December 19, 2019

Consumers in Seattle and DC spend the most in restaurants

Consumers in Seattle spent an average of $2,174 per capita on food away from home* during the 2017-2018 period, according to Consumer Expenditure Survey data from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS). This ranked highest among the major metropolitan areas tracked by BLS, and was slightly above the per capita restaurant spending of $2,165 by residents in the Washington, DC metropolitan area.

[Note that these figures only represent spending by residents of an individual city, rather than total spending in the city. Total spending would include spending by residents as well as spending by visitors to the city.]

While the dollar volume of per capita restaurant spending was highest in Seattle and Washington, DC, residents of Honolulu devoted the largest proportion of their annual expenditures toward food away from home. Spending at restaurants and other foodservice outlets on meals, snacks and nonalcoholic beverages represented 8.4 percent of the average total expenditures by Honolulu residents during 2017-2018.

Regional highlights

In the Northeast region, consumers in Boston spent $1,651 per capita on food away from home during the 2017-2018 period. Although spending levels were slightly lower than Boston, restaurants captured a higher share of consumers’ total household expenditures in both New York (5.5 percent) and Philadelphia (5.4 percent).

Residents of the Washington, DC metropolitan area led the South region with per capita restaurant spending of $2,165 during the 2017-2018 period. This represented 6.2 percent of their total household expenditures, which was also highest among the cities analyzed in the South region.

In the Midwest region, consumers in the Minneapolis-St. Paul metropolitan area spent an average of $1,563 per capita on food away from home during the 2017-2018 period. Residents of Chicago devoted 5.8 percent of their total expenditures toward restaurants, which was tops among the Midwest cities tracked by BLS.

Many cities in the West region saw their residents spend more at restaurants than consumers in other parts of the country during the 2017-2018 period. Seattle led the West region with per capita spending of $2,174, followed by San Francisco ($1,982), San Diego ($1,864) and Honolulu ($1,816). Residents of western cities also tend to devote a higher proportion of their budget to expenditures on food away from home.

*Food away from home includes all meals (breakfast and brunch, lunch, dinner and snacks and nonalcoholic beverages) including tips at fast food, take-out, delivery, concession stands, buffet and cafeteria, at full-service restaurants, and at vending machines and mobile vendors. Also included are board (including at school), meals as pay, special catered affairs, such as weddings, bar mitzvahs, and confirmations, school lunches, and meals away from home on trips.

Read more analysis and commentary from the Association's chief economist Bruce Grindy.