Zagat Releases 2018 Dining Trends Survey

In this year’s National Dining Trends survey, Zagat asked nearly 13,000 avid diners across the nation about spending habits, social media influence on food choices, and dining do’s and don’ts.

Nationally, diners spend an average of $36.40 per person at a restaurant. New York City and Boston spend above the national average, with $46.14 in NYC and $41.54 in Boston.

Philadelphians continue to be the highest tippers with an average 20.3% tip, up from 19.9% in 2015. Diners in Denver and Washington D.C. also show their server extra appreciation by tipping 19.5% and 19.2%, respectively, surpassing the national average tip of 18.1%. As restaurateurs experiment with eliminating tips in favor of higher menu prices, 43% nationally say they support it and hope it catches on, while 33% “hate it”. Diners in New Orleans are opposed to it the most (42%), followed by those in Miami and Charleston (40%).

For most of those surveyed, the days of dialing a restaurant to make a reservation are over. 57% report making restaurant reservations via internet and 25% make reservations with the touch of a finger on mobile dining apps. Diners in Washington D.C. seem to avoid calling at all costs as 77% say they make reservations online.

There’s no shame in browsing social media and double tapping restaurant and food pictures. Among diners who browse food photos on social media (53%), 75% say they have actually picked a place to eat based on shared food photos.

Dining out is not without its irritations. Nationally, diners reported noise is the most bothersome at 24%, followed by service (23%), crowds (15%), high prices (12%), and parking (10%). Restaurant furniture and style may also be annoying to diners. 70% of those surveyed say they are “over” backless chairs and stools.

As far as dining deal breakers, the survey revealed 36% of diners are turned off by a cash-only policy. Other deal breakers include sitting at communal tables (33%), an inflexible no-substitution policy (27%), and a strict reservation-only policy (19%).

Vacation is the perfect time to indulge in local cuisine. 56% of diners surveyed say they have or would eat multiple lunches or dinners during a trip to squeeze in all of the locale’s must-try dishes. Overwhelmingly, 70% of Honolulu residents have done this or would do it, followed by foodies in NOLA (65%) and Austin (64%). Some would even go the distance to travel for a good meal. 54% of diners said they would travel up to 30 minutes, 20% said a few hours, 13% would make a weekend drive, and 13% would go the farthest and jump on a plane or plan a vacation around a “must try” dish. Diners in Orlando are the most willing (31%) to travel a few hours, followed by Chicago and Nashville at 25%.

For some, a full phone battery is essential for keeping up-to-date on all food news. 56% of New York patrons have or would ask to charge their phone in a bar or restaurant, compared to the national average of 45%. Diners in Detroit and Seattle are less concerned with bothering staff about their phone batteries as 64% say they would not ask to charge their phones in a restaurant or bar.

Most diners aren’t willing to shell out some dough to get into a popular restaurant. 72% said they would not pay for a hard-to-get reservation, while there are some willing to do whatever it takes for the hottest seat in town. 20% of those surveyed said they would pay for a hard-to-get reservation and 8% said they have done it.

According to surveyors, honesty is typically the best policy. 81% of diners said they would never lie about it being a special occasion for a restaurant freebie, while a cool 10% have told a little white lie. Honolulu is the most daring as 28% of diners claimed they have or would lie about a special occasion to get something for free.

For more information on this year’s dining trends, and to find the best places to eat near you, visit

Posted by: Tiffany Herklots, Zagat

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