Fourth Unveils First Annual “Truth about Dining Out” Survey Results, Revealing Americans’ Eating-out Habits, the Rise of Third-Party Delivery Apps and Favorite Celebrity Chef

Survey reveals new findings around the attitudes and expectations of today’s restaurant patrons, enabling restaurant operators to boost customer loyalty and develop winning strategies

TAMPA, Fla.--()--Fourth, the provider of the industry’s leading hospitality operations platform, today revealed the findings of its first annual “Truth about Dining Out” survey. With the goal of providing restaurant operators an inside look at how Americans prefer to eat out, the survey, conducted by OnePoll and commissioned by Fourth, shows that quality of service is oftentimes more important than the actual meal among respondents who dine out. The survey results reinforce that engaged staff are happier, provide better service, create loyal customers and increase sales.

Americans Love Eating Out

With a strong U.S. economy, consumers continue to spend money eating out rather than cooking meals at home. In fact, the survey results showed that more than half (56 percent) of respondents who eat out - which includes eating in restaurants, ordering food to-go and delivery - eat out at least 2-3 times per week. Additionally, 10 percent of Americans said they eat out 4-6 times per week, and 6 percent of consumers cited they eat out every day.

  • When broken down to gender, the survey found that men typically spend more per week eating out ($82) while women spend $69. In fact, 10 percent of men eat out every day compared to only 2 percent of women.
  • Respondents who earn between $40,001 - $50,000 per year spend the most money eating out, averaging $117.82 per week or between 12.25 percent to 15.31 percent of their yearly income.

The survey also examined, through multiple-answer questions, why consumers eat out at a restaurant. Forty-seven percent of respondents selected “social, spending time with family and friends” as the main reason, followed by “special occasion” (41 percent), “it’s convenient” (40 percent) and “I enjoy the atmosphere” (33 percent).

Gordon Ramsay – America’s Favorite Celebrity Chef

With the ongoing popularity in celebrity cooking shows and competitions, the survey asked respondents to select their favorite celebrity chef. According to the results, Gordon Ramsay took the number one spot with 11 percent of the votes, followed by Anthony Bourdain (7 percent) and Bobby Flay (6 percent).

  • Gordon Ramsay was the favorite celebrity chef among respondents between the ages of 18-54. Surprisingly, Emeril Lagasse was the top pick for respondents who are 55 and older.
  • When broken down to region, respondents in the West selected Anthony Bourdain (13 percent) as their favorite celebrity chef with 13 percent of respondents citing “known celebrity chef” as an important factor when selecting a restaurant.

Customer Loyalty Begins with a Smile

As restaurants compete for customers, providing superior service is no longer an added bonus, but expected. More than half of survey respondents (53 percent) cited “good service” as the second most important factor when selecting a restaurant following “food quality” (62 percent), which received the most votes.

  • When determining a server’s tip, 58 percent of respondents cited “friendly and pleasant demeanor” as the most important factor followed by “attentiveness” (50 percent) and “accuracy of order” (44 percent).
  • Nearly a third of respondents (30 percent) cited “rude restaurant service” as their biggest frustration when eating out at a restaurant.
  • When asked to pick one thing that you would generally change in restaurants, the majority of open-ended responses included complaints around bad service.
  • When discovering new restaurants, 59 percent of respondents rely on “friend recommendations,” followed by “social media” (46 percent), reinforcing that great customer service and maintaining a good online reputation is key to driving sales.

Third-Party Delivery Services are on the Rise

To accommodate consumer demand, restaurant operators are turning to third-party delivery services to manage the ordering, payment and delivery of meals. But with so many options available, it can be hard for a restaurant operator to keep up. Understanding this pain point, the survey asked respondents to select which delivery services they used most often. According to the results:

  • Among third-party delivery services, Uber Eats was selected as the most popular (31 percent), followed by DoorDash (27 percent) and GrubHub (24 percent).
  • When asked what your main reasons for using third-party delivery services are, 50 percent of respondents cited “convenience,” followed by “ease of payment” (42 percent) and “good customer service” (40 percent).
  • A quarter of respondents (25 percent), cited that they use third-party delivery services because they’d rather place their order online or via an app than talk to someone on the phone.
  • Surprisingly, the restaurant’s in-house delivery service was the second most used delivery service (29 percent) among general respondents and the number one delivery service used by respondents in the Southeast (28 percent) and Midwest (35 percent), proving that in-house delivery is still popular.

Room for Improvement

Although Americans enjoy eating out, there are a number of factors that can contribute to a negative experience. To enable restaurant operators to better understand the expectations of today’s restaurant patrons, the survey asked respondents to disclose their biggest frustrations when eating out at a restaurant and having food delivered. The survey results showed:

  • When eating out at a restaurant, the top five frustrations for survey respondents include “the time it takes to receive their order” (35 percent), “the price of the meal and getting an order wrong” (34 percent), “not being satisfied with the quality/taste of food” (31 percent), “rude restaurant service” (30 percent) and “restaurant cleanliness” (25 percent).
  • When having food delivered, the top three frustrations were “the time it takes for the food to be delivered” (20 percent), followed by “the condition of the food” (18 percent) and “missing items from my order” (14 percent).

“Having been in the hospitality industry for more than 30 years, it’s interesting to see how quickly customer expectation can be changed,” said Simon Bocca, chief operating officer at Fourth. “It’s clear from the survey results that customer service and a tight back-of-house operating system are key to optimizing profits. We’re excited for the future of the industry and to continue to help restaurant operators enhance guest satisfaction and scale profitably by ensuring they have the right amount of labor and inventory on hand to deliver a great guest experience – every time.”

To discover more findings from the first annual “Truth about Dining Out” survey:

Survey Methodology:

Sponsored by Fourth, the “Truth about Dining Out” survey was conducted by OnePoll, a marketing research company specializing in online quantitative research and polling, between April 16-17, 2019. Feedback was obtained from 1,000 U.S. adults who have eaten out in a restaurant or ordered food to-go.

About Fourth:

Fourth provides complete, end-to-end restaurant and hospitality management solutions that empower operators to optimize profits, enhance guest satisfaction, improve employee engagement and scale profitably. Developed by hospitality professionals for hospitality professionals, Fourth offers an intuitive, all-in-one hospitality operations technology platform for purchase-to-pay & inventory and workforce management - underpinned by advanced demand forecasting, predictive analytics and collaboration tools - as well as full-service payroll, benefits and HRO services. Founded in 1999, Fourth serves more than 1,200 customers in 60 countries, including many notable hospitality brands in the U.S. including Food First’s Brio & Bravo brands, Shari’s, Bolay, Pinstripes, Bar Louie, TGI Fridays, Mandarin Oriental, Loews Hotels, Soho House and Le Pain Quotidien. To learn more, visit or follow on Twitter @fourthnews.


Amanda Corey
Gabriel Marketing Group


Amanda Corey
Gabriel Marketing Group