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Fermi problem: NYC restaurants

How many restaurants are there in NYC? 8 million people. Lots will eat almost always at home, lots eat out for lunch five days a week, a bunch eat out all the time. At first I thought 2 million might be eating out for any meal; then I remembered children and thought about income inequality, so dropped down to 1 million. Assuming an average restaurant can feed 30 people during peak meal time, that gives 30,000 restaurants.

Source one: 35,000 full-service + counter restaurants, plus another 4000 snack and specialty food bars. Within 33% of guess.

Quora, as seen in Google search results, says 24,000 listed as inspected. Within 20% of guess.

But the NY Post says only 8000. Way off, only within 10x of guess. Mention of Williamsburg (in Brooklyn) suggests they do mean the whole city, not just rich and dense Manhattan.

But this says 6000 additional bars and restaurants as a 47% surge allegedly due to smoking ban, so about 18,000 total. First source gave about 18,000 full-service restaurants and 2600 bars+nightclubs.

My estimate extended to the whole country would give 30,000 * 320/8 = 1.2 million. Though we might suspect NYC was high in restaurant use, both as a city in general and as NYC where many apartments might barely have cooking facilities. This says about 580,000 restaurants in the country, according to some market research firm, so cutting by a factor of 2 would have worked.

(Also: " A disproportionate number of the restaurants closed have been independently owned, leaving the field to chains, which now make up 46 percent of American restaurant locations.")

Conclusion: meh. Originally I thought "Boo-yeah!" with two estimates within 20% of my guess, but looking at more links, it seems that as with weddings, estimates very widely, from 8000 to nearly 40,000! and reliable data's hard to find. The first one gives the impression of having done more work so maybe being most accurate.

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Damien Sullivan
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