How Americans decide where to eat out.
Credit: © Michael Krinke / Getty Images

What's the biggest deciding factor when choosing a restaurant to dine at with friends and family? If you're like the majority of Americans, health and safety is probably foremost in your mind. With the rise of the internet and the wealth of information at our fingertips, it almost seems as if there are daily food recalls and warnings to worry about—both in our home kitchens and while eating out. In the last few months alone, we've reported on recalls of yellowfin tuna, bagged salads, specific nuts, oysters, and even chicken.

According to a recent survey conducted by Harris Poll of more than 2,000 adults in the United States, 79 percent of Americans say they "avoid eating at restaurants that they know have had previous health and food safety violations"—think: those letter health grades that restaurants in certain cities must display in their front windows (the same signage might be coming to New York City street food vendors later this year).

In fact, a restaurant's health and safety track record is the number-one most important deciding factor when people are picking their dinner destinations. Nine other decision-making considerations also came into play. In order of importance:

  • Quality of food — 85 percent
  • Price of food — 69 percent
  • Location — 63 percent
  • Recommendations from family/friends — 49 percent
  • Strong food safety track record — 38 percent
  • Positive reviews on social media — 26 percent
  • Child-friendly — 15 percent
  • Sustainably sourced food — 12 percent
  • Ability to meet dietary restrictions — 10 percent

How important is a restaurant's food safety track record to you when choosing where to dine? Beyond a letter grade from the Department of Health and a quick eyeball of the interior to see if it appears clean, what other things do you look for? And for anyone who's an avid order-er of home delivery, do you ever look up a delivery restaurant's health grade online before placing an order?