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Americans said they would splurge an average of $203 in order to have a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience at a gourmet restaurant, according to a recent online survey by Harris Poll sponsored by Michelin, the global tire maker that publishes, arguably, the world’s most celebrated restaurant guide that imparts the famous Michelin stars to the very finest eateries.
“We discovered across every demographic that American diners would be willing to pay a sizable sum to eat the best meal of their lives at a high-end restaurant,” says Cynthia Ochterbeck, Michelin’s U.S. editorial director for travel guides. “Perhaps this is the influence of around-the-clock food shows and celebrity chefs, but the fine food movement continues to see an extraordinary growth in popularity.”
Michelin’s survey with Harris Poll queried more than 2,000 U.S. adults, revealing some surprising preferences about great food experiences:
- Millennials (ages 18–34) on average would pay $282 for this culinary experience, compared to those diners ages 45–54 who would shell out $170, and $122 for those 65 and older.
- Geographically, diners in the West are much bigger spenders, saying they would pay $352 for an unsurpassed meal, which is essentially double what people would pay in the Northeast ($182), the South ($149), and Midwest ($148).
- Gender is also a factor, according to survey results. Men are willing to drop an average of $241 for a once-in-a-lifetime dining experience, while women are inclined to spend considerably less on average, at $166.
- A quarter of U.S. adults who participated in the Michelin survey say that steakhouse cuisine is their favorite choice for dining.
- Italian ranked as the second choice nationally for the meal of a lifetime. Notably, nearly one in four Northeast diners (24 percent) favor Italian fare, versus 18 percent in the South, 15 percent in the Midwest, and 17 percent in the West. Tied for American adults’ third choice are Mexican, American, and Continental, all at 13 percent in the survey.
When it comes to dining expertise, Michelin has a storied history in publishing guides with restaurant advice. The company’s founders, brothers Andre and Edouard Michelin, created their first travel guide with dining and hotel recommendations in 1900 to promote early automobile travel and thereby sell more tires. Today, Michelin’s Red Guide is recognized internationally as the standard for restaurant information. The Michelin Red Guide is published in 24 countries, covering four continents. Michelin publishes three guides in the United States: New York City, Chicago, and San Francisco. All these guides have a suggested retail price of $18.99 ($21.95 in Canada); they can be purchased at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, and your favorite bookstore. Each year, Michelin food inspectors award the finest eateries with the coveted Michelin stars: one star, “a very good restaurant in its category;” two stars, “excellent cuisine, worth a detour;” and three stars, “exceptional cuisine, worth a special journey.” Michelin recognizes about 112 three-star restaurants in the world.