Most Asian restaurants serve Chinese, Japanese or Thai cuisine in the United States
Some 12% of all restaurants in the United States serve Asian cuisine, according to a new analysis from the Pew Research Center. This share is slightly higher than the 7% of the American population who are Asian Americans.
The Pew Research Center conducted this analysis to examine the geographic distribution of Asian restaurants across the United States and to highlight the patterns of cuisines on offer.
The Center purchased point-of-interest data from SafeGraph, a data company that maintains high-precision data on millions of locations worldwide, representing every known restaurant in the United States. Restaurants were defined using the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS) category. for “Restaurants and other places of eating” (NAICS code 7225). When the data was collected on March 23, 2023, SafeGraph included records for 787,153 open restaurants in the United States.
We then used SafeGraph’s category tags to identify Asian restaurants and the type(s) of food they serve. Throughout this article, we use terms such as “Chinese restaurants”, “Chinese cuisine”, and “restaurants that serve Chinese food” interchangeably.
These tags include food categories from 10 different origin groups: Chinese, Indian, Korean, Vietnamese, Filipino, Japanese, Burmese, Pakistani, Mongolian, and Thai. In addition to these groups based on specific types of Asian foods, the category tags also include a general “Asian foods” category. This is a broad catch-all classification that is used with restaurants that do not have enough information to be classified into a more specific category. Our own review of this tag revealed that it can also include:
- Restaurants serving food from smaller home groups or groups for which SafeGraph does not have a more detailed category list. These include Bhutanese, Taiwanese, Indonesian or Lao restaurants.
- General “pan-Asian” cuisine, alone or associated with other types of food.
Three other category tags – “sushi“, “noodles” and “bubble tea shop” – do not explicitly refer to a group of Asian descent, but are generally related to Asian cuisine. Restaurants with the label “sushi” are included in the “Japanese cuisine” category. Restaurants with the labels “noodles” or “bubble tea shop” are included in the “Other Asian/Unspecified” category, unless the restaurant is already tagged with a more specific category. Any restaurants labeled as “Italian cuisine” or “pizza with noodles” are not counted as Asian restaurants. These examples generally refer to the pasta noodles typical of Italian cuisine.
Individual restaurants can be included in more than one category. For example, a restaurant might include tags for “Japanese food” and “Thai food”, or for “Chinese food” and “Asian food”. These restaurants are counted in all categories listed. For this reason, reported totals may exceed 100%.
Population estimates for the Asian group are taken from the American Community Survey’s 2019 5-Year Estimates Table B02015, which includes counties and their equivalents (such as Fairbanks North Star Borough, Alaska, for example) .
About seven out of ten Asian restaurants in the United States serve food from just three Asian groups: Chinese, Japanese and Thai. Together, these groups represent 33% of the Asian population of the United States.
Here are some other key takeaways from the analysis, based on data from SafeGraph, a data company that maintains high-precision data on millions of locations around the world.
Chinese establishments are by far the most common type of Asian restaurant in the United States Nearly four in ten Asian restaurants (39%) serve Chinese food, which has a long history in the United States. By comparison, Chinese Americans make up about a quarter of Asians living in the United States (24%).
Japanese and Thai cuisine have spread widely, despite the relatively small share of these groups in the American population. The first sushi restaurant in the United States opened its doors just over 50 years ago, but today sushi is widely available from coast to coast. Restaurants that serve Japanese cuisine make up 28% of Asian restaurants in the United States, making it the second most common Asian cuisine. Japanese Americans, by comparison, are the sixth-largest Asian group in the country, accounting for 7% of the Asian American population.
Similarly, Thai establishments account for 11% of all Asian restaurants — the third most common cuisine behind Chinese and Japanese cuisine — while only 2% of Asian Americans are Thai. The Thai government has always supported efforts to increase the number of Thai restaurants around the world as a form of diplomacy.
Indian and Filipino establishments make up a relatively small share of Asian restaurants. Indian and Filipino restaurants represent 7% and 1% of all Asian restaurants in the United States, respectively, even though Indian and Filipino Americans make up nearly 40% of Asians in the United States combined.
Like the Asian American population, Asian restaurants in the United States are heavily concentrated in a few states. More than half of Asian Americans (55%) live in five states: California, New York, Texas, New Jersey and Washington. And just under half of all Asian restaurants – 45% – are located in these five states.
More than 15% of all restaurants in Hawaii, California, Washington, Nevada and New York serve Asian cuisine, and each state has a large Asian American population. Meanwhile, Asian restaurants make up 6% of all restaurants in Montana, North Dakota, South Dakota and West Virginia.
About three-quarters of all counties in the United States (73%) have at least one Asian restaurant of some kind. And in eight counties with at least 15 restaurants of any type, Asian restaurants account for at least a quarter of all dining establishments. Half of those counties are in California.
Chinese restaurants are found in every state and in 70% of all US counties. Every state and a third or more of all counties also have at least one Japanese (45%) or Thai (33%) restaurant.
However, restaurants serving other types of Asian dishes are less widely distributed. About one in five US counties has Vietnamese and Indian restaurants, and less than 10% of counties have Filipino, Pakistani, Mongolian, or Burmese restaurants.
About 9% of Asian restaurants in the United States offer cuisines from more than one Asian origin group. Nearly seven out of 10 establishments offer combinations of Chinese or Japanese dishes, either with each other (36%) or with another cuisine: 18% serve Chinese and Thai dishes, 15% serve Japanese and Thai dishes and 10% serve Japanese dishes. and Korean cuisine.
However, these relationships are not always symmetrical. For example, 78% of Pakistani restaurants in the United States also serve Indian food, but only 10% of Indian restaurants serve Pakistani food.
i am shah is a computational social scientist focusing on data science at the Pew Research Center.
Regina Wijaya is a computational social scientist focusing on data science at the Pew Research Center.