Going out to eat is more popular than ever. Americans in the 1950s spent three times as much on groceries as on food away from home. In 2014, for the first time, restaurant spending surpassed grocery spending.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, there are approximately 78 full-service restaurants per 100,000 Americans, and annual restaurant sales amount to $704.18 per person. In some wealthy, tourist-heavy cities, going out to eat is very common, and the concentration of restaurants and money spent at fine dining establishments per capita is more than four times the national average.
To determine the cities where people go out to eat all the time, 24/7 Wall St. created an index based on the number of full-service restaurants and full-service restaurant spending per capita across 917 urban areas of at least 10,000 people. To hone in on the fine-dining sector, only full-service restaurants were considered. Full-service restaurants include establishments that generally offer table service with a wait staff, serving food and beverages for consumption on-premises. Limited-service restaurants, which include establishments in which patrons select and pay for items before eating, were not considered.
The array of available dining options may also impact restaurant spending. While nationwide there are about as many full-service restaurants as there are limited-service restaurants — also known as fast food restaurants — in some wealthy, tourist-heavy cities the ratio of fine-dining to fast-food establishments is greater than three to one. In 47 of the 50 cities with the highest fine-dining restaurant spending per capita, the ratio of full-service to limited-service restaurants is greater than the national value.
Correction: A previous version of this article referenced a Zagat figure on the number of times Americans go out to eat a week. This figure was misleading because it includes non full-service restaurants, while the focus of our article is full-service restaurants only. This reference has been removed.