Last week, Bundle, a website devoted to helping customers make spending decisions, released a study proclaiming Dallas the number one "eating out city."
The study analyzed credit card data and compared dining habits in different American cities. And it came to a surprising conclusion: Diners go out 70 percent more often here than in the average big city, and they spend 91 percent above the national average on dining out, according to Bundle, which removed bars and fast food restaurants from the data pool before crunching the numbers. New York City, the next city down in the list, spent only 49 percent above the national average.
But what does that mean?
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The data led me to two conclusions. The first, and more optimistic, is that there's lots of room for growth in Dallas, which unlike New York and other cities is not a dining destination. All that money is ready to be captured by any chef who can innovate and bring something new to the table. Restaurateurs should be flocking to Dallas to try out their latest concepts. Exciting stuff.
But if chefs here have figured out how to capture such a high percentage of Dallas' discretionary income with a restaurant scene slow to innovate, what incentive do they have to take things to the next level and bring something new to the table? It would seem restaurateurs could rest on their pork buts and continue to crank out steakhouses, chain restaurants and loads of mediocre Tex-Mex while watching a disproportionate amount of money steadily roll in.
Hopefully chefs will take a look at that study and realize the potential. That Dallas has a lot of money on the table, and that by offering something new, they'd have a better chance of making a profit while simultaneously pushing Dallas as a whole into the national spotlight.
I'm only cautiously optimistic. Nana just traded its refined Italian menu to re-brand itself as a trendy steak house. It's only one restaurant, but the move is telling, and if it's successful it will only provide further incentive for restaurants to follow. For a real food revolution to occur here in Dallas, chefs will have to drive the change, educating diners by bringing new concepts to the table, and then sticking to their guns. And Dallas diners would have to do their part, too, rewarding innovative chefs with enough of their discretionary income to make a statement that shows they're ready to embrace a more passionate and diverse restaurant scene.