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Blog Post

Maps of American restaurant quality


In a recent contribution to a special issue of the Journal of Regional Science on cities and endogenous amenities, we investigate whether land use restrictions affect restaurant quality, and if so how. We argue that they do, but perhaps more interesting is how to measure restaurant quality nationwide. As we explain in the paper:

“Measuring the quality of restaurants and other amenities has been challenging for economists, who have typically relied on residual calculations. One obvious alternative, expert opinion, is typically labor‐intensive and not generally available. Michelin, for example, the leading global source of expert opinion on restaurants, covers only Chicago, the District of Columbia, New York City, and San Francisco, and even within those cities it only explicitly assesses the quality of a relatively small number of restaurants.”

We address this problem by using two readily available measures that correlate strongly with expert assessments: the number of cuisines available in an area (from a list of 30 total cuisines), and the share of non-franchise restaurants. Now behold maps featuring these two measures, depicted at the zip code level, below: