Cities Where People Spend the Most on Eating Out

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Americans spent an average of $3,189 on food eaten away from home in 2017 (the last year for which figures are available), according to data site Statista. People aged 35 to 44 spent the most, an average of  $4,249. A CNBC report estimated last year that more than half of every dollar spent on food in this country goes to restaurants.

We not only spend a lot on food, but we also do it often. Americans eat out an average of 5.9 times a week, including both full-service and fast food restaurants, according to a 2018 survey of dining trends by the restaurant site Zagat.com.  

The advent of COVID-19 has almost certainly changed the equation dramatically. Many thousands of restaurants nationwide have already closed their doors, either voluntarily or in response to local or state government mandates. Some have shuttered completely, while many more continue to provide takeout and/or delivery service, where permitted under the new rules. This is a list of all the states with mandated bar and restaurant closings.

 When the dust settles and the coronavirus has been vanquished, it seems likely that many eating places, on every level, will be gone for good. There is no reason to think, however, that overall spending patterns will have changed substantially.

 To learn which communities spent the most money per capita on dining out in 2017, 24/7 Tempo compiled statistics focusing on full-service restaurant spending in some 293 towns and metropolitan areas around the country. Of the 30 cities listed here, 20 of them are west of the Mississippi, and the majority of them are wealthy municipalities known as tourist destination or resort communities. Sometimes unexpected places turn out to be among the U.S. cities with the most underrated food scenes.

The 10 biggest overall restaurant spending per capita were in places with comparatively small populations, none of them exceeding 100,000 people. The most populous entry by far is California’s San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward area, which far outpaces all the rest with some 4,673,221 people — and it’s No. 27 on the list.

To determine the cities where people spent the most money per capita on dining out at the time of this survey, 24/7 Tempo created an index based on the number of full-service restaurants and the full-service restaurant spending per capita across 293 urban areas of at least 10,000 people. Only full-service restaurants were considered, meaning those that generally offer table service from a wait staff, serving food and beverages for consumption on-premises. Limited-service restaurants — establishments in which patrons select and pay for items before eating, including fast-food chains and counter-service independents — were not considered.