2018 Zagat National Dining Trends Survey Released; Is Tipping on the Outs?

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Maialino, New York City


The Zagat 2018 National Dining Trends Survey has just been released, and perhaps the most notable statistic finds that 43% of diners strongly support the elimination of tipping, in favor of higher menu prices. It is a movement vigorously promoted by restaurateur Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group (Maialino, Union Square Cafe, Marta, Gramercy Tavern, Untitled, etc.), and obviously gaining momentum nationwide.

Some of the other more interesting results? Philadelphians are the highest tippers (20.3%); unacceptable noise levels and lackluster service are the most bothersome aspects of eating out; only 53% of restaurant goers now browse food on social media, down from 60% last year; 28% would pay for a hard to get reservation; and, surely the ultimate foodie profligacy, 56% said they would do multiple lunches or dinners on a trip, in order to tick off all the “must” restaurants at that location.

Here are the highlights.


Zagat’s 2018 National Dining Trends Survey Results

  • Diners are eating out for lunch and dinner a whopping 4.9 times on average per week.
    • Out of all the cities surveyed, diners in Houston are eating out the most with an average of 5.7 times a week.
    • Diners in Dallas – Fort Worth, Miami and Los Angeles are close behind though with an average of 5.6
  • When it comes to the bill, diners said they spend $36.40 on average per person while eating out at a restaurant for dinner.
    • New York City takes the cake for the highest average bill with New Yorkers claiming they spend $46.14 on average per person. This is followed by Boston ($41.54), Chicago ($38.66), then Washington D.C. ($38.45)
  • The national average for tipping is 18.1% with Philadelphians being the highest tippers out of those surveyed, tipping an average of 20.3%.
    • Other high tipping cities include Denver (19.5%), Washington D.C. (19.2%), Chicago (19%) and Boston (19%).


The Dandelion, Philadelphia 


  • There are several irritants about dining out, but noise levels bother diners the most (24%), followed by service (23%), crowds (15%), prices (12%), and parking (10%).
  • Most diners (57%) typically make restaurant reservations via internet, but 30% just call the restaurant directly. 4% say they typically make the reservation in person and 9% don’t bother making a reservation at all.
  • The debate of phones at the table continues. 57% of diners said they feel people using their mobile phones at the table is ok in moderation. Some are not as tolerant though as 35% feel it is completely unacceptable.
  • 53% of diners nationally say they browse food photos on social media, which is down from the 60% who claimed to in 2016. They are not taking as many food photos to share on social media either – 41% say they do vs. 44% in 2016.
  • Expect to see the most food photos on your feed in Honolulu as over half (56%) of diners there told us they take food photos to share on social media.
  • Among those who take food photos to share on social media:
    • 49% admit having stopped their dining companion(s) from eating so they can take food photos compared to the 60% claiming to do so in 2016.
    • 35% have taken photos of every dish at the table (versus 50% in 2016)
    • 16% have picked a place to eat just so they can take their own food photos (versus 19% in 2016).
  • We all know timing is key when it comes to posting your photos too. 35% of diners post photos of their meal at the table, 2% sneak into the bathroom during the meal, 14% post on the way home, 38% post later that night from the comfort of their beds, and 11% save them for #TBT or later.
  • Social media continues to have the same amount of influence on our dining decisions though. When asked if they have ever picked a place to eat based on food photos on social media, 75% of diners said yes, the same percentage of those who said yes in 2016.


Bestia, Los Angeles


  • When it comes to some of the newer restaurant trends:
    • 70% of respondents are so over chairs without a back (i.e. stools).
    • 42% don’t mind the restaurant trend of ordering on an iPad/screen but 12% love it and 37% are over it
    • 36% don’t mind restaurants that make their own ketchup while 23% love it and 16% are over it.
    • Nearly half (47%) don’t mind restaurants where you pay the bill on a handheld device while 22% love it and 20% are over it.
  • When asked how they feel about the growing trend of restaurants eliminating tipping in favor of higher menu prices, 43% nationally say they support it and hope it catches on. 33% hate it.
    • Diners in New Orleans hate it the most (42%), followed by Charleston (40%) and Miami (40%)
  • There are several deal-breakers that would stop them from dining at a restaurant. The biggest dining deal-breaker (36%) is restaurants with a cash-only policy followed by communal tables (33%), no-substitutions (27%), and reservation-only policies (19%).
  • Some diners are willing to travel a great distance just for a good meal. 54% said they would travel up to 30 minutes, 20% said a few hours, 13% would make a weekend drive, and 13% would also jump on a plane and plan a vacation around it
    • Diners from Orlando are the most willing (31%) to travel a few hours, followed by Nashville and Chicago both at 25%.
Would you ever…?
  • Pay for a hard-to-get reservation? 28% of respondents say “Yes. I’ve done it or would.”
  • 87% would not fake a food allergy to get a dish modified to their liking while 13% have or would do so.
  • 55% say they would not ask to charge their phones in a bar of restaurant but 45% have or would.
  • Eat multiple lunches or dinners during a trip to squeeze in all of the locales must-try dishes? 56% say “Yes. I’ve done it or would.”
Girl & The Goat, Chicago