Zagat, the publisher of city guides in which consumers rate restaurants, released its annual Dining Trends Survey this month. The 2018 survey taps into the opinions of nearly 13,000 diners across the country to reveal what drives their restaurant behavior. Some of the results expand on last year’s trends, including the power of Instagram when it comes to decision-making (75% of respondents who browse food photos choose a place to eat based on those images). Read on for more insider tips from customers.
1. Will travel for food?
All the social media posts of food photos from faraway places beg the question: Do Americans travel just to eat? According to the Zagat survey, 13% would actually jump on a plane or plan a vacation around a sought-after dish; the same number would take a weekend drive for a must-have meal. While those diners are in the minority, a majority—54%—would travel up to 30 minutes to a restaurant. And 56% would squeeze in multiple lunches and dinners on a longer trip in order to try everything a culinary destination has to offer.
3. Tip top
Within the current tipping convention, Philadelphians get the prize; customers in the City of Brotherly Love tip an average of 20.3%. Restaurant patrons in Denver and Washington, D.C., are close behind at 19.5% and 19.2%, respectively, more than a point above the national average tip of 18.1%. Some full-service operators are raising menu prices to build in a tip or service charge, a move that 43% of respondents support. But 33% “hate” the no-tipping trend, with diners in New Orleans most opposed to it (42%), followed by those in Miami and Charleston, S.C. (both 40%).
4. Dialing gets ditched
Making a dinner reservation by phone is so old school—57% of diners in the Zagat survey reserve via the internet and 25% make reservations on mobile dining apps. Diners in Washington, D.C., are the most phone-phobic, with 77% saying they make reservations online.
5. Dining-out deal breakers
Cash-only restaurants are a no-go for 36% of Zagat diners—a trend in sync with the move toward cashless payment in fast casuals such as Sweetgreen and Shake Shack. Survey respondents also give a thumbs down to sitting at communal tables (33%), a rigid no-substitution policy on menu items (27%) and a strict reservation-only policy (19%).