How many people eat at restaurant?

Eating at restaurants is a common activity for many people. With rising incomes and busy lifestyles, restaurant dining provides convenience and experience that home cooking often cannot. But just how popular is restaurant eating? Here we provide some quick answers before diving into the details.

Quick Answers

In the United States:

  • There are over 1 million restaurants
  • Restaurant industry sales are expected to reach $899 billion in 2022
  • The average household spends $3,459 per year on food away from home
  • 43% of consumers say they are eating at restaurants as often as they did prior to COVID-19


  • Global restaurant industry sales are projected to reach $3.4 trillion by 2025
  • The average global household spends 25-35% of their food budget on away from home food
  • In 2021, around 54% of global consumers reported visiting restaurants at least once a week

Number and Types of Restaurants

According to the National Restaurant Association, there were over 1 million restaurant locations in the United States as of spring 2022. This number is up 19% from around 860,000 locations in 2010. Restaurant locations can be broken down as follows:

Restaurant Type Share of Total Restaurants
Full-service restaurants 24%
Limited-service restaurants (fast food) 67%
Special foodservices (cafeterias, buffets, etc.) 9%

Full-service restaurants where customers are served at a table by wait staff represent less than a quarter of the total. Fast food and quick-service restaurants make up the majority at 67%.

Restaurant Industry Sales

Restaurant sales reflect the massive scale and popularity of dining establishments in the United States. According to the National Restaurant Association, restaurant industry sales are forecast to reach $899 billion in 2022. This represents 4% of the entire U.S. GDP. Restaurant sales have increased significantly from around $780 billion in 2019 prior to the COVID-19 pandemic.

The growth in restaurant sales highlights steady demand despite economic challenges and the impact of COVID-19. Sales dipped in 2020 to $659 billion due to lockdowns and reduced occupancy. However, they quickly rebounded in 2021, reaching $864 billion as pandemic restrictions eased. In 2022, further growth is expected with moderating inflation and strong consumer spending.

Sales by Restaurant Type

Restaurant Type 2022 Sales Projection
Full-service restaurants $323 billion
Limited-service restaurants $353 billion
Special foodservices $223 billion

Full-service and limited-service (fast food) each account for around 40% of total restaurant sales. Special foodservices like cafeterias, buffets, and mobile foodservices make up the remaining 20%.

Household Spending on Restaurants

Restaurants not only generate enormous sales revenue, they also account for a significant portion of household food budgets. According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average household spent $3,459 on food away from home in 2020. This amounted to 36% of total food expenditures. Spending on restaurants has increased over the past two decades. In 2000, food away from home accounted for just 26% of food budgets on average.

Higher-income households spend more on restaurant meals both in total dollars and as a portion of their total food spending. The top 20% of households by income spent an average of $5,911 on food away from home in 2020. This accounted for 43% of their food budgets. For the lowest 20% of households by income, restaurant spending averaged just $1,474 per year or 24% of food budgets.

Average Annual Household Spending on Restaurants by Income Level

Income Level Avg Spending on Restaurants As % of Total Food Spending
Lowest 20% of households $1,474 24%
Second 20% $2,027 29%
Middle 20% $3,033 34%
Fourth 20% $4,472 39%
Highest 20% $5,911 43%

Restaurant Dining Frequency

In addition to sales and spending totals, some surveys shed light on how often consumers eat at restaurants. In June 2022, market research firm NPD Group reported that 43% of U.S. consumers say they are eating on-premise at restaurants as often as they did prior to the COVID-19 pandemic. Just 12% say they are eating at restaurants less often. This points to robust demand even with rising prices.

Prior to the pandemic in 2019, a Zagat survey found that 36% of Americans ate at a restaurant once per week or more. 11% reported visiting restaurants 2-3 times per week. 32% said they dined at a restaurant 1-3 times per month. 21% said less than once a month or never. Frequency of restaurant visits increases with lower age groups and higher incomes much like spending levels.

U.S. Restaurant Dining Frequency Prior to Pandemic

Frequency Share of Respondents
More than 3 times per week 5%
2-3 times per week 11%
Once per week 20%
1-3 times per month 32%
Less than once per month or never 21%

Global Restaurant Trends

Eating at restaurants and other foodservice establishments is also popular throughout the world. Some key global restaurant industry statistics and trends include:

  • Global restaurant sales are projected to reach $3.4 trillion by 2025 (Euromonitor).
  • In 2021, around 54% of global consumers reported visiting a restaurant at least once per week (Statista).
  • Most global consumers say they are eating at restaurants as often or more often than before COVID-19 restrictions.
  • The global middle class is expected to reach 5.5 billion by 2030, driving more restaurant demand.
  • The Asian market represents around 40% of global restaurant sales.

Restaurant markets vary widely between different regions. For example, North America has 15 times more restaurants per capita than India. Foodservice spending as a percentage of total consumer expenditures on food ranges from over 40% in North America down to around 15% in parts of Asia. However, developing markets are generally expected to drive the most growth going forward.

Average Household Foodservice Spending by Global Region

Region As % of Total Food Spending
North America Over 40%
Western Europe Around 35%
Asia 15-25%
Central & South America Around 25%
Eastern Europe 20-30%
Middle East & Africa Around 20%

Factors Driving Restaurant Demand

There are several cultural and economic factors that help explain the widespread popularity of restaurant dining both in the U.S. and globally:

  • Rising incomes – As household incomes increase, spending on food away from home also rises.
  • Urbanization – Densely populated cities can support more restaurants. Urban residents dine out more frequently.
  • Convenience – Busy modern lifestyles with more dual-income households increases demand for the convenience of restaurants.
  • Experiences – Consumers increasingly value unique dining experiences alongside meals.
  • Variety – Restaurants provide more variety and new cuisines compared to home cooking.
  • Consumer confidence – Willingness to spend on dining out reflects broader economic confidence.
  • Travel & tourism – Tourists and business travelers account for a sizable share of restaurant meals.

As these cultural and economic forces persist, demand for restaurant dining is likely to remain high and continue growing globally. At the same time, disruptions like COVID-19 or recessions can impact sales and temporarily reduce restaurant spending.


Eating at restaurants is commonplace for consumers around the world. In the United States, there are over 1 million restaurant locations with total industry sales approaching $900 billion in 2022. The average household spends thousands per year on restaurants, accounting for over a third of food budgets. While COVID-19 disrupted the restaurant industry, demand has proven resilient and traffic has largely returned to pre-pandemic patterns.

Globally, restaurant sales are projected to grow to $3.4 trillion by 2025. Markets with rising incomes and a growing middle class like China and India are helping drive this growth. For the foreseeable future, cultural preferences for convenience, experiences, and dining variety will sustain global demand. Restaurants will continue providing trillions in sales and employing millions as a pillar of the broader service industry.

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