Hotel Online
News for the Hospitality Executive


Zagat Survey: Daniel Reclaims the Top spot for Food from Le Bernardin,
Little Doubt that New York is the Dining Capital of the World, Dress
Codes Continue to Lose Ground

NEW YORK, Oct. 10, 2007 - Zagat Survey today released the results of the 2008 New York City Restaurants survey, its 29th annual guide. 
  • Daniel Wins for Food; 
  • Union Square Cafe for Popularity; 
  • Gordon Ramsay as Top Newcomer; 
  • Overall, New York City’s Kitchens Rate Far Higher than Front of the Houses; 
  • Small is the New Big; 
  • Brooklyn and Online Services Make Breakthroughs
The new 2008 guide is Zagat’s most comprehensive ever, covering 2,069 restaurants with input from a record 34,678 frequent diners who collectively bring roughly six million meals worth of experience to the survey. Reflecting another boom year in NYC dining, 56% of the surveyors report spending more than last year versus only 6% spending less. In another sign of strength, there were 234 notable openings versus only 88 closings in the past year. While overall prices have remained flat since 9/11, at the high end of the dining spectrum, there has been dramatic inflation.

Tim Zagat, co-Founder and CEO of Zagat Survey, stated, “The city continues to add to its remarkable roster of restaurants in just about every cuisine imaginable. That the average restaurant remains so affordable should be celebrated. Based on our surveys in 87 major markets, there is little doubt that New York is the ‘Dining Capital of the World.’”

The Scene in a Nutshell:
Rating New York City’s overall dining scene, surveyors gave a 27 out of a possible 30 for choice/diversity and a 24 for creativity, but a mere 13 for table availability and a 15 for hospitality. This dramatic discrepancy is confirmed by the fact that 50% of surveyors cite service as the most irritating part of the dining experience, followed by noise/crowds (34%) and then prices (11%). Quite simply, the kitchens of New York far exceed the front of the houses when it comes to consumer satisfaction.

And the Winners Are:
Daniel has reclaimed the top spot for Food from Le Bernardin, now number 3. Number 2, Sushi Yasuda, is the highest-ranking Japanese restaurant in the history of the NYC survey. Union Square Cafe has returned as the Most Popular restaurant—overtaking its sibling Gramercy Tavern for the first time since 2004; Asiate has Top Decor honors and Per Se Top Service for the third consecutive year. Gordon Ramsay, whose U.K. reputation has hit some speed bumps recently, took this year’s Top Newcomer honors.

Top Newcomers:
Besides Gordon Ramsay, notable newcomers include Top Chef Harold Dieterle’s Perilla, the ultimate Texas BBQ Hill Country, Gray Kunz’s semi-eponymous Grayz, downtown dessert bar Tailor and Vanity Fair editor Graydon Carter’s red-hot, still in “previews,” Waverly Inn. Other startups showcase the wide range of ethnic and other cuisines available to New Yorkers including Anthos and Kefi (Greek), Insieme and Morandi (Italian), Resto (Belgian), Mai House (Vietnamese), Mercat and Pamplona (Spanish), Smoke Joint (BBQ) and Kobe Club and STK (steakhouses) to name just a few.

Getting Your Money’s Worth:
While overall restaurant prices in NYC remain the highest in the U.S.  at $39.46 per dinner, that’s only three cents higher than last year. This is consistent with NYC’s annual dining inflation averaging 0.97% since 9/11. Credit for keeping the average cost steady goes to a slew of inexpensive newcomers and to the 697 restaurants in this year’s guide that offer dinner for under $30. However, inflationary trends look quite different at the city’s 20 most expensive restaurants where an average meal now runs $143.06. Since 2001, dinner prices at the city’s elite have soared at an average of 11.6% per year, from $84.45 to $143.06.

New Yorkers Are um, Average:
While the cost of local dining may lead the nation, most New Yorkers will be surprised to learn that they are ‘just average’ in other areas.  Local tipping now averages 19% per check - barely above Zagat’s U.S.  average (18.9%). Among the nation’s most generous customers are Philadelphia (19.4%), New Orleans (19.3%) and New Jersey (19.2%) with left-coasters in San Francisco and Los Angeles being among the least generous at 18.4%. When it comes to who eats out most, New Yorkers are also average at 3.3 times per week, which is also the U.S. average. Texans take a clean sweep for dining out most, with Houston at 4.2 times per week, and Dallas/Fort Worth and Austin/Hill Country both 4.0 times per week.

Increasing Reliance on the Internet:
While 72% of surveyors still call when making reservations, 17% now reserve online - a 10% increase since 2005. Another surprise is that fully two-thirds of surveyors state that they like to preview a restaurant’s menu online before reserving. The ability to both review restaurant menus and reserve a table for free at over 4,000 restaurants is available on Zagat has also recently launched its mobile website,, allowing those with browser-enabled cell phones and wireless PDAs to access restaurant, hotel and nightlife information as well as the ability to direct dial the restaurant by a single click, text the information to a friend and even find other restaurants nearby in case you change your mind.

A Scene Grows in Brooklyn:
This year three Brooklyn restaurants have made the Top 20 Food list.  Williamsburg’s Peter Luger led, scoring a 28 out of a possible 30 for its food and ranking as the city’s No. 1 steakhouse for the 24th consecutive year. Di Fara (Midwood), with a 27 rating, was No. 1 for NYC pizza and Saul (Boerum Hill), also a 27, is the city’s 4th best American. With 30 new Brooklyn entries, this year’s guide now includes a record 185 Kings County restaurants, highlighted in a new Brooklyn dining map.

High Times for Low Food:
In 2007 some less-than-sophisticated food groups got haute spins.  Barbecue caught its second wind with the arrivals of Fette Sau, Georgia’s Eastside BBQ, Hill Country, Johnny Utah’s, Smoke Joint and Southern Hospitality. Likewise, the basic burger was reinterpreted at brgr, Five Guys, 67 Burger and Stand. Even top toques such as Laurent Tourondel (BLT Burger) and Daniel Boulud are opening burger joints.

Going Green:
More than ever local and sustainably raised produce is of concern to Zagat surveyors, e.g. 52% of them said they were willing “to pay more” for food that is sustainably raised and 50% say the same for food that’s organic. At the same time, more restaurants are showcasing greenmarket-driven menus, including Danny Meyer’s Union Square Cafe, which is back as the top spot for popularity, as well as newcomers BLT Market, Borough Food & Drink and Flatbush Farm, all of which feature locally-raised produce.

Small Is the New Big:
Small-plate menus are cropping up all around town including those at L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon, Degustation and Perbacco, despite the fact that 75% of those surveyed think traditional standard-plate menus provide a better value. Additionally, smaller, more intimate neighborhood restaurants like Cafe Cluny, Insieme, Klee Brasserie, Morandi and Waverly Inn are outpacing last year’s theatrical, mega-restaurants such as Buddakan, Craftsteak, Del Posto and Morimoto.

Dressed-Down Dining:
The rise of these neighborhood restaurants has led to another trend - the dressing down of dining out. White tablecloths and dress codes continue to lose ground with the loss of fine dining establishments like Alain Ducasse, Lenox Room and March, with not a single formal restaurant among this year’s crop of 234 newcomers.

Diner’s Paradox:
Despite the fact that 30% of surveyors chose Italian as their favorite cuisine, restaurants serving French cuisine continue to score the highest.  Six of the top 10 food rated restaurants serve French cuisine: Daniel, Le Bernardin, Jean Georges, Bouley, Chanterelle and L’Atelier de Joel Robuchon. While only 13% prefer Japanese cuisine, Sushi Yasuda (No. 2) and Sushi Seki (No. 9) also made the top 10 list for food. In contrast, Chinese restaurants have stalled - not one made the top 50 food list where 9 Japanese currently reside.
New Look, New Features, New Platform:

Zagat's 22nd annual Los Angeles / Southern California Restaurants survey. 

Melisse has reclaimed the top spot for Food; Spago is Most Popular for the first time; Hotel Bel-Air wins both Top Decor and Service for the second consecutive year while Mario Batali and Nancy Silverton take Top Newcomer honors with their Hollywood hotspot, Pizzeria Mozza.

The 2008 Zagat Los Angeles / Southern California Restaurants guide, released to area bookstores this week, covers 2,187 restaurants and is based on the experiences of 8,859 locals who eat out or take out over half their meals.

“Few cities offer more variety than Los Angeles’ dining scene,” said Tim Zagat, co-founder of Zagat Survey. “The people of Paris can only dream of having as many top quality Japanese, Chinese, Italian, Mexican and Cal-Med style restaurants from which to choose.

Top Newcomers: Besides Pizzeria Mozza, notable newcomers include Batali’s Osteria Mozza, Tom Colicchio’s Craft, Eric Greenspan’s Foundry on Melrose, Jason and Miho Travi’s Fraiche and Larkin Mackey’s Larkin’s.

Front of House Needs Help: Rating the Los Angeles dining scene as a whole, the surveyors gave the City’s Culinary Creativity a 21 (i.e., very good) on the Zagat 30-point scale and Diversity a 25 (excellent). However, front of the house scores were much lower with Hospitality rating a 14 and Table Availability a 15. Confirming this, 72% of all complaints relate to service, while food and prices net only 5% and 4%, respectively. In sum, the front of the house continues to be the restaurant industry’s weak link.

Spending More and Tipping Less: Sixty-eight percent of Angelenos say they spend more on dining out now than two years ago. However, while the average cost of a local meal rose 4.3% since last year to $33.29, that’s still a dime below the national average of $33.39 and the competition in Chicago, San Francisco and New York City. Staying in tune with their attitude towards restaurant service and hospitality, local diners’ give an 18.4% average tip which is also below the 18.9% national average.

What Comes Naturally: Local, organic and sustainably raised produce are more than just a mantra for Leo-likes, as 54% of surveyors said they were willing “to pay more” for food that is organic/sustainably raised and 61% prefer food that’s locally grown or raised. Reflecting this preference are newcomers, Blue Velvet and Rustic Canyon, as well as Suzanne Goin’s A.O.C.  and Lucques, Dominique Crenn’s Abode and Chef Le Balch’s eponymous Santa Monica restaurant Josie. Neil Fraser’s Grace and Quinn and Karen Hatfield’s restaurant are so green-minded, they use recycled vegetable oil to run their cars. What surveyor’s don’t like are transfats -- 68% want them banned.

Let them Eat Steak: Putting greening aside, steakhouses are seeing a rise in popularity and, more importantly, sales. New chop shops like Wolfgang Puck’s Cut, the kosher Prime Grill and former Mayor Richard Riordan’s Tavern, are popping up everywhere while classics like Ruth’s Chris, Fleming’s, Mastro’s and Morton’s continue to rope in herds of customers.

Wine Bar Wrap Up: Offsetting the steakhouse trend, diners are being served smaller plates at a slew of wine bars that have recently opened up.  Hollywood’s Lou, Santa Monica’s Rustic Canyon, West LA’s Upstairs 2, Vertical Wine Bistro in Pasadena and the soon-to-open, The Winery in Tustin (Orange Co.), joining the 30+ wine bars listed in the new guide.

Top Neighborhoods: Santa Monica (with Melisse, Josie, Capo, Chinois on Main, Valentino) remains Zagat surveyors’ pick for the area with the best restaurants, followed by West Hollywood and Beverly Hills. But other areas are challenging those destinations including Culver City (with Beacon, Ford’s Filling Station, Fraiche, Tender Greens and Wilson) and Downtown (with Blue Velvet, e3rd, Liliya, Takami Sushi and Tiara Cafe).

On the Horizon: An influx of celebrity chefs are planning to open up shop in the City of Angels. In addition to the anticipated arrival of Alain Giraud’s yet-unnamed brasserie in Santa Monica’s Clock Tower building, Todd English’s Hollywood tapas joint Beso (funded by Eva Longoria) and restaurants by Gordon Ramsay, Charlie Palmer and Laurent Tourondel are expected to open soon. Diners can also count on seeing more Japanese Robatayaki bars and other Japanese restaurants offering traditional Japanese pub snacks in addition to sushi. Newcomers Izaka-Ya by Katsu-Ya on Third Street, Izakaya Kiichi in WeHo, Honda-Ya in Little Tokyo and Orange County’s Izakaya Zero are leading the charge.

Like all Zagat Survey guidebooks, the 2008 Los Angeles / Southern California Restaurants guide is made by consumers for consumers. In addition to Most Popular and Top Food, the guide also includes such useful categories as Late Dining, Outdoor Dining, Romantic Places, Singles Scenes and, of course, Stargazing. Restaurants are also broken out by cuisine, location, and dozens of other groupings.

The 2008 Los Angeles / Southern California Restaurants guide ($14.95) was edited by Lena Katz and Angela Pettera, Gretchen Kurz in Orange County, Merrill Shindler, Michelle Golden and Karen Hudes. It is available at bookstores and other retail outlets and via

For the first time in its 29-year history, Zagat Survey has significantly changed the look of its guidebooks. The pages are now designed in two colors to allow for easier reading. Icons have been added for “NEW” and a “Z” indicates a Zagat Top Spot (highest ratings, popularity and importance). In addition to a color Subway map and Most Popular Restaurants map, the guide now features the aforementioned dining maps of Brooklyn and a map highlighting Key Newcomers. Following the company’s long-term strategy of being “available in every way our customers desire,” the new guide is available on all web- enabled, wireless devices via a new mobile system -
The 2008 New York City Restaurants guide ($15.95) was edited by Curt Gathje and Carol Diuguid, and coordinated by Larry Cohn. It is available at bookstores and other retail outlets, through or by calling 888-371- 5440.

About Zagat Survey, LLC

Known as the “wildly popular” “burgundy bible”, Zagat Survey is the world’s most trusted source for information about where to eat, drink, stay and play. With more than 300,000 surveyors, Zagat Survey rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories and is lauded as the “most up-to-date”, “comprehensive” and “reliable” guide ever published. Zagat content is available to consumers wherever and whenever they need it: in book format, on, via the downloadable ZAGAT TO GO for smartphones and on the mobile web with For more information, visit


Zagat Survey

Also See: Le Bernardin Takes Top Honors for Food; Daniel for Decor; per se for Service / Zagat's 2007 New York City Restaurants Survey / October 2006
Zagat Survey 2005 NYC Restaurants; Average Check Now at $37.45, Only Four Restaurants Left Requiring Jackets and Ties; Gramercy Tavern Rated Most Popular Restaurant in NYC / October 2004


To search Hotel Online data base of News and Trends Go to Hotel.OnlineSearch
Home | Welcome| Hospitality News | Classifieds| One-on-One |
Viewpoint Forum | Industry Resources | Press Releases
Please contact Hotel.Onlinewith your comments and suggestions.