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What is The Most Popular Restaurant Cuisine?

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by Dave Walsh (subscribe)
I enjoy writing about Adelaide and its many attractions. If you think Adelaide is boring, the problem is not with Adelaide. Please click the link to Like my articles, and subscribe to see more.
Published August 31st 2012
restaurant, cuisine
Tasty Roast Duck from Ginling Restaurant

Indian food is incredibly popular in Australia (it's practically an institution in the UK), and there are possibly more Indian restaurants than almost any other ethnic cuisine in Australia. I say "almost" because I think Italian may be a clear winner if you count pizza places.

But which cuisine is really the most popular?

I was so intrigued by this question that I started Googling, without any real success. None of the food sites seemed to care about total numbers, just where the restaurants are and how they rate.

So I called the Bureau of Statistics to ask if they had any figures on restaurant cuisines. Nada - unless I want to pay $400 for a special consultation.

OK I thought, how about some very rough figures? So I did a quick search of Yellow Pages by selected ethnic cuisines for South Australia, and got some quite bizarre results. It was only after I looked at an individual restaurant listing that I discovered the reason for this.

Quite a few restaurants that are clearly Indian (for example) advertise in Yellow Pages that they serve all the following varieties of food: Asian, Australian, Chinese, Dutch, French, Indian, International, Irish, Italian, Polish. Hmmm would you order black pudding and colcannon (or fish and chips) at an Indian restaurant?

I called the Yellow Pages people, but they said they didn't keep any record of the "real" cuisines offered by restaurants. I found that most food sites did not have a particularly accurate or current list of restaurants either.

At Australian Restaurants Directory I finally found a list that looked reasonably accurate. Checking with the owner confirmed that they had recently checked and updated their data. Unfortunately they weren't able to give me access to their complete database, but I did a number of searches that gave me data on selected cuisines (pizza bars excluded).

restaurants, cuisines, australia
Table of Popularity: Selected Australian Restaurant Cuisines

The leading cuisine in every capital city except Sydney is Chinese.

Perhaps not a surprising result just based on personal observation, but I was surprised that in Sydney the Thai cuisine ruled supreme. I was so surprised that I queried this with Sydney people in a forum. It evoked some quite spirited discussion, but regarding Thai places in Sydney someone summed up the general feeling: "There is a ridiculous number of Thai places in Sydney, especially in Newtown".

Interestingly there was a common suggestion that many Thai restaurants are actually Laotian run, but branded otherwise because of the cuisine's popularity.

Other notable things to be seen from the results:
there are more Greek restaurants in Melbourne than anywhere else (doh)
Mexican seems quite popular everywhere except Hobart
The popularity of Indian is well behind Chinese in most cities

So how do these fit in with your perceptions? Are there any other surprises in the data? Let us know in the comments.
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Hi Dave,

I was reading this blog about the most popular ethnic restaurants in Australian capital cities. I was just wondering where specifically you got that information. Iíve been looking for this kind of table for a while now and I wondered if you have a link or did you develop it yourself? I went to the ARD website bout could not find it. Your help is greatly appreciated.

Warm regards,
by ingsk (score: 1|12) 2599 days ago
Unfortunately what is considered popular does not equate to being good. Popularity has alot to do with different factors like affordability and accessibility. Comparing Adelaide to its Melbourne counterpart, Adelaide is pretty blessed to have a large proportion of its restaurants I consider average to decent. Melbourne has lots of restaurants and many are extremely good but collectively, there are plenty of dud ones out there. Purely from observation without statistic backup, I would say Chinese and Italian, followed by Indian.
by Yin-Yin Ow (score: 3|1596) 2648 days ago
by tammy (score: 1|20) 2658 days ago
Definitely consistent with my observations in Perth that there seemed to be a lot more Indian restaraunts around compared to Thai restaraunts, in fact it is only slightly more but in Sydney where I come from there are Thai restaraunts everywhere so more noticeable.
I also did note lots of Chinese restaraunts in Perth whereas they are not so dominant in the Sydney scene, I think Sydney in the 70's and 80's would have been more about Chinese, but Thai took over in the 90's. That said, the number of Chinese people in Sydney would be sustaining their numbers as they are but there is alot more options
by sonje (score: 1|12) 2653 days ago
I'm already eating breakfast and you're making me hungry! Chinese then Italian are probably my favourites, but a good pub meal rates highly too ;)

In today's age of 'give me all the information and don't make me think', it would be nice to have a percentage breakdown of the ethnic cuisine for easy comparison between cities (but i am really lazy and I'm not on my computer to plug it all into excel)
by Megan (score: 1|13) 2662 days ago
Haha, sounds like you've caught up on some sleep without bubs :)
And I agree on a pub meal...

Unfortunately most of the photos from Ginling were a bit blurry, but luckily the Roast Duck saved the day for me.

I should have done the percentages I guess. Probably a bit slower with Excel than you. maybe later?
by Dave Walsh (score: 4|11275) 2662 days ago
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