Consumers are split on eliminating tipping, New Yorkers don't like mobile payment apps, mashups and communal tables are out and avocado toast is still trending. Those are just some of the findings from Zagat's National Dining Trends Survey, in which nearly 10,000 participants from 26 major U.S. markets gave their feedback on several food and operations trends in restaurants. Here are nine tidbits operators can take away from the survey.
1. Most polarizing: Eliminating tipping
When asked how they felt about restaurants eliminating tipping and raising prices, 37% said they support it while the same percentage said they hate it. Respondents on the West Coast are more supportive, with more than 40% of those in Seattle, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Portland, Ore., hoping it catches on, while nearly 50% of consumers in Southern cities like Orlando and Charlotte hate it.
2. Take credit cards and food substitutions; lose the communal tables
A cash-only policy is the No. 1 thing that would stop consumers from dining at a restaurant, with 38% of respondents calling this a deal breaker. Communal tables and a no-substitution policy tied for second, with a third of patrons considering these deal breakers.
3. Tentative about tech
While two-thirds of consumers have used or would use a mobile app to pay their restaurant bill, a third of them said they would not do this. The percentage of those against mobile payment apps was surprisingly high among respondents from progressive markets like Washington, D.C. (37%), Denver (39%) and New York City (39%).
5. Take it or leave it: Sriracha and ramen
After avocado toast, Sriracha sauce and ramen tied for second as the most-loved food trend. But the love affair has ended in some markets: More respondents in Detroit, Houston and Dallas-Fort Worth say they are “over” ramen than for it, while more consumers in Chicago and Denver say they are sick of Sriracha. And respondents in Seattle are done with both.
6. Out: Food mashups and gimmicky dishes
Consumers’ least favorite trend is food mashups like the Cronut and ramen burgers. Only 13% say they love this trend, while 38% are over it. Respondents also say they are over gimmicky dishes like gold doughnuts and rainbow bagels, with only 9% of respondents loving this trend.
9. The power of social media
The majority of Americans (60%) browse food photos on social media, and out of those patrons, 75% have chosen a restaurant based on food photos they’ve seen on social media.
While consumers aren’t loving Instagrammable mashups, many do share other food photos on social media. More than half of respondents in San Diego; Austin, Texas; Charleston, S.C.; and Miami and Orlando, Fla., say they take food photos to share on social media, compared to 44% of consumers overall. Out of those respondents, half have taken photos of every dish at their table, and 19% have chosen a restaurant just so they can take their own food photos.