Peek into any fridge these days and you'll probably find restaurant doggie bags. About 62 percent of Americans say they take their leftovers home, and 89 percent of that group admits to actually consuming the scraps, according to a new survey conducted for American Demographics by market research firm Taylor Nelson Sofres Intersearch.
Certain diners are more likely than others to ask for doggie bags. More women than men take food home (67 percent vs. 56 percent), but guys are more likely to scarf it down later (91 percent vs. 86 percent). Households with high incomes tend to ask their waiters to "wrap it up," perhaps because they go to restaurants that serve better food - and who wants to waste a $25 meal?
Basics like steak and potatoes still reign supreme: Seven out of ten respondents said they ate at an American/Continental restaurant in the past six months. Italian came in second nationwide (pizza, anyone?), but Chinese and Mexican establishments are gaining ground. In fact, half of people in non-metro areas say they've eaten both Chinese and Mexican in the past six months, slightly edging out Italian (45 percent). Diners ordering sushi or pad thai tend to be young, on the coast, or in urban centers, where ethnic restaurants thrive. The prevalence of lactose intolerance among African Americans may be what keeps many of them away from cheesy Italian and Mexican dishes - just one-third of blacks say they've eaten these types of food in the past six months, significantly less than the national average.
Many people are willing to go that extra mile for a meal. Forty-three percent of respondents said they traveled ten miles or more to the last non-fast food restaurant they visited. The rate was even higher in the South (51 percent), among residents of non-metro areas (62 percent), and with middle-aged consumers (48 percent). "In the last 20 years, rural America has seen restaurants pop up that serve basically an urban clientele," says Richard Pillsbury, author of No Foreign Food and professor of geography at Georgia State University. "For these people, the drive out to the middle of nowhere has become part of the dining experience."
Americans are generally willing to wait 15 minutes for a table on a weekday night (44 percent), but men are slightly less patient than women. In general, college-educated consumers will wait longer than the lesser educated, but Pillsbury says that could be related to the type of restaurants these groups typically visit - a white-tablecloth bistro with buzz or a local diner with a short-order cook in the back.