California Diners More Cost-conscious, Zagat finds

According to a report from Nation’s Restaurant News, “diners in Los Angeles and San Francisco are being more careful with their money when dining out, but local restaurateurs have been holding onto customers by offering deals, according to Zagat Survey, which released its 2010 guides for Southern California and the San Francisco Bay Area this week.”

“In Los Angeles, of the 10,311 people surveyed, 48 percent said they were dining out less; 42 percent said they ate out at less-expensive venues; and 22 percent skipped appetizers or desserts. Another 19 percent cut back on alcohol, and 7 percent shifted from bottled water to tap to save money. The number of meals eaten out during a week in Los Angeles averaged 3.4 this year, down from 3.7 last year. On the upside, however, 55 percent of those surveyed said they were finding better deals at restaurants; 22 percent said service had improved; and another 20 percent said they were eating more healthfully as a result of cutting back on alcohol and rich foods.

“’The economic downturn has definitely affected Los Angeles diners. Quite simply, they are being more careful with their money,’ said Tim Zagat, chief executive and co-founder of the Zagat Survey. ‘They good news is that diners still take out or eat out almost half of their meals, indicating that restaurants are still a vital part of everyday life, even in these difficult times.’”

“Results were similar in San Francisco, where 52 percent of the 9,700 people surveyed said they were eating out less often and 42 percent said they were dining in less-expensive restaurants. Twenty percent said they were cutting back on alcohol, and 21 percent had cut down on desserts. In San Francisco, the number of respondents who said price was their main complaint jumped to 10 percent this year from 6 percent last year, which the guide said was not surprising given that the city is one of the nation’s most expensive for dining out. An average meal in San Francisco costs $39.40, according to Zagat, compared with $34.95 in Los Angeles, and $34.54 nationally”