Research

The Desirable Discount Dishes & Foodie Destination Index

Eating out is more than just a meal; it can be a social and cultural experience that enriches our lives. Whether it’s through trying out local cuisines in restaurants or via quick and tasty fast food options, the research team here at Wethrift aimed to unveil the most affordable foodie capitals around the globe. 

To do so, we have embarked on a culinary adventure, delving into cities renowned for offering budget-friendly foodie hubs. 

As part of the study, we’ve analysed the number of restaurants in each city, the affordability of the food on offer, the popularity of fast food chains, and the US states most commonly searching for fast food. 

So, let’s tuck in and see what locations food lovers should be adding to their travel bucket lists for 2024…

Foodie Capitals of the World: Ranked

Istanbul, Turkey is crowned the affordable foodie capital of the world, boasting a gourmet-approved score of 40.0 out of 50.

With over 34.2 thousand full-service restaurants operating in Istanbul, customers are bound to find an eatery to suit their gastronomical preferences. Whether it’s tasty local cuisine at one of the 6,750 restaurants rated 4-star and up, or cheap and cheerful dishes at one of Tripadvisor’s 1,591 “cheap eat” locations. Alternatively, if you’re looking for food you can easily grab on the go, Istanbul boasts 1,370 fast food restaurants. 

Much like the rest of the world, Istanbul is facing the struggles of inflation and has seen prices of food increase by 72% in January 2024 compared to the same month in 2023. 

Despite this, the city has still managed to keep dining out affordable, with a budget-friendly meal for one coming in at $8.97 and a mid-range restaurant meal for two costing $37.49

Bali, Indonesia follows closely behind in second place, with a foodie-friendly score of 39.5 out of 50. 

As well as being home to some of the most beautiful beaches in the world, Bali’s restaurant scene is also a foodie’s paradise. In fact, a 2022 survey of residents revealed that 43% dined out several times a week – and it’s easy to see why. 

The island of Bali really has something for everyone, with 5,591 restaurants rated 4-star and above, 2,503 “cheap eat” locations on Tripadvisor, and 164 fast-food locations. Customers wanting to try authentic Indonesian food can grab a budget bite to eat for the low cost of $2.57, while a meal at a restaurant for two will set you back approximately $22.47.

The third-biggest foodie destination around the globe is the Thai capital of Bangkok, scoring 37.1 out of 50 in total. 

With the food service industry on track to make $32.85 billion by the end of 2024, Bangkok’s restaurant scene is thriving. With 6,461 4-star and up restaurants, 1,176 cheap eats and 297 fast food chains – the residents and holidaymakers venturing to the bustling city are spoiled for choice each mealtime. 

One of the biggest draws of visiting Thailand is undoubtedly the reasonably priced food options on offer. A budget Thai meal can be bought for as little as $2.79, while a meal for two in a mid-range restaurant comes in at a slightly pricier, but still very affordable at $26.46

New Delhi, India has been named fourth, with an appetizing score of 35.5 out of 50. 

The capital of India has around 32,777 organised eateries (not including street stalls, roadside vendors, or food carts) which include 4,584 4-star and above restaurants, 1,130 fast food spots, and 607 “cheap eats” listed on Tripadvisor.  

Those looking to try some of the local dishes Delhi has to offer, such as butter chicken, chaat or kebabs, will be able to find something to suit their budget. A low-cost meal for one can be purchased for just $4.22, while a meal in a restaurant for two works out at an inexpensive $24.11

The USA’s Most Loved Fast Food Restaurants

Research has shown that 2 in 3  Americans consume fast food at least once a week, but with so many places to choose from, we wanted to determine the most popular chains being searched for online. 

Americans’ favorite fast food spot emerged as KFC with an unbeatable score of 25.8 out of 30. 

The finger lickin’ good food is legendary in the US, with brand awareness at 92% and a total of 36,910,000 monthly searches for the brand. KFC lovers in the US are looking for discounts beyond the ‘Bargain Bucket,’ amassing 42,000 searches for discount codes to use at the chain.

Despite being known for its top-secret blend of 11 herbs and spices, various KFC fakeaway recipes have flooded the internet, with 109,400 searches for the famous fried chicken dishes. 

Taco Bell ranked as the second-most in-demand US fast food restaurant, with a score of 24.5 out of 30. 

The popularity of the Mexican-inspired chain is evident from the 105,300,000 brand searches it’s amassed. According to the CEO of the restaurant’s parent company Yum Brands, even in the current economic climate, Taco Bell has seen a 2-3% growth in orders. 

Americans wanting to enjoy Taco Bell for even less have totalled 13,820 searches for discount codes, with a further 27,300 for the recipe to recreate the takeout at home.  

Affordable Eats in the US

Due to the rising cost of living, dining out has become a luxury for many. However, fast food establishments, known for their affordability, have become an increasingly popular alternative for budget-conscious consumers. With this in mind, we set out to uncover the most affordable restaurant chains across the United States. 

Securing the title of the most affordable eatery in the US is the infamous In-n-Out, with a meal consisting of a Hamburger, fries and Medium drink costing an average of $7.20. The chain can offer affordable eating to its customers, due to running a fairly limited menu that keeps the cost of raw ingredients low, as well as the chain’s real estate strategy, to own all of its locations’ properties.  

Burger King claimed the spot of the second-most affordable restaurant in America, with a meal costing $8.59. Burger King customers can enjoy budget-friendly meal options such as an 8 Piece Chicken Nugget Meal with fries, hash Browns or have-sies, and a drink. 

Popular pizza chain Papa Johns earned its place as the third-most affordable fast food spot, with a meal costing $8.79

USA’s Most In Demand Eats by State

In 2023, the fast food industry’s market size, by revenue, was a whopping $387.5 billion. With quick-service food so popular among Americans, we wanted to determine the states searching for takeout food the most and each state’s favorite foodie spots.

With over 30,000 fast food establishments, California takes the lead as the state searching for their favorite takeout spots and restaurants the most, with a score of 87.9 out of 90. 

The fast food-loving state particularly favours Subway, with residents of California searching for the sandwich chain the most out of all US states analyzed. With more than 2,000 Subway franchises in California alone, the popular chain is definitely in demand and has 96,000 searches for the brand, gaining it a score of 10/10 in this category. 

Californians also searched for Taco Bell (14,800), Popeyes Louisiana Kitchen (600), In-n-Out (1,860) and Raising Canes (130) more than any other US state.

Florida followed behind in second place for racking up the most searches for fast food spots, earning a score of 81.0 out of 90. 

Fast food giants Burger King (340) and Wendy’s (120) were the most-searched-for food spots among those living in Florida. Luckily, with 503 Burger King restaurants and 537 Wendy’s around Florida, there are plenty of locations for people to enjoy their favorite fast food. 

Placing in third as the state searching for takeout and fast food restaurants the most is Texas, with a score of 79.9 out of 90. 

Residents of Texas were searching for Chick-fil-A more than any other state in America, totalling 600 searches for the chain. The fast food restaurant’s popularity has led to the success of 450 restaurants in the state, also earning Texas the title of the state with the most Chick-fil-A locations. 

Methodology:

Foodie capitals: The team have ranked the best destinations for food lovers based on: the number of fast food restaurants (Trip Advisor), number of ‘cheap eats’ (Trip Advisor), the average cost of a meal (Numbeo), the cost of a meal for two in mid-range (Numbeo) and the number of 4 star + restaurants (Trip Advisor) for an overall score out of 50. 

Most loved restaurants: The team has ranked the most in demand eateries by nation, looking at Google search volume data for brand name, searches for brand specific discount codes and vouchers, and recipes to reward a score out of 30. 

Affordable eats around the world: The team have ranked the nation’s favourite eateries on affordability based on the average price of a meal on their menu.

USA’s most in demand eats: Taking a seed list of the most popular eateries in the US, the team analysed Google search volume data to discover which brands were most in demand state by state.