Like many of us, my husband and I love going out to eat. We were dining out at one of our favorites recently, Hillstone Restaurant in Winter Park, Florida. The restaurant is situated on the banks of Lake Killarney and promises stunning sunsets enjoyed with a glass of wine while seated in your personal Adirondack chair (full disclosure – this promo belongs to the restaurant’s website not me). The food is excellent as is the cocktail and wine menu. Since it was late afternoon, we were dining al fresco (Italian for outside) to fully appreciate the weather and the view. Following a lovely hour and a half of delicious food and conversation my husband suggested we leave. I protested saying we had paid amply for this “restaurant real estate” and I wanted to get my money’s worth. That launched what has been a several day research project to determine the real estate value of a meal out. Here are some of our findings:
The following is a dining cost estimate (lose description as you will see by our restaurant options). The restaurants are in descending order of price and based upon two people
Capital Grill- $200- Amenities: Be wined, dined and dazzled; delicious steaks and seafood; extensive wine list; dark, quiet surroundings
Hillstone Restaurant- $120- Amenities: Beautiful view; great setting; consistently delicious food; a true dining experience; great service
Brios – $70- Amenities: Good food; good bar; fun atmosphere; somewhat loud; generally located in high end malls
Red Lobster- $45- Amenities: Good seafood, although not necessarily fresh; faux seaside atmosphere; sit down restaurant; full bar but limited wine menu
Chipoltle- $24- Amenities: Good food for take-out; fresh and reasonably healthy; little to no ambiance; quantity of food
Chick Filet- $15- Amenities: Good chicken sandwiches; good price; conveniently located; drive through; no alcohol
Real estate experiences are everywhere. Renting a hotel room is renting real estate for a night whether at a Four Seasons or a Best Western. Shopping can be a similar experience. There is an ambiance at places like the Mall of Millenia in Orlando versus shopping at Men’s Wearhouse or Ross Dress For Less where prices are much more affordable. This restaurant review process was a fun exercise. I confess as I age I’m thinking more and more about the “value” of experiences. (Needless to say, my bank account is requiring this evaluation as well)
So here is a question. Would you rather…
A dining experience, one that encourages you to pause and linger over delicious food and drink in a great location, with impeccable service.
An eating experience with good, affordable food at a convenient location, allowing a break from cooking, though not necessarily a place encouraging lingering (and if you stay too long you might just be accused of loitering).
So, you have to decide which of the dining amenities are important to you so you can decide the value of your “restaurant real estate.” The value may change from day to day, depending on your mood and needs. But, before eating out or eating in, think about the values you need from that meal.
To finish the story- we decided to stay longer, enjoying our Adirondack chairs, gentle breeze, view, and white wine. It felt like by staying extra time, we dropped our hourly rate from $60.00 to $48.00. And for that, it was so worth it!