Lafayette tops NOLA in foodie fortunes

by Anna Purdy

The March issue of Restaurant Business ranked our fair city the 17th best place in the nation to open a restaurant.

Photo by Robin May

An elegant exotic addition to Lafayette's sushi landscape, Dozo underscores the Hub City's strong showing in Restaurant Business' ranking of the best cities to open a restaurant.

The Nielsen Company is hired yearly by Restaurant Business, certainly one of the most respected and informative restaurant magazines in the industry, to assess a Restaurant Growth Index for metropolitan areas throughout the country. In the latest ranking, Lafayette comes in 17th among U.S. cities as a best place to open a restaurant, beating the state's culinary capital by six places.

According to RB: "The RGI score is calculated on an area's total restaurant sales and sales as a percent of income, at a per capita level, compared to the nation as a whole." The restaurant sales figures are gained from the U.S. Census of Retail Trade and the per capita income from the U.S. Census Bureau, both of which sound like really boring places to work.

It's worth noting that the figures can't distinguish between local and tourist dollars so those cities with a higher score tend to have a higher tourist or business traveler population.

Our eastern neighbor New Orleans (defined as "New Orleans-Metairie-Kenner" by The Nielsen Company) did well, although not as high of an RGI as Lafayette. It ranked 23rd. In the last year 98 bars/restaurants opened in the area - and for the length and breadth of that metropolitan area the fact that we topped them is pretty impressive.

What does this 17th place mean for Lafayette? Expect the restaurant mini-boom to continue, especially now after this ranking. While this may not evolve into a full-on supernova of sales, a lot of investors, franchises and chains who are poking around New Orleans for a spot can't help but make the trek across a few bridges to see us and what Lafayette has going on that makes us such a contender. All it takes is an informal poll amongst friends or a peek at Twitter or Facebook to see that Hub City folks tend to eat out a lot. This may also explain the 24-hour gym boom. Just sayin'.