October 7, 2009 / 4:28 AM / 9 years ago

Economy puts squeeze on dining out: Zagat survey

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Hard times have taken a bite out of New York’s freewheeling restaurant scene, but newly opened spots have still managed to outpace closings, according to the 2010 Zagat dining survey released on Wednesday.

Respondents to the 31st annual survey, which bases its ratings for more than 2,000 metropolitan eateries on diners’ feedback, said they were eating out about three times a week — down 10 percent from last year.

Nearly half said they were paying more attention to prices and choosing less expensive places, and some 20 percent cut back on appetizers, dessert or alcohol when eating out.

“There’s no doubt that the recession seriously affected the New York restaurant industry,” said Tim Zagat, co-founder of the survey.

But, he added, “the number of restaurant openings still exceeded the number of closings,” and restaurateurs were responding to lean times by offering better value.

The increase in new eateries was a hopeful sign after last year when openings declined for the first time since 2003.

The Rainbow Room and Cafe des Artistes, which both enjoyed decades of popularity, were among the restaurants that closed.

Despite the focus on value, prices ticked up 2.8 percent. The average tab in New York is now $41.81 — still less than $44.44 in Las Vegas, and a relative bargain compared with Paris, London or Tokyo, with its $93.33 average.

Fifty-five percent of respondents said a famous chef’s presence in the kitchen would not affect their decision to dine there, up from 41 percent last year.

Eric Ripert’s luxe seafood palace Le Bernardin rated highest for food.

Editing by Alan Elsner

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