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Going Out to Restaurants Has Gotten Really Expensive. Here’s How Diners Are Adapting.

“We haven’t been back to fine dining at all since before the pandemic, but I’ve looked at the menus and the prices are shocking.”

A hand holds a paper receipt on a wooden table with a small metal cup off to the side.
Brace yourself.
Erika Adams is the editor of Eater Boston.

It’s no secret that dining out has gotten more expensive; not only in Boston, but across the country, thanks to the pandemic-era explosion in the costs of just about everything it takes to run a restaurant. In a recent weekend newsletter, Eater asked readers how the rising costs of dining out had affected people’s restaurant-going habits around Boston, if it had. Many readers wrote back to share how they were adapting to the new normal, from ordering less alcohol, to avoiding fine dining restaurants, to dining out less overall.

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I’ve been eating out less! But recently I noticed that even the small pick-me-ups have cost me more. For instance, coffee shop runs — I grabbed a matcha latte and an apple Danish at Blue Bottle on Newbury last Friday and my bill was about $14 before tipping — it wasn’t even a hot sandwich! — Valerie Li Stack

I don’t think it has really impacted how my wife and I tend to dine out or where we go necessarily. While prices have gone up in some cases, in and around us in Davis Square, we are lucky to have about 5 to 10 places where we can get a full dinner meal (with tip) for under $36. If we are going out to a nice dinner, we almost always earmark about $200 to $250 (with tip) for those expensive restaurants. We also only go out for 2 to 3 meals a week (including lunches, happy hours, etc.) so when we DO go out we usually don’t hold back regardless of the price... we get what we want or what looks the best to us. — Greg Wehn

Last week I was having a conversation with my best friend who will be in town next week about how expensive eating out in Boston is now. Not only have I stopped ordering cocktails/alcohol at dinner (if I do I stretch it out to the whole meal or try to split a bottle if in a group of three or more), but I also only try to eat out no more than once a week. Breakfast is always at home, and lunch if I can help it too. I’m certainly not a cheap person but brunch for two yesterday at Beehive came out to ~$58 per person and it didn’t include anything with meat in it!

Even groceries at my beloved Market Basket are high, leaving me no choice but to eat at home more. I miss the ambiance of restaurants! — Mariana Zapata

The prices have certainly impacted our dining out patterns. We choose lower-cost options over fine dining, usually at restaurants that serve something we can’t make better at home: Indian buffet, Nepali momos, banh mi, etc.

A huge issue is the variety of service charges added to the bills of the more expensive restaurants. It’s unclear who, exactly, these charges are going to and do we still need to tip. Having worked in restaurants, I want the staff to be paid well and equitably. However, it pisses me off to have a 20 percent service fee added and then be told that you don’t have to tip additionally, but it would be appreciated if you did (which happened recently). So if you don’t, you feel like a jerk and end the evening uncomfortable rather than basking in the glow of an amazing meal.

The industry needs to figure out a better way to manage paying its staff. I believe that taking tipping out of the equation is the solution. Fine dining should be expensive — that’s the point. And the people who can afford to do it should be willing to pay more to ensure that the staff is making a living wage. — Joanna Lazarek

My friends and I have been saying for a while how expensive restaurants in Boston have become. Everywhere is high priced but especially the Seaport District. Crazy expensive! It has definitely discouraged us from going out as much as we used to. — Katherine

The cost of dining out has certainly affected how much I eat out (and even order out). My husband and I have been cooking nearly every meal at home. When we eat out now, it’s basically for occasions only — birthdays, anniversaries, parents are in town, etc.

Honestly, we are less inclined to try new places, too. I am going back to the same restaurants where I know I won’t be disappointed. It’s not worth the risk anymore. I’m avoiding “small plates” restaurants, too. They were always expensive to begin with, and now it feels like $150 for two people still leaves me hungry, and I’ve blown my budget on one meal.

I’ve cut back on alcohol and like you, try to make one drink last the whole dinner. And no dessert (or maybe ice cream somewhere else.)

It’s really a shame dining out has gotten to this point. I used to love it, but now it often leaves me feeling unsatisfied on many levels. — Lauren Porazzo

We eat out at fairly expensive places, but not nearly as often as we used to. We probably go out to nice restaurants 2x a month compared to every weekend! Our usuals are Giulia, Oleana, Myers and Chang, and Mida, for example. — Anonymous

Pre-pandemic, we ate at our favorite neighborhood sushi place weekly, and the bill was around $60 for two of us, including drinks. Now, the same meal costs over $100, and we go much less frequently. We haven’t been back to fine dining at all since before the pandemic, but I’ve looked at the menus and the prices are shocking. — David Watson