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Zagat’s New Survey of Hawaii Restaurants Finds Dining Rate has Declined but Service has Improved

Surveyors Favor Healthy, Local Food, While Celeb Chefs Energize Hotel Dining; Sixty-One Percent Say Texting, Tweeting, E-mailing and Calling at Table is “Rude”

Media Release:

Zagat released the results of its Hawaii Restaurants Survey today, revealing that the rate of dining out has declined slightly, but that restaurant service has made discernable improvements. The Survey covers 389 restaurants across the state as voted on by 2,942 avid, local diners. In addition to the print guide, ratings and reviews can be accessed on the newly redesigned ZAGAT.com, which offers additional free features such as menus, photos, stats, “% liked it” ratings, comments and more. Zagat content is also available via Zagat’s suite of mobile products.

Eating Less but Paying More: The average number of meals out per week declined from 3.2 in the last survey to 3.1 this year. Furthermore, 21% of diners report eating out less now, compared to 11% who said they ate out more six months ago. The average meal cost in Hawaii is $37.66, which is more expensive than cities like Seattle ($29.33) and Los Angeles ($34.85), as well as being above the national average of $35.62.

Service Makes a Comeback: Although service continues to be the weak link in the restaurant industry, it made a notable improvement in this survey. While 57% of diners cite Service as their No. 1 complaint, this statistic has dropped dramatically from 77% in the last survey. Respondents also rated the overall “hospitality” of the dining scene a 20 out of a possible 30 – up from 19 in the last Survey. Possibly reflecting this improvement in the front of the house, tipping has improved this year to 18.7%, up from 18.4% in the last survey. This is on par with other West Coast cities including San Francisco (18.6%) and Los Angeles (18.7%), but still below Zagat’s national tipping average of 19.2%.

“Simply put, service remains the biggest issue facing the restaurant industry today. As our country increasingly becomes a service economy, we need to learn how to systematically provide good service,” said Tim Zagat, CEO and Co-Founder of Zagat Survey. “However, it’s encouraging to see service improving in Hawaii, especially in the state’s top restaurants.”

Winners: The list of top statewide winners includes:

Top Food
1) Sushi Sasabune (Oahu)
2) Hiroshi Eurasion (Oahu)
3) Alan Wong’s (Oahu)
4) La Mer (Oahu)
5) Mama’s Fish House (Maui)

Mama's Truck

Mama's Truck

Top Decor
1) La Mer (Oahu)
2) Lodge/Koele Din. Rm. (Lanai)
3) Orchids (Oahu)
4) Pahu i’a (Big Island)
5) Kauai Grill (Kauai)

Fours Seasons Pahu i'a Restaraunt on the Big Island

Fours Seasons Pahu i'a Restaraunt on the Big Island

Top Service
1) La Mer (Oahu)
2) Chef Mavro (Oahu)
3) Lodge/Koele Din. Rm. (Lanai)
4) Michel’s (Oahu)
5) Orchids (Oahu)

Kea­hole Lob­ster Lemongrass

Kea­hole Lob­ster Lemongrass from Chef Mavro's

Most Popular
1) Roy’s (multi)
2) Alan Wong’s (Oahu)
3) Mama’s Fish House (Oahu)
4) Merriman’s (multi)
5) Sansei (multi)

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine

Roy's Hawaiian Fusion Cuisine

When Cost Counts: Special dining deals and inexpensive options continue to lure wallet-weary diners. This year’s Best Buys in Hawaii include:

1. Matsumoto’s Shave Ice (Oahu)
2. Cafe 100 (Big Island)
3. Mix Cafe (Oahu)
4. Duane’s Ono-Char (Kauai)
5. Goma Tei Ramen (Oahu)
6. Kua ‘Aina Sandwich (Oahu)
7. Ezogiku (Oahu)
8. Bubba Burgers (Kauai)
9. Aloha Mixed Plate (Maui)
10. Nico’s at Pier 38 (Oahu)

Cafe 100

Cafe 100

Eating Local: This year 74% of surveyors think it’s important that their food be locally sourced, organic or sustainably raised, and 62% say they would be willing to pay more for it. Some of Hawaii’s latest “green” restaurants include Bev Gannon’s eponymous Gannon’s – A Pacific View Restaurant in Wailea, D.K. Kodama’s Cane & Taro in Whaler’s Village in Kaanapali and a new branch of Merriman’s in Koloa’s Kukui’ula Village Mall on Kauai.

Here’s to Your Health: An overwhelming 78% of Hawaii surveyors agree that restaurants should be required to conspicuously post a letter grade reflecting the results of their health department inspection. This compares to 83% in New York City and a whopping 94% in Los Angeles – both cities having already have adopted the system. As for issues of sugar and salt, only 25% feel the government should institute a tax on sugary drinks as a way to curb obesity, and 52% oppose regulating the amount of salt used in restaurant dishes.

Texting and Tweeting: As in surveys elsewhere in the country, a 61% majority say it’s “rude and inappropriate” to text, e-mail, tweet or talk on a mobile phone at a restaurant. On the other hand, a commanding 93% feel it’s acceptable to take pictures of their food. This is particularly good news for the 20% of diners who admit to snapping photos with their smartphone during service.

Big Kahunas: Chefs as celebrities is a trend that finds favor with 43% of surveyors. Many big names are opening ventures in major hotels, a win-win for both diners and hotels. Masaharu Morimoto opened Morimoto Waikiki in the Waikiki Edition Hotel, Laurent Tourondel brought a new branch of BLT Steak to the Trump International and chef Nobu Matsuhisa’s Nobu opened in the Waikiki Parc Hotel on Oahu. Elsewhere in the state, chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten has lent his talents to the St. Regis Princeville with Kauai Grill.

Table Lingerers: Although you should feel free to enjoy your meal in a leisurely manner, it is worth noting that 63% of diners feel that it is appropriate for a restaurant to restrict how long you can stay during peak hours.

Equality of the Sexes: Though an overwhelming 81% of diners think men and women are treated equally, there is still 13% to 6% margin who feels men receive better treatment.

Miscellaneous Findings: While surveyors in most other U.S cities strongly favor Italian and French cuisine, that’s not true in Hawaii, where various types of Pacific cuisines (i.e. Chinese, Hawaii Regional, Japanese, Pacific Rim, Thai and Vietnamese) dominate with a combined 55% of the vote. Cash-only policies are decidedly unpopular with 53% of surveyors saying they avoid such restaurants or spend and tip less at them.

Survey Details: The Hawaii Restaurants Survey ($6.95) was edited by Yoji Yamaguchi and Jeanette Foster and is available now in bookstores, online at ZAGAT.com or by downloading one of Zagat’s mobile apps, including ZAGAT TO GO for iPhone, iPad, Android, BlackBerry and Windows Phone 7. For information on Zagat’s mobile products, please visit http://www.zagat.com/mobile. Follow Zagat on Facebook and Twitter @Zagat for news & updates.

About Zagat Survey, LLC
Known as the “burgundy bible,” Zagat Survey is the world’s most trusted source for consumer-generated survey information. With a worldwide network of surveyors, Zagat rates and reviews restaurants, hotels, nightlife, movies, music, golf, shopping and a range of other entertainment categories and is lauded as the “most up-to-date,” “comprehensive” and “reliable” guide, published on all platforms. Zagat content is available to consumers wherever and whenever they need it: on ZAGAT.com, ZAGAT.mobi, ZAGAT TO GO for smartphones and in book form.

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