Food for Thought: The folks who keep track of Americans' dining-out habits crunch the numbers very carefully. It's not hard to understand why: The projected amount we'll spend this year eating away from home is an unbelievable $275 billion. That's more than 43 cents out of every dollar we spend on food. This sum accounts for 4.3 percent of the Gross Domestic Product. Here are some facts and figures gleaned from industry sources: One out of every four retail outlets is an eating or drinking establishment. Nearly 5 percent of all employed Americans over the age of 16 work at food and beverage places--about nine million people. Almost six out of ten of these workers are women, 12 percent African American, and 12 percent Hispanic. African Americans and Hispanics are 20 percent of the supervisors in food service. The typical American eats 198 meals away from home in a year--almost four a week. Most restaurants are mom-and-pop operations; 72 percent of all eating and drinking places gross under $500,000. Chains and franchises are still a long way from taking over the market. Three out of four restaurants are single-unit outfits.
Miami residents are the biggest restaurantgoers, based on how much they spend per capita. Next come San Franciscans and New Yorkers. Saturday is the most popular day to eat out, followed by Friday and Sunday. Monday is the slowest day.
East Meets Southwest: Restaurant owners spend enormous amounts of time thinking up promotional schemes. The folks at Pion Grill, one of the Valley's premier Southwestern dining spots, seem to have outdone themselves. Until March 31, they're attempting an intriguing culinary experiment: blending the flavors of the Southwest with a taste of the Orient. They call it "Hong Kong fusion." A Chinese chef has been imported to work with the Pion Grill's chef Joe DeLucia on a special menu. (The regular menu is still available.) Among the dishes: Asian Cowboy veal chop, marinated in soy, ginger, chiles and lime, with soba noodles; ahi tuna with udon noodles in black bean sauce; and stir-fried shrimp in oyster sauce with Chinese vegetables, on cilantro linguini. Depending on your point of view, these creations sound either mad or inspired. I say: If you're interested in food and can handle $15 to $25 entrees, why not check it out? I don't know what adjectives you'll end up using to describe the fare, but "dull" seems like a long shot.