Wednesday, August 19

Restaurants per capita

Whit Richardson looks at the numbers behind the oft-repeated, PR-infused accolade: Portland has more restaurants per capita than San Francisco.
The Portland City Clerk's office has 536 registered food service establishments with food preparation, according to Alexandra Murphy, assistant city clerk. Assuming a Portland population of 63,000, we come up with one restaurant for every 118 people. Pretty good! With that kind of figure, Portland even tops San Francisco, via Mainebiz.

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Anonymous Don Lindgren said...

"So where does that leave us on the fact or fiction scale? Somewhere in the middle, leaning toward fact, but not enough to meet Mainebiz's high standards of reporting. But for PR purposes, it's just fine." - Maine Biz

So we're faced with some real numbers, and MaineBiz doesn't have the guts to finish the math? They worry that "schools, nursing homes and office cafeterias" are making up the difference. How much of a difference? Well, if we give SF the benefit of a doubt and use the higher number of restaurants (3500), there would need to be 264 schools, nursing homes or restaurants in Portland to bring the two cities even. That seems pretty unlikely. If SF had only 2600 registered eateries, then Portland would need 334 of these non-restaurants. in either case more than half! This math wasn't too tough, so why not finish it?

There's one more thing needed to move this thing from myth to fact: We need to know the statistic for SF eateries is truly comparable. We need the SF City Clerks number of registered food establishments. Then we'll truly know.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Does it really matter?

Anonymous Anonymous said...

yes, actually it does.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Actually, no; it doesn't.

Anonymous Don Lindgren said...

In the scope of world affairs, no it doesn't matter. But Portland does make much of its reputation in the world based on its food, and favorable comparisons (for quality or quantity) with world food capitols are always a good thing. But it's a story that has been thrown around for years, and I've always assumed it was bullshit. This story brings it back up and adds some information, but incompletely. It's time to either generate a useable and factual statistic, or bury the myth.

Anonymous Contrarian said...

Let's bury it. "Per capita" is such a bizarre way to think about restaurants. There's only one of me, and I can only eat at one restaurant at a time. If I lived in San Fran I could choose from 3500, but as it is I'm in Portland and I have my pick of 564. Wouldn't it make a lot more sense to frame this discussion in terms of award-winning restaurants, or innovative restaurants, or something just a bit more relevant to actual restaurant-goers? This per-capita business is not only beyond tired, it's lame.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's an idea, as far as, being relevant to restaurant goers...choose to eat at the restaurant that you want to survive February and March next year! While it appears that we may have more eating establishments per capita than SF, the innovative restaurants, unlike those of SF, rely on the public from NY and Boston more than the local.

I would like to know how many seats need to be filled in each respective restaurant,on a daily basis, to keep everyone afloat and how does that compare to the actual population of the dining public in Portland.

Blogger johnnyd said...

Courtney - that would be an interesting calculation.

Caveats include:
A) Restaurants who don't deserve to survive until February - B) Restaurant owners who blow their summer wads instead of saving it for operating expenses in winter, thus dooming a place worthy of surviving - C) Applying local-only population figures to total seating available vs. locals + tourists.
Hmmm... Interesting. I can tell by the smell of burning wood that I can't stop thinking about the implications of this

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Restaurants per capita is a useless claim to make and even more useless claim to research. The number of people who think on it is probably very small and none of them live outside this city. Portland is a beautiful unique walkable city with some tasty and diverse places to eat – that’s enough of a claim and it actually means something. And there is no need to compare our city to others, especially ones like SF which are not comparable. Let’s celebrate what we have and not worry about statistics or other places.

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Math, stats, whatever. Portland has some great restaurants, but to compare itself to SF (or Portland, Oregon) is beyond absurd, especially when it can't even produce a decent Mexican restaurant (or Vietnamese restaurant, or a Chinese restaurant, or ... you get the point).

Anonymous Anonymous said...

Summer wads? Not this year.


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