The New Orleans Restaurant Scene Is Booming. Here's Why.

An article in today's New York Times discusses the increasing importance of restaurants to the New Orleans economy. Though the city is home to fewer people now than before Hurricane Katrina struck in 2005, the city has seen an incredible 70-percent growth in restaurants, according to one local expert. The recent openings range in style and price, from Vietnamese storefronts to distinguished French Quarter dining rooms — reflecting both novel concepts and traditional flavors.

So, what are the main factors that have contributed to this surprising economic boost? For starters, the Big Easy has always been "food-obsessed" and an increase in tourism has most certainly played a role (visitors spent $6 billion last year, the same total as the year before Katrina). Reasons also include the city largely escaping the recession due to the rebuilding process and its ability to attract a large number of "YURPs" – young urban rebuilding professionals. On the flip side, this shift has caused New Orleans to lose many of its poorest families. The articles concludes that a more educated population has led to a larger percentage of people dining out, which has influenced chefs to move to the city and seek to expand existing establishments. Additionally, banks have not reduced financing for new establishments.

The question remains of whether or not this trend will continue. If a constant stream of tourists in search of quality gumbo and a growingly educated population are any indication, the New Orleans restaurant industry may still be in the early stages of really taking off.

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