Best restaurant meals sold in supermarkets

By Leslie WareConsumer Reports

When frozen foods sold in supermarkets are labeled Boston Market, California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s, or TGI Friday’s, you might think they’d resemble their restaurant counterparts. Sometimes yes, sometimes no. Our experts compared sound-alikes from those brands and found:

  • Most of the California Pizza Kitchen, P.F. Chang’s, and TGI Friday’s frozen foods we tested had at least a nodding acquaintance with their restaurant counterparts. Boston Market frozen foods didn’t.
  • Some of the frozen foods tasted decent but different than their restaurant versions. Even when similar, they weren’t as good as foods of the same name when they were freshly cooked in a restaurant.
  • Nutritionally, some of the pairs were quite different. Although you’ll get six potato skins in a half-order at TGI Friday’s restaurant and in the frozen food aisle, the restaurant version has more than three times the calories and fat. Sometimes frozen foods look much more healthful simply because they cite a serving about half as big as the one in a restaurant. The Boston Market frozen chicken pot pies are about the same size as those in the restaurant, but the frozen serving is supposed to be a half-pie.
  • The gap in price was sometimes large, with the restaurant meal usually costing more. The California Pizza Kitchen pie we tried is $14.75 in the restaurant and just $5.99 frozen; and TGI Friday’s potato skins cost more than twice as much at a restaurant as in the frozen-food aisle. On the other hand, P.F. Chang’s shrimp lo mein costs about the same in the restaurant and supermarket.

Continue Reading Below

Bottom line. The chart below tells the tale of food from each restaurant. Read nutrition facts panels on frozen foods and see websites for nutrition information about the restaurant versions—and pay attention to the serving size. If price is nearly the same, enjoy a night out.

This article appeared in the November 2013 issue of Consumer Reports magazine.

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