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Thursday, December 8, 2011 / 8:45 AM

Some Interesting Restaurant Facts, Courtesy of Zagat

Relish just picked up a copy of the 2012 edition of  Zagat’s “America’s Top Restaurants,” an annual publication of the now-familiar maroon-jacketed restaurant guide. Therein are quite a few interesting facts and betcha-didn’t-know-that’s:

  • In Zagat’s NYC guide, 100 distinct cuisines are represented.
  • Last year the average U.S. meal price rose 0.8% (from $35.37 to $35.65); the average tabs in London, Paris, and Tokyo were double that or more.
  • The number of meals eaten out has stabilized at 3.3 per week, the same figure as last year.
  • Diners in Houston eat out the most (4 times per week); the homebodies are Boston and Philadelphia, eating out only 2.5 times per week. 
  • The tip average held steady from last year, at 19.2%. San Francisco and Seattle are the worst tipping cities (18.6%), while the most generous city is New Orleans (19.7%)
  • Complaints about service are decreasing: this year, 66% of responders cited it as the #1 dining-out complaint, compared to 72% five years ago.
  • But complaints about crowds and noise have increased over the same period, rising from 12% to 16%.
  • This year, 66% feel that texting/emailing/talking on one’s cell phone is rude, but the majority also has no issue with snapping pictures at the table.
  • How many diners use deep-discounted, group-buying coupons? More than half rarely or never use them.

Personally, and for what it’s worth, I’ve always found the Zagat guides to be a pretty accurate barometer of a city's restaurant scene, and more concise than Urbanspoon, TripAdvisor, Metromix, or Yelp. Joe Pollack has been the editor for the local Zagat guide for several decades. (He comments on some St. Louis Zagat history here.) Once again, he and his wife, Ann Lemons Pollack (restaurant critics for SLM and curators of stlouiseats.com), have organized the comments for this year's Zagat’s St. Louis guide (one that's now available only online). Individual numerical ratings get compiled in New York. Joe Pollack explains: "Zagat sends us print outs with scores and comments from diners, with ratings to several decimal points. The latest Zagat site for St. Louis lists 126 restaurants within a 30-mile radius of St. Louis."

Some of the highlights, taken from the abbreviated guide above, are below:

Niche was the highest scoring restaurant, with an aggregate score of 28/30 (an average score based on Food, Decor, and Service). Stellina Pasta, Paul Manno’s, Sidney Street Café, Trattoria Marcella, and Tony’s followed with 27/30; and Dominic’s, Pappy’s, Annie Gunn’s, Harvest, The Crossing, Pomme, and Atlas scored a 26.  (It should be noted that newer restaurants or those with an insufficient number of responses, such as Brasserie by Niche and Farmhaus, received comments and a mention, but not a numerical rating.)

If you feel like weighing in with Zagat, register with them here.

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