America’s Restaurants Play Major Role in Travel and Tourism This Summer

August most popular month of the year to dine out

(Washington, DC) Travel and tourism is heating up during the summer months, and the nation’s 935,000 restaurants are vital to great leisure travel. According to National Restaurant Association research, tourism can generate substantial sales at restaurants, and travelers and visitors account for an average of 40 percent of sales in fine dining restaurant segment, 30 percent of sales in the family and casual dining segment, and 15 percent of sales at quickservice establishments. Much due to travelers and tourists, restaurants typically experience higher customer traffic and sales during the summer months, with August being the most popular month of the year to dine out, followed by July, May and June.

“Great summer vacations create memories that last for a lifetime, and restaurants play a vital role in those memories,” said Hudson Riehle, senior vice president of Research and Information Services for the Association. “More and more Americans are turning into culinary tourists, planning vacations and trips around certain restaurants or certain food. In turn, travelers and tourists are very important to restaurants, as that demographic accounts for a substantial part of their revenue.”

A recent survey by the Travel Industry Association of America (TIA) and cosponsored by the National Restaurant Association reveals that the emerging phenomenon of culinary tourism-defined as travel to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating-and-drinking experiences-is taking hold in the American vocabulary. One-quarter of all leisure travelers say food is central to their destination selection, and that number increases to 51 percent for culinary travelers (those engaging in culinary activities during leisure trips). Restaurant-related activities scored by far the highest among all food-related activities, and more than six out of 10 (63 percent) leisure travelers and 85 percent of culinary travelers say they like trying new restaurants most nights during trips.

According to the survey, two in five (40 percent) of leisure travelers self-identify as traveling to learn about or enjoy unique and memorable eating-and-drinking experiences. Visiting a restaurant to simply enjoy a quality meal with travel companions, family and friends was rated the most common food-related activity. Other activities that score high include going to local restaurants for a unique and memorable experience, and experiencing local or regional cuisine.

International travelers and tourists are also an important part of the mix, and international arrivals are expected to increase by approximately five percent to an estimated 54.1 million this year. Despite this, there are concerns that the United States has been losing international-tourism market share to other countries due to the nation’s image abroad and other factors. The National Restaurant Association is a founding member of the Discover America Partnership, an effort led by many of America’s foremost business leaders to improve public diplomacy by unlocking the power of travel. The expectation is that as new visitors return to their home countries and share their experiences with friends and family, they will positively influence the opinion of the U.S. The initiative also advocates public policy that promotes welcoming of foreign travelers. For more information on the initiative, visit

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