Sarasota Hosts Most Restaurants Per Capita

Culinary

BY JACOB OGLES SRQ DAILY MONDAY BUSINESS EDITION MONDAY NOV 12, 2018

A new WalletHub study ranking the “Best Small Cities in America” finds Sarasota as one of the best places around grab a bite to eat. The study looked at 1,200 cities with populations between 25,000 and 100,000 people and determined Sarasota hosted the most restaurants per capita on that list.

That’s no surprise to Sarah Firstenberger, executive director for the Sarasota-Manatee Originals. The Originals organization is made up of about 60 local restaurants, and promotes the culinary scene here through annual events like Forks & Corks. 

“So many independent and local restaurants thrive here,” says Firstenberger. “People who come to Sarasota are not looking for the Orlando cookie-cutter experience.”

Michael Klauber, co-proprietor of Michael’s on East, offered another explanation for the concentration of restaurant options. “We love to eat out,” he says. “There has always been a high propensity of people wanting to dine out in Sarasota, and we are a community especially known for culinary expertise.”

Especially considering the high number of establishments on the islands, there’s always been a dominance of eating establishments to serve tourists and residents of the region.

Certainly, the strong hospitality industry and world-class tourism brand for the area helps, says Klauber, who also sits on the Visit Sarasota County board. The region gets promoted around the world as a food and wine destination. But he also noted the year-round residents here are well-traveled themselves, and as a result like to have dining options.

Firstenberger says most Originals members report that while solid tourism helps to keep the doors open at many establishments, it's that demand among locals that maintains a healthy restaurant culture. “The tourism industry helps strengthen and gives confidence to open restaurants, but it’s the local community that sustains our businesses,” she says.

And in case all that fine dining brings any negative side effects to local waistlines, the WalletHub study incidentally found Sarasota leading another important category. The community also comes in first among small cities in fitness centers per capita.

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