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Dining vs. Eating: The Price of Restaurant Real Estate

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 (I use this as a 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

Brio – $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 have…

A dining experience, one that encourages you to pause and linger over delicious food and drink in a great location, with impeccable service, and often higher price tag;


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!

dining at Hillstone Restaurant


Liz Kitchens is a writer and blogger.  Her blog, Be Brave. Lose the Beige, reaches out to Lady Boomers, women of the Baby Boomer generation. Liz also blogs for Growing Bolder and Vibrant Nation, two sites devoted to aging issues. Liz conducts workshops on the health benefits of creativity and is an ambassador for the Creative Caregiving Initiative sponsored by the NCCA, The National Center for Creative Aging. Liz founded the Jeremiah Project, an after school and summer creative arts program designed to foster self esteem and encourage creative thinking among at risk middle school aged students.

Check out Liz’s blog, Be Brave. Lose The Beige, and follow her on Facebook.

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