Bell's Diner in Bristol - the faithful fallback of Guardian wine critic Fiona Beckett. Photograph: Sam Frost
Hunger for novelty is being blamed for the closure of another top eatery - Knightsbridge's Racine - but the statistics suggest the majority of us troop to the same places every time we eat out. Perhaps it's only because we fancy the staff ...
Ah, those fickle millennials and their inability to eat anywhere more than once, lest the intervening week has turned the hottest seat in town into the place your mum wants to go because that nice AA Gill liked it. It's killing the restaurant industry. At least, that's the cry that goes up every time one of the old guard is taken off the menu for good.
It happened last month when Knightsbridge favourite Racine announced it had served its last steak tartare. Food television executive Melanie Jappy lamented: "Here's a thought: how about going to good established restaurants once a week rather than chasing the new ones - then they might not close." Guardian restaurant critic Marina O'Loughlin recited her mantra minted for just such an occasion: "Use 'em or lose 'em". The message seems to be that if we don't support established venues, their days are numbered.
But a survey recently commissioned by the restaurant reservation app Uncover has found that for the majority of people, the opposite is true: 98% of us, apparently, are likely to revisit the same few restaurants repeatedly. A staggering 3.8 million people in this country are said to go to the same eatery every single time they dine out. This dinner-time deja vu is responsible for what is irritatingly being called - just by them, it seems - Repetitive Restaurant Disorder.
While I'd quibble with some of the data in the survey (not least the fanciful claim that half of us return to the same place because we have the hots for the staff), this all sounds more familiar, and more credible, than the theory that neophilia is causing the deaths of old restaurants. There is undoubtedly a fractional coterie of food geeks and buzz-feeders who make a point of hitting every new truck and soft launch in town, but this is a largely urban and relatively minute crowd. Their enthusiasm may help launch a restaurant, but it won't kill another by displacement.
The rest of us are, it seems, like Jack Nicholson in As Good As It Gets, trudging to the same restaurant time and again (though, granted, he does have the hots for the waitress). And yet I'm not sure this Repetitive Restaurant Disorder is much more than a bit of puff invented by PRs trying to flog an app. When it comes to eating out, familiarity breeds contentment. I'm one of those geeky food-truck chasers, and still go to the same pub more often than not - it does a fine roast and the landlord is the nicest man in London.
Guardian wine critic Fiona Beckett heads to Bell's Diner in Bristol a couple of times a month. "I'd go once a week if I was closer," she says, for the "brilliant food, wine, and cocktails. It's a great place to hang out with friends."
Norfolk's self-styled pork-pie queen Sarah Pettegree loves the Anchor Inn in Morston, where "the food is unfailingly delicious, the staff are young, friendly and interested, and it's just stylish enough to make us feel like we're doing something a bit special".
If these two restaurants go about their cooking in a relatively serious way, that certainly isn't a prerequisite for the regular haunt. Guardian writer Stuart Heritage has a confession: "I have a horrible feeling that I'll lose my job for this, but I've got an enormous soft spot for Frankie and Benny's. Going for a fancy meal after a film would be weird now. I want a Black and Blue burger and a pudding that hasn't been defrosted properly. When Claridge's offer that, we'll talk."
Food blogger Danny Kingston is a Giraffe fan. "The kids love it, mainly because of the plastic giraffes they get with their drinks, so we go there a lot. And actually the food is quite good - a strange mishmash, maybe, but it's always tasty and reasonable. To be honest, though, the plastic giraffes seal the deal."
When I was growing up in Ripon, Yorkshire, Valentino's was - despite there being other options - the place my parents would take us nine times out of 10. The food was middling at best, and we were usually the only people in there, but as kids we loved it and the staff were patient with our greedy cavorting.
Perhaps, in fact, new restaurants need the often-derided stampede of bloggers and Instagrammers to give them a fighting chance. Without the froth generated by them and the largely better-informed critics, who's going to take a punt on that new Iberian barbecue in a railway arch?
Most folk, after all, know what they like and like what they know. We prefer not to risk our money and our time on an unknown quantity when the known quantity does a good steak. And when you fancy the waiter.
What restaurant do you visit most frequently and why?