National Dining Trends Survey: Social Media Habits, Viral Foods & More

From avocado toast to no-reservation policies
September 13, 2016
by Zagat Staff

Ever wonder how many people are using Instagram to pick their next meal? Or just how "over it" your home town is when it comes to trends like avocado toast? To tackle the endlessly fascinating subject of diner behavior, we conducted a dining trends survey around food and social media, tapping into the opinions of 9,865 avid diners across the country. Check out some of the most interesting results below and click here for the full breakdown.

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Many of us have done it, and you know who you are. Plates of beautifully composed food hit the table and you instruct your dining companions to wait a few minutes while you play photographer. Sixty percent of the diners we surveyed on average — among those who admit to taking food photos to share on social media — reported that they’ve done it. Well it turns out, food photos on social media are more influential than you might think. Seventy-five percent of those diners who browse food photos say they have chosen a place to eat based on social media. This percentage is highest in Honolulu, where 91% of food-photo browsers report making this move.

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When it comes to people posting food photos on social media, you would think most folks would politely wait until the car ride home. But our survey revealed that on average, 41% of social media–savvy diners post right at the table. Detroit and San Antonio were the worst offenders with 58% each copping to uploading and filtering at the table. While most folks in LA wait until later that night to post (52%) as do diners in Boston (48%). A scant 1% nationally say they post food photos to social media from the restaurant bathroom. Hope they washed those hands after!

When it comes to mobile apps, folks love paying the bill on their phones (66% said they have done it or would) but would not pay for a hard-to-get reservation (72% say they wouldn't). Sorry, Resy.

In the world of food trends, there seems to be a new flavor every week. From viral milkshakes to freaky hybrid foods, diners around the country are inundated with these dishes more and more every day. When it comes to Instagram staple avocado toast, most folks "love it" (33% nationally, on average). They're cool with ramen, pork belly and Sriracha too (31% of respondents still "love" each of 'em). But when it comes to those annoying food mashups (no you cannot mix a donut with a waffle), 38% of diners nationally reported they were "over it." Related, 57% of diners reported that they were "over it' when it came to gimmicky dishes like rainbow bagels. You can thank Dominique Ansel (Cronut inventor) for starting it all.

Most of us have a restaurant policy that's a total deal-breaker. For most folks we surveyed, it was a cash-only policy (38%) followed by communal tables (33%), a no-substitutions policy (33%) and then a reservation-only policy (20%). Looks like most folks who took our survey consider themselves "foodies" (77% on average in fact) so it's no surprise that about one-quarter of them would plan a getaway for a good meal, via a weekend drive or by hopping on a plane. Weekend trip to New Orleans, anyone?

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