The results of Zagat's 2010 America's Top Restaurants survey were released today on ZAGAT.com, covering thousands of eateries across 45 U.S. markets. In the survey, over 145,000 diners shared their opinions about dining, especially on how the past year's economy affected the restaurant industry.
Mostly, the results confirm 2009 as a slower year for eating out, but there were some restaurant wins: Overall, there were more new openings than closings. And diners expressed the belief that service has improved overall, and feel their patronage is more appreciated. Here are a few more highlights.
Patronage: This year, the national percentage of meals eaten out or taken out declined from 50 percent to 48 percent, and the national average of restaurant meals per week dropped from 3.3 to 3.2. These losses are magnified by changes in respondents' dining habits:
*43 percent say they're eating out less, 41 percent are more price-sensitive, and 36 percent are eating in less-pricey places.
*22 percent are skipping appetizers and/or desserts, 19 percent are cutting back on alcohol. *A little over one-fourth of diners surveyed said the economy has had no effect on their dining habits, while 44 percent are cooking more and enjoying it.
Habits: When they do dine out, 20 percent of surveyors are making online reservations, up from
only 8 percent less than five years ago.
Favorite pizzerias by city
Atlanta - Cameli's Pizza Boston - Galleria Umberto Chicago - Spacca Napoli Hawaii - Brick Oven Las Vegas - Metro Pizza Long Island - Massa's Los Angeles - Pizzeria Mozza New Jersey - DeLorenzo's Pies New York - Di Fara New Orleans - Theo's Philadelphia - Osteria Seattle - Serious Pie Washington D.C. - Pasta Plus Source: Zagat
About 20 percent say they are eating healthier. Overall, surveyors report that they are taking advantage of dining deals, especially in leading markets: 62 percent in San Francisco, 71 percent in New York and 75 percent in Los Angeles.
Check numbers: The national average meal cost this year is $34.62, up 1.2 percent from last year's $34.21. Las Vegas remains the nation's most expensive dining city at $44.44, while Austin is a comparative bargain at $26.74. And as companies cut back on budgets, surveyors claim that only 15 percent of their meals out are for business.
Cuisines: Surveyors say Italian is their favorite cuisine, with 27 percent of the nationwide vote. Runners up include American food, followed by Japanese and French on par, Mexican, and then Thai.
Health trends: Green dining has been on diners' radars for some time now, but even in the poor economy, 61 percent around the country are willing to pay more for "green" products and menu items, up about 5 percent from last year.
When it comes to their health, 69 percent consider low-carb, low-fat, heart-healthy menu items to be important, while 65 percent say trans fats should be banned from restaurants.
Despite the upswing in favorable sentiment in this area, service is still a problem for the industry, with 68 percent naming it the top complaint about their restaurant experience.