A Portland think tank/website focusing on urban matters, City Observatory, released research on cities with the most restaurants per capita.
Now, "restaurants per capita" is a notoriously inexact science, as different researchers draw different boundaries around urban areas and include different sorts of restaurants. A Trulia study in 2012 listed Seattle at number 5. In 2013, Huffington Post reported that the consumer market research firm, the NPD Group, ranked Seattle number 13. Last year, Bloomberg found that the Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue metros clocked in at number 2.
In two of the three, the San Francisco metro area slayed the competition at number 1. (In the NPD study, the top restaurant city was—wait for it—Juneau, Alaska. Juneau, Alaska?)
The City Observatory research (based on 2012 census data) puts Seattle/Tacoma/Bellevue at number 5 in number of restaurants per capita, with 9.1 full-service restaurants per 10,000 residents. Average is 7. Preceding us are New York at number 4, Portland, Oregon at number 3, Providence at number 2, and, yes, San Francisco at number 1.
What’s the significance?
Well, first off for restaurant lovers: Book your tickets to San Francisco, stat.
For Seattle, the significance pretty much boils down to: restaurants are city builders. City Observatory urban economist Joe Cortright quotes a study saying cities with higher-per capita numbers of restaurants (and live performance theaters, interestingly) have grown more quickly over the past 20 years.
More restaurants per capita also generally indicates higher quality restaurants, given the higher levels of competition.
And finally, this: “While Seattle has a lot of restaurant choices for each person, the per capita income is higher than other cities with similar rankings like Portland…. Those higher incomes (and a higher cost of living) are reflected in meal prices. Seattle may have an outstanding selection of restaurants, but you're likely to pay for the privilege.”