More Money Means More Options When Eating Out

LOS ANGELES , June 26, 2013 () – I love junk food. Whether it’s a double cheeseburger from a fast-food restaurant or a personal pan pizza from a casual Italian place, I love it for the reasons most people love it. It tastes good and, probably more importantly, it’s often cheap compared to the healthier items on the menu.

As I’ve gotten older, however, and my salary has risen as my career has advanced, I’ve been willing to spend a little more at restaurants buying items that lean toward the healthier side. Whether it’s lean chicken breast, vegetable medleys or shrimp stir-fry, I’m less hesitant to buy healthier items because, frankly, I can afford them now.

What I’m exhibiting is common behavior according to a recent report from research firm Placed Insights. The report found that those making more than $100,000 a year were most likely to rank healthy menu items as important when eating out, while those making less than $25,000 were the least likely to rank health as a big consideration.

When broken down by ethnicity, Asian-Americans were most likely to say health was an important factor, while Caucasians were the least likely to rank it as a key priority. Additionally, more women valued healthy choices than men, and older respondents valued healthy choices more than younger ones.

As a consumer who has been in the workforce for nearly 17 years and has seen his salary rise during that time (although not to the six-figure range just yet), this report rings true. During my starting-out days, I would often automatically look at the cheaper items at any restaurant I visited (which normally were the less healthier items) because those were the only ones I could really afford. But as my salary rose, I increasingly began looking at the other items on the menu, if for no other reason than they were now options I could consider.

Don’t get me wrong: Those with a higher salary will still buy their share of cheap, less healthy items. But they have the flexibility to try new things because they can afford a larger portion of the menu.

Nevin Barich is the Food & Beverage Analyst for IndustryIntel. During his career’s lean years, he stuck mainly to the cheap items when eating out. But now he can afford to look at the entire menu. He can be reached at

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