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The State of American Dining in 2015

How foodies feel about tipping, trendy foods and more
January 20, 2015
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by Zagat Staff

Ever wonder which city has the least generous tippers? Or what food trends Americans love (and hate) the most? To tackle the endlessly fascinating subject of diner behavior, we conducted a national dining trends survey, tapping into the opinions of 10,000 avid diners across the country. Read on to discover more about the results of this year’s survey

 


Tipping

Though there’s a raging debate about tipping, most Americans have fairly similar attitudes about it. The national reported average tip is 19.3%; the city with the highest reported average is Austin (20%), while the least generous tippers in the U.S. are in Portland, OR (18.3%).

In general, the nation’s less generous tippers tend to be on the West Coast.


Cost of Dining Out
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New York City has a reputation as an expensive town, and the results of our survey confirm that impression. New York City surveyors reported spending an average of $48.15 for dinner out, $8.75 over the national average of $39.40.

On the other end of the spectrum, if you’re interested in eating cheaply, head to Texas: the two least expensive U.S. dining cities in our survey are Austin ($25.81) and Dallas/Fort Worth ($30.34).

Trendy Foods
There are some foods that just seem to be on every menu. Yes, we’re talking about kale, bacon, Brussels sprouts and beets. While it seems that the popularity of Brussels sprouts and beets is still strong, our love affair with kale and especially bacon is starting to wane.

Dining Irritants and Pet Peeves
When we asked surveyors, “What irritates you the most about dining out?” the No. 1 complaint nationally was service (26%), followed by noise (24%), prices (17%) and crowds (13%). Diners in Miami take the biggest issue with service (32% of vote), while Portland, OR, diners cite noise (31%) as their chief complaint.

When we asked, “What’s your biggest service complaint?” the top complaints among diners were inattentive waitstaff (24%), slow service (17%), rude staff (10%) and inadequate training (9%).

Eating Out
We asked surveyors how many times a week they go out to eat (not counting breakfast) and ended up with a national average of 4.5 times per week. At the high end, Atlanta surveyors eat out the most frequently (5.2 times per week), while the country’s least frequent diners live in Portland, OR, and Minneapolis (both at 3.4 times per week).

Top Cuisines
American diners clearly have a giant crush on the food of Italy. The cuisine ruled as the most popular, with 24% of surveyors calling it their favorite. Next up was American (14%), followed by French (10%), seafood (10%), Japanese (8%), Mexican (7%) and Thai (5%), which beat out Chinese by two percentage points.

Diners in two cities — Austin and Minneapolis — bucked the trend, as both called American their favorite cuisine. Portland, OR, diners are the country’s biggest seafood lovers (24%) and unsurprisingly, diners in Los Angeles are the country’s biggest fans of Japanese food (14%).

Technology and Reservations
Diners now expect restaurants to be able to take reservations online, as 61% of avid diners nationally say they make restaurant reservations via the Internet. The nation’s most tech-savvy diners are in Washington, DC (76%) and Minneapolis (76%), followed by Chicago (72%) and San Francisco (70%). In Miami, however, 53% of diners still use the good old-fashioned telephone to make reservations; 13% of diners in Dallas/Fort Worth say they don’t make restaurant reservations at all.

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