people feeding themselves from food banks.
3. I could never afford to spend that in a restaurant. How dare a so-called left-wing newspaper like the Observer give column inches to such things.
I will go through them in turn.
- I could make this at home for a tenth of the price.
Firstly, unless you are a professional chef, you probably couldn’t. And if you actually were a professional chef you wouldn’t begrudge the cost of it. In any case if you made it at home, you wouldn’t have the 20% vat, plus the costs of the building, the utilities, and the staff both to cook it for you and to bring it to you. Presumably, as you care about cost, you want the people who work in restaurants to be paid a reasonable wage for their labour. Presumably you want quality ingredients not the cheapest of the cheap? Despite what cynical people like you think, restaurants are not a license to print money. They are brutally tough businesses, as the number of closures early in 2018 has proved. One of the major problems is British consumers like you who begrudge paying a reasonable amount of money for the experience.
As to being able to do it at home, if you really do feel like that perhaps you could just stay there and shut up while the rest of us get on with leading bigger, more interesting lives.
- There is something obscene about spending this sort of money in a restaurant when there are people feeding themselves from food banks.
No there isn’t. Poverty is a terrible thing. I’ve written about it in detail. I’ve talked to people who use food banks, and their stories are awful. But the fact that some people who are not on the poverty line eat in restaurants does not make the situation worse for those who are. Poverty is a function of an unequal and dysfunctional economic system. That’s what needs to be sorted, not the price of a rib-eye steak in a restaurant. The fact is this. Some people have disposable income. They are entitled to spend it how they wish. I’ve pointed out before that, while people may complain about the cost of tickets to see premier league football teams play, nobody complains about people choosing to pay the price. Spending money to watch sport is somehow seen as authentic and real whereas spending it on dinner is degenerate. What utter bollocks. Some people like to spend their money on the opera or cars or holidays. Why the hell shouldn’t they? Who are you to tell them what they should spend it on?
What’s more some people on low incomes save up so they can afford to treat themselves. It’s their right. How dare you judge them for it.
- I could never afford to spend that amount in a restaurant. How dare a so-called left-wing newspaper give column inches to such things.
I’m sorry you don’t earn enough to visit all the restaurants I write about. I love the thought of hand-made shoes and flying across the Atlantic first class. I don’t earn enough to be able to afford either of those things, but that doesn’t mean I immediately believe they shouldn’t exist. A lot of people can’t afford all the restaurants I write about but they still like reading about them. It provides vicarious pleasure. As to the view that the Observer is betraying its values by reporting on things that aren’t all dirt cheap, again – what utter bollocks. Does that mean we shouldn’t write about cars or holidays, theatre or fashion or new tech? Or is that different?
Let’s be clear. Some restaurants do take the piss money wise. And when they do, I say so. But there is a great difference between price and value. I have paid £400 of my own money for a meal that I thought was worth it. I purchased memories. That may not be the kind of memories you want but they are what I want. But I have also spent £20 on a meal that I thought was a rip off and I have said so. The issue is never the spending of money on food in restaurants. It’s always what that money buys.
Now do us all a favour: stop whingeing and leave the rest of us alone so we can carry on with the pleasurable business of discussing restaurants.