Industry News | September 24, 2011

Survey Reveals Eating Habits by Cuisine, City

The recession may have put a crimp in consumer spending, but most Americans are still letting the good times roll in restaurants, according to the results of the first LivingSocial “Dining Out” survey of consumer behavior. The survey, conducted last month among 4,000 online Americans by Mandala Research, discovered some surprising facts about eating habits, culinary choices, and favorite foods. 

Among the top findings of the survey:

Americans Love Eating Out

  • The average American eats 4.8 meals per week in restaurants or 249 total restaurant meals per year (both dine-in and carry out).
  • The most popular restaurant meal is lunch, with 2.6 eaten on average each week (both carryout and dine-in), followed by sit-down dinners (1.4 per week), and brunch/breakfast (0.8 per week).

A Nation of Unhealthy Eaters

  • Nearly half of respondents (45 percent) described themselves as meat lovers, 22 percent as a sweet tooth, and 19 percent as fast food junkies.
  • By comparison, just 18 percent described themselves as health nuts and 5 percent as vegetarians or vegans.

A Growing Group of Gourmands

  • More than one in three respondents (35 percent) described themselves as experimental eaters, 25 percent as foodies, and 11 percent as locavores.
  • Only 4 percent regularly eat at the growing number of food trucks in major cities.

The Best and Worst Dining Out Cities? 

  • When respondents were asked to rank their city’s dining scene, it was little surprise that New York, Chicago, and San Francisco finished in the top three slots. More surprising were Houston, Dallas, and Washington, D.C., rounding out the top six.
  • The worst dining out cities in the U.S. were Seattle, Sacramento, and, in last place,  Detroit.

The Big Four Cuisines Dominate Eating Out

  • Four types of restaurants dominate the eating scene, with Americans saying they frequently eat Italian (65 percent), Mexican (62 percent), Chinese (59 percent), and pizza (58 percent) more than 22 other types of cuisine.
  • Regional favorites also emerged strong, with Bostonians backing their Irish roots, Atlanta adoring delis, Detroit doting on Middle Eastern food, and Seattle savoring its Vietnamese.

Try Some Thai:  the Nation’s Hottest New Cuisine

  • When asked which new type of restaurant they’d most recently tried, Thai finished on top, beating out 25 other types of cuisine.
  • Outside of the big four, the other top finishers among new cuisines tried by respondents included seafood, sushi, Greek, BBQ, and Indian foods. 

Eating with the Ones We Love

  • Spouses top the national list of dining companions with 56 percent saying they dined out with their spouse or partner almost every time.
  • Other popular dining companions included friends (25 percent), followed by dates (8 percent), and business colleagues (6 percent).

“As a leader in local commerce, LivingSocial has its finger on the pulse the hottest trends in more than 575 markets worldwide,” says LivingSocial local trend expert Amy Wolf. “The Dining Out survey gives us additional insight into local markets so that we can not only continue to bring our members great values on the deals they want, but also help merchants determine the deals that will be most successful for their business.”

The survey also revealed some surprising dining insights about America’s biggest cities.

Los Angeles: King of the Fast Food Nation

  • L.A. residents are more likely to describe themselves as fast food junkies than residents of any other major U.S. city.
  • Let’s do brunch! More Los Angeles respondents said they sit down for brunch or breakfast than in any other major city.

New York: We’re the No. 1 Dining Scene

  • New Yorkers rank their city the best in the country for its dining scene.
  • They also consider themselves the most experimental eaters in the country and top foodies.
  • Perhaps not surprisingly, the city also ranks No. 1 among Italian eateries that diners visit.

Washington, D.C.: America’s Capital of Vegetarians, Ethiopian Eats

  • When asked to describe their eating habits, more Capitol City diners said they don’t eat meat than in any other metropolis polled.
  • The city also leads the nation in residents who enjoy Ethiopian cuisine.

Minneapolis/St. Paul: Staying In, Dinnerless Dates

  • Twin Cities respondents revealed that they eat out fewer times a week than residents in any other major US city.
  • Minneapolis/St. Paul also ranked last among residents who eat out on dates.

Conducting the Dining Out survey and constantly examining member preferences allows LivingSocial to offer compelling ways to discover and experience cities around the world.

For the full findings, click here.

For more information on specific cities, click below:

Methodology

The first LivingSocial “Dining Out” survey was conducted among 4,000 consumers in the top 20 media markets (DMAs) by Mandala Research, LLC.  Respondents were consumers 18 or older who have made a purchase online within the past six months or are “very likely” to make a purchase online within the next 6 months. The survey was conducted online.