A decade ago, New Orleans had more restaurants than any other city in the US.
But the city’s restaurants have been a little bit less successful since then, with the average per capita income falling by more than 10% since 2007.
Now, a new report from the National Restaurant Association suggests that a new wave of restaurants is on the way.
In fact, the average number of restaurants a New Orleans restaurant can seat per person has gone up from 3.4 in 2015 to 4.6 now, and that’s just for the first two years of this decade.
That’s a huge increase.
The NRA says New Orleans is the third most populated US city with an average of over 3,000 restaurants per capita.
“It’s certainly not a fluke,” says the NRA’s executive director, Paul G. Koehler.
“We see restaurants in this city as a core component of our overall restaurant market.”
It’s not just the sheer size of the city that’s changing.
“The growth of the restaurant industry has been extraordinary, especially for small, local restaurants,” says Koehl.
“Small businesses have been able to expand across the country.”
The number of small businesses has also been steadily rising over the past five years, thanks to the Obama administration’s Healthy Food for All initiative.
But the NRCA report says there’s also a lot more going on.
Restaurants are becoming more like supermarkets, which are designed to cater to specific needs of consumers.
But those same restaurants aren’t the only ones getting new spaces.
Koeshler says the “discovery” of new restaurants is a big factor in why prices are going up.
“People are looking for new things, they’re looking for better experiences, they want to try new food,” he says.
The most recent survey by the National Retail Federation shows the average price of a meal in New York City is now $7.85.
That doesn’t sound like a lot, but the NREF’s chief economist, Peter Wertheimer, says the average cost of a large meal in the city is now about $13.50.
“So what’s happened is that the cost of those meals has gone down, and now it’s just the cost in terms of what you get,” he said.
It’s also happening at the restaurant level.
“There’s no question that the number of places that are in New [Orleans] has increased, and I would argue that they’re actually growing,” Koehls says.
But Koeshlers also says that the restaurant experience is changing as well.
“New restaurants have changed their menu and their pricing, but also their customer experience,” he adds.
And Koehmels says restaurants have also changed how they serve food.
“You don’t necessarily see the same thing anymore,” he explained.
“I would say that a lot of restaurants are doing a lot less of what they used to do and have become more of a ‘tap’ restaurant, and so that’s been really great.
But there’s still a lot to learn about what makes the best restaurant, so I think the next few years are going to be exciting for restaurants and for us.”
What do you think?
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