Zagat Invades South Florida

The renowned Zagat restaurant guide for Florida 2010 has just been released in perfect timing for the throngs of people that head to the Southern state for the winter season.

Zagat has released its 2010 Miami and South Florida Restaurant Survey which covered 1,057 restaurants located in Miami, Fort Lauderdale, and Palm Beach. The guide helps codifies the opinions of over 6,100 surveyed diners about the restaurant scene across the South part of Florida and examines how the past year’s economic downturn has affected dining habits.

The new survey presents a multitude of information pertaining to everything even slightly related to South Florida dining. It shows that, overall, there has been a dramatic decrease in dining out among locals, down from 3.7 times per week in last year’s survey, to an average of 3.2 times this year. A significant 34 percent of those surveyed said that they are eat out less than two years ago, with only 20 percent saying they are actually eating out more.

Perhaps not surprisingly, diners in South Florida are reporting that they are being much more “attentive to restaurant prices, they are eating in less expensive places, they are skipping appetizers and/or desserts, and cutting back on alcohol consumption,” all reportedly due to the weak economy.

But it’s not all bad news for South Florida’s dining scene, if you look at it from a customer’s point of view. Sixty-three percent of those surveyed indicated that they have been finding better deals, 37 percent reported that they felt their patronage is more appreciated, 36 percent find it easier to get a table in typically booked up restaurants, and 19 percent reported eating healthier as a result of the changes.

Zagat Survey CEO, Tim Zagat, says, “South Florida has long been a major dining destination, but the crop of chefs coming into the area has really enhanced this image. While restaurants new and old are struggling to stay afloat, we remember that dining out is inextricably woven into American culture, and will continue to be a vital part of daily life despite the tough economic times.”

Some of the note-worthy Zagat winners in Miami include The Biltmore Hotel’s Palme d’Or which won for Top Food, Décor, and Service. The restaurant “combines exquisite New French cuisine with magnificent service and old-world elegance.” South Beach’s Joe Stone Crab also walked away with an award for Most Popular (again), and “beautifully designed” Hakkasan won for Top Newcomer.

The fact that many top chefs and world-renowned restaurateurs have set up camp in South Florida, including New York City’s BLT Steak, and London’s Mr. Chow now in Miami, and Todd English’ Da Campo Osteria in Fort Lauderdale.

Just how much does it cost to eat out in South Florida? According to Zagat’s new survey, the average cost of a meal is $39.86, which is up 1.3 percent since last year. This average is significantly above the national average of $34.62, and places Florida among the most expensive places to dine out in the nation, only coming in behind Las Vegas, New York City, and Long Island.

The Zagat survey shrewdly acknowledges the demand for excellent restaurants in the area that won’t break the bank, and in Miami, Zagat has awarded S&S this year’s Best Bang for the Buck. S&S is an “old-fashioned diner with home style cooking located in Downtown.” Up in Palm Beach, Sloan’s Ice cream is mentioned in the bargain dining section, and in Fort Lauderdale LaSpada’s Hoagies gets recognition as the “holy grail of hoagies.” If you happen to pick up a copy of the Zagat survey, you’ll also be privy to a list of more than 200 other good-value restaurants, some of which even include prix fixe lunches for under $30 and dinners for $40 and under.

Reflecting upon what local surveyors find most important in terms of dining this year, Zagat reports that 72 percent of locals say they consider having low carb, low-fat, heart-healthy menu items available as a top priority. Fifty-seven percent of those surveyed were quoted as saying having locally sourced, organic, and sustainably raised food was important, while 65 percent say trans fats should be completely banned. Look out South Florida restaurant owners, an impressive 89 percent of diners voted “yes” when asked whether a restaurants latest health department inspection report should be posted on the door.

Via: PR Newswire