My recent restaurant survey revealed an interesting question. That is why we choose a particular restaurant.

A number of people added more than just restaurant names to the list they sent me. They made a comment or two about the restaurant that they chose and why they did it.

Some were more detailed, but most were just a few words. All were insightful and added to what I want to look at this week.

Food matters. It’s a restaurant. It ought to. But that’s not all people consider. Also, the quality of the food did not get mentioned much. It was more quality of preparation and presentation.

In some people’s eyes, it was the entire family who voted. A few folks said when our children are gone, the list will be different. But right now, where they want to go really matters. Niffer’s was on every one of those lists.

A friend of mine made a great comment. He told me I let my wife tell me where I want to eat. She is a highly selective eater, and he allows for that. His vote was solid.

Service is at the top of the list too. This is one of the big reasons we go out to eat. How the restaurant handles pick-up and delivery is of growing importance.

Location matters. Many votes were cast for restaurants that were closer to where the person lives. There’s some magic number in there somewhere that makes a restaurant far away. Seems like that’s about 15 minutes.

When something takes longer than that to get to, it’s more of a special trip. It’s not a “let’s run over and get dinner” place.

Proximity to other restaurants, especially ones we would also consider, is significant.

Ambience, menu

Ambience was big. The look and feel of a restaurant make a big difference. It’s that atmosphere thing that we look for. The top vote-getters have it. Zazu and Café 123 have a special look. Inviting. Urban. Modern but not cold.

Outside dining was a frequent selection criterion. Seems we like that option. Buffets don’t get the nod. Neither did national chains nor fast food.

Menu is important. For many diners, variety brings them in and makes for a return visit. The bigger the group the more weight this carries.

Also, with menu comes price. It’s interesting that price was never mentioned by anyone in this survey. Sure, it’s why we choose a place sometimes, but it appears to not be a primary factor when it comes to the most popular.

A bar is a reason for some restaurant’s popularity, but not a top one. Yet in a way it was, as an attractive bar adds to the overall ambiance of the place. Look at most every one of the top selections.

Another factor that comes into play when I select a restaurant is serving hours. Saturday lunch is the time we most often go out. Otherwise it’s for brunch on Sunday. Restaurants that don’t serve those hours are not at the top of my list. Going out at night is not easy for us.

Accessibility is my primary reason for choosing a restaurant. If I can get in and out easily and safely, plus if there’s accessible parking, then it’s a place for me. Otherwise, we have to get pick-up or delivery. Downtown locations are often difficult.

Obviously, why any of us choose a restaurant has many varied reasons. Look at all of them. Often, it’s a combination that leads to the final choice.

No matter, let’s all get out there and frequent our favorites, plus try a new place or two. Our local restaurants deserve our support.

Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.

Jim Sikes is an Opelika resident; a food, wine and restaurant consultant; and a columnist for the Opelika-Auburn News. Contact him on Facebook at In the Kitchen with Chef Jim.

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