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Diners Dis Lingering, Texting and Tweeting at the Table According
to Zagat's 2011 America's Top Restaurants Survey

NEW YORK, Oct. 27, 2010 - Zagat Survey today released the results of its 2011 America's Top Restaurants guide, reporting the opinions and habits of over 153,000 avid diners. The survey includes ratings and reviews of the 1,552 top restaurants countrywide. Results are available on, via Zagat's suite of mobile products and in bookstores.

Codes of Conduct: As more and more restaurants and public spaces offer free Wi-Fi to customers, 60% of surveyors feel restaurants should restrict how long you can linger at a table during peak hours. When asked about texting, tweeting and talking at the table, 63% of surveyors say it's rude and inappropriate, but 85% feel it's acceptable to take pictures of food and each other. The battle of the sexes dies hard - 24% of surveyors say men receive better treatment when dining out vs. only 6% who say women.

Sign of the Times: As expected during these tough economic times, surveyors report eating out less (3.1 times per week down from 3.3 pre-recession), being more attentive to prices (39%), eating in less expensive places (33%) and cutting back on alcohol, appetizers and desserts (17?21%). On a more positive note, 55% of respondents feel they're getting better deals via prix fixe meals and other discounts, 41% suspect their patronage is more appreciated and 33% say that reservations are easier to come by.

Tim Zagat, CEO of Zagat Survey said, "There have been dramatic changes in surveyors' dining habits since the economic downturn. On a national level, they are eating out less and have become more price-sensitive. The percent of meals eaten out and taken out has steadily decreased from 52% pre-recession to 47% this year. These changes are subtle yet powerful when looking at long-term behavior."

Dollars and Sense: The national average price of a meal rose 2.2% in the past year to $35.37. New Orleans has the lowest average meal cost ($28.36), and the highest average percent tip at 19.7% (vs. the national average of 19.2%). Other high-end tippers include Denver, Detroit, Philadelphia, St. Louis and Ohio, all at 19.6%. Hawaii is at the low-end (18.4%), followed by such western cities, Sacramento, San Francisco and Seattle, each at 18.6%. When it comes to paying the check, 50% of surveyors either avoid cash-only eateries or spend less when dining there.

Back to the Big Time: In the last few years, many major restaurateurs and chefs bowed to the economic times and opened casual, affordable eateries. This year, there was a return to pricey form, signaling that high-end dining is far from dead. Among the many upscale newcomers from culinary luminaries: 

  • Simon Prime Steaks & Martinis (Kerry Simon) in Atlantic City; 
  • Uchiko(Tyson Cole) in Austin; 
  • BLT Steak (Laurent Tourondel) in Honolulu; 
  • Bistro Alex (Alex Brennan) and Valentino (Piero Selvaggio) in Houston; 
  • Sage (Shawn McClain) in Las Vegas; 
  • Bouchon (Thomas Keller) and WP24 (Wolfgang Puck) in Los Angeles; 
  • Eos (Donatella Arpaia) in Miami; 
  • ABC Kitchen and The Mark (both Jean-Georges Vongerichten) in New York; 
  • Spruce (Mark Sullivan) in the Salt Lake City area; and 
  • Benu (Corey Lee), Frances (Melissa Perello), Morimoto Napa (Masaharu Morimoto),RN74 (Michael Mina) and Wayfare Tavern (Tyler Florence) in San Francisco.
Top Irritants: A handful of restaurants have earned a near-perfect 29 for Service on Zagat's 30-point scale, including French Room (Dallas/Ft. Worth), Inn at Little Washington (DC), Nicholas (New Jersey), Per Se (New York) and Sanford (Milwaukee). However, 67% of surveyors nationwide report that Service is their No. 1 dining-out irritant. Service woes are followed by noise/crowding in restaurants (14%). When seated next to a noisy party, 34% ask to be moved, 9% ask management to talk to the noisemakers, 4% address the party themselves and 53% simply sit and suffer in silence.

Making the Grade: Similar to a Los Angeles system that's been in place for years, NYC restaurants, in a highly contentious move, have now been required to prominently post their grades (A, B or C) from their health-department inspections. Eighty percent of surveyors nationwide favor this practice.

Green: When it comes to healthy dining, 68% of surveyors say it is important that the food they eat is locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised, and 60% say they are even willing to pay more for it.  Moreover, 31% seek out restaurants specializing in such 'green' cuisine.

Details: The 2011 America's Top Restaurants guide ($15.95) was edited by Bill Corsello and is on sale at all major bookstores. Ratings and reviews are available in a full range of formats:, ZAGAT TO GO for iPhone, iPad and smartphones, and (for web-enabled mobile devices). For information on Zagat's mobile products, please visit Be sure to follow Zagat on Facebook and Twitter @ZagatBuzz for daily news and updates.

About Zagat Survey, LLC
Known as the "burgundy bible," Zagat Survey is the world's most trusted source for consumer-generated survey information. With a worldwide network of surveyors, Zagat 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, published on all platforms. Zagat content is available to consumers wherever and whenever they need it: on,, ZAGAT TO GO for smartphones and in book form.

Zagat Survey
Also See: America's Top Barbeque, Burger and Pizza Restaurants According to Zagat's 2010 America's Top Restaurants Survey / October 2009

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