Little-Known Facts About the Restaurant Industry

Did you know the first taverns date back to Ancient Greece?

How much do you really know about the industry?

Restaurants have a deeply rich international history, representing the shifts of dining culture and changes in taste preference over time.

They're also the place we go to for a quick lunch on the go or a celebration of a family member's high school graduation. For the longest time, restaurants will be part of the North American social experience.

Here's a look at 55 fun, little-known facts about restaurants: from the historical, to the statistical, to the down-right random.

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Random Facts About Restaurants

restaurant facts

  • Athlete Peyton Manning (above) bought 21 Papa Johns locations in Colorado in 2012 right before the state's vote to legalize marijuana. Since its passing, sales in some stores have doubled (source). 
  • Believe it or not, more Americans order their meat well done or medium well than they do rare or medium rare.
  • 17% of diners' meals go uneaten in restaurants (source).
  • Some of the biggest restaurant chains - including In-N-Out, Denny's, and Johnny Rocket's - are family owned (source).
  • Benihana was founded by a professional wrestler, Hiroaki Aoki, who raised capital by driving an ice cream truck. Bonus fact: Hiroaki is Steve Aoki's father! (source).

restaurant facts

  • Ever get guac at Chipotle? It might have been from Jason Mraz's backyard. The singer sells avocados to the burrito chain (source).
  • Shaq owns 155 Five Guys locations (source).
  • The "five guys" are the sons of Five Guys' founder (source).
  • The busiest day of the year for restaurants is Mother's Day (source).
  • Italian food is the most popular ethnic cuisine in the USA, followed by Mexican, then Chinese (source).

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Facts About the History of Restaurants

  • The word restaurant is French, originally meaning "food that restores" (source).
  • The oldest American restaurant still in service today is Boston's very own Union Oyster House, founded in 1826 (source).
  • The oldest tavern in America is White Horse Tavern in Newport, Rhode Island, opened in 1673 (source). 
  • The first fine dining restaurant established in America is Delmonico’s, who opened their doors in 1837 in New York City.
  • The oldest fast food restaurant chain is White Castle, founded in 1921 (source).

Facts About Working in a Restaurant

  • 14.7 million people work in the restaurant industry (source).
  • Half of all adults have - at some point - worked in a restaurant (source). 
  • One-third of Americans' first job was in a restaurant (source).
  • 10% of the nation's workforce is employed in a restaurant (source).
  • 90% of restaurant managers started at entry-level in the industry (source).
  • 80% of restaurant owners started at entry-level in the industry (source).

Facts About Pizzerias & Pizza in Restaurants

  • The average American eats 46 slices of pizza every year (source).
  • 3 billion pizzas are ordered every year in America (source).
  • Hawaiian pizza was first served by a Greek man living in Canada (source).
  • Anchovies are most frequently called the least popular pizza topping (source).
  • Pepperoni is the most popular pizza topping (source).
  • 37% of all pizza orders include a plain cheese pizza (source).
  • Domino's kickstarted the "30 Minutes or Less" campaign in 1984 (source).
  • Unfortunately, they were forced to rescind the offer after losing millions in court. Injuries (and at least one death) occurred because drivers would apparently dive recklessly to meet the deadline (source).

Facts About Fast Food Restaurants

  • The grill marks on fast food burgers aren't always from a real grill - they're sometimes put on by the factory that they're shipped from (source).
  • Most people know Wendy's was named after founder Dave Thomas' daughter - but Wendy wasn't her actual name. It was actually Melinda Lou - Wendy was her nickname (source). 
  • Burger King was initially called Insta-Burger King in 1953. It was acquired in 1959 and renamed Burger King (source). 
  • KFC's Colonel Sanders was never an official colonel (source).
  • Starbucks sells four million beverages every day (source).
  • McDonald's reportedly sells 75 hamburgers a second (source).
  • McDonald's makes more sales than any other restaurant franchise. In 2014, total sales were $35.6 billion, or $2.6 million per store (source).
  • Because of Happy Meals, McDonald's is the largest toy distributor in the world (source).
  • Every month, 9 in 10 American children eat at McDonald's (source).
  • 1 in 8 Americans have worked in McDonald's (source).
  • Chris Brown (above) owns 14 Burger King restaurant locations. Magic Johnson owns 30 (source).
  • Subway actually has more locations worldwide than McDonald's does (source).
  • Subway was founded by a 17-year-old (source).
  • Outback Steakhouse was founded by four men - none of whom have ever been to Australia (source). 

Facts About Restaurant Finances

  • Millennials spend 44% of their food budget at restaurants (source).
  • In 2017, restaurant sales are slated to grow the most in the mountain states (5.3% growth) and the least in West North Central States (3.5% growth) (source).
  • There's a growing trend of restaurants going cashless, but this is actually illegal in some states (like Massachusetts) (source).
  • Soda in restaurants is marked up by 1,150% in restaurants (source).
  • Dessert markup can be as high as 70% (source).
  • 70% of restaurants are single-location units (source). 

Facts About Restaurants by Location & Geography

restaurant facts

  • New York City is the most Michelin-starred US city (source).
  • San Francisco is the most saturated restaurant market with 39.3 restaurants per 10,000 households (source).
  • New Orleans is the most bar-dense city in America (source).
  • Tao Asian Bistro in Las Vegas is the most profitable independent restaurant in America (source).

restaurant facts

  • Walleub conducted a report to determine the Best Foodie Cities in America. Orlando, FL came out on top (source).
  • In the same report, North Las Vegas came in last (source).
  • With nearly 70,000 eating and drinking locations, California has the most restaurant locations, followed by New York (source).
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