Tuesday, January 26, 2016
If “foodie” was a political party it would win in a landslide. At least according to the Zagat 2016 National Dining Trends survey, in which a whopping 79% of diners declared themselves to be a foodie. The survey uncovers the habits and preferences of 9,248 avid diners in 26 major U.S. cities.
Which trendy food was most-loved this year? That would be Sriracha, according to 31% of respondents, who “love it.” The hot chili sauce was followed closely by quinoa (27%), ramen (26%), and avocado toast (24%). Less love was given to bone broth (13%) and uni (sea urchin), at 12%. Green juice was the ugly duckling (11%).
American diners eat out quite a bit – okay, a ton: 4.5 meals (lunch and dinner) per week on average. Dining out most frequently are Angelenos (5.2), followed by diners in Austin and Miami (both at 5.1), and New York City, San Antonio, and Honolulu (all at 4.9). At the bottom of the list is Boston (3.8), followed by Portland, OR, Philadelphia, and Minneapolis (each at 3.9 meals out per week).
And what is all this restaurant enthusiasm costing us? The average national spend per person for dinner out is $36.30. It will shock no one to learn, New York City is the most expensive dining city in the US ($48.44), followed by Boston ($42.83), San Francisco ($40.94), Miami ($40.58) and Los Angeles ($38.21). The best value, relatively, can be had in Detroit ($28.77), followed by Minneapolis ($29.67), Atlanta ($30.46), Austin ($30.48), and Charlotte ($30.50).
When it comes to tipping, Americans leave an average gratuity of 18.9% on their restaurant bill. Diners in Boston, who splurge on the second-highest average meal spend, are the most generous tippers, leaving 20% on average. Following right behind Bostonians are diners in Philadelphia (19.9%), Chicago (19.6%), Denver (19.4%), and Washington DC (19.3%). The nation’s stingiest tippers can be found in San Antonio (17.1%), followed by Orlando (18.1%), Minneapolis and Nashville (both 18.2%); Honolulu and Los Angeles (both at 18.5%).
Among the list of things that rub diners the wrong way, Service is the leading irritant, followed by Noise, Crowds, Prices, Food, Parking, and Traffic. Diners in Austin take the biggest issue with service (41% of the vote) while Portland, OR diners cite noise (33%) as their chief complaint. Noise complaints also outweigh complaints about Service in New York City (32%), Boston (30%), and San Francisco (26%).
Once again, American diners declare their amore for pasta – Italian is the top cuisine pick overall and in most cities. Bucking the trend are Atlanta, Austin, and Chicago, where Italian and American cuisine are tied; Charlotte, Denver, Houston, Minneapolis, Nashville, San Diego, and Seattle, which all favor American cuisine; Dallas - Fort Worth, where diners prefer Mexican; Honolulu, where people have a strong preference for Japanese; and New Orleans, where nothing beats Seafood.
How about feelings on tech at the table? When it comes to fellow diners whipping out their smartphones mid-meal, 54% of respondents nationally feel it’s “OK in moderation,” 40% say it’s “completely unacceptable, unless it’s an emergency,” 4% say “perfectly acceptable” and 2% had no opinion. Honolulu is the most accepting of mobile phone usage, with 67% of diners agreeing it’s “OK in moderation” and 7% saying it’s “perfectly acceptable.” Portland, OR condemns phone usage the most, with 51% of respondents saying “completely unacceptable, unless it’s an emergency.”
The top “dining deal-breaker” is a cash-only policy, followed closely by communal tables, jacket required, pre-fixe or tasting menu only/no a-la-carte options, a no-reservation policy, and live music.
More findings: When diners were asked whether they’d ever pay for a hard-to-get reservation, the majority of diners (71%) say “No.” And when it comes to paying the bill using a mobile app, 59% of surveyors say “Yes, I’ve done it, or I would.” As for planning a getaway to eat at a specific restaurant, the strong majority of diners (85%) say “Yes, I’ve done it, or I would.” Diners in Houston (92%) are most adventurous on this front, while New York City dwellers are less likely to plan a getaway around eating at a particular establishment (though 78% have done it or would). 52% of avid diners nationally say they make restaurant reservations via the internet. As for restaurant trends, surveyors love veggie-centric menus most (20% love them) and gluten-free dishes least (11%). The majority of respondents (51%) say they had their best meal ever at a high-end restaurant. Conversely, the least-likely locale for a best-ever meal is a local dive restaurant.
Which old-timey dish would you like to see make a comeback? Beef Wellington was the most popular pick amongst surveyors at 44%, followed by Bananas Foster (40%) and Baked Alaska, Lobster Thermidor, and Waldorf Salad, all with 26%. The least-popular old-fashioned item was Cherries Jubilee at 23%.
Visit zagat.com to learn more about this year’s results.
Posted by Charlotte Ames, Zagat