What is a restaurant? We are sure that you can easily answer this question because, chances are, that you have enjoyed a meal in more than one such an establishment. But while you think that you already know everything that there is to know about restaurants and dining out, you may be surprised to learn about all the different types of restaurants that exist out there in the big world. If you consider yourself a foodie, a gourmand, a food lover or a food nerd, the following read is for you. We will help you expand your knowledge on this topic. In that way, you can add more dining experiences to your foodie bucket list.

The evolution of the restaurant

In the dawn of the dining industry, the word “restaurant” had a pretty standard and straightforward meaning. It stood for a sit-down establishment where people were served food. However, during the last few decades, the boom of the fast food industry changed the concept of restaurants forever. Today, what used to be known as a restaurant is called a sit-down restaurant. These days, there are all sorts of dining out places and yet there is such a thing as a categorization that exists between them. This classification usually depends on a few key things among which are:

  • Cooking techniques;

  • The type of food that is served;

  • Pricing;

  • Level of formality;


fine restaurant table setting

Pictured: A table setting in a fine dining restaurant

Differences between a sit-down and a fast food restaurant

Sit-down Restaurants

Fast Food Restaurants

Offers table service (by a waiter/waitress or host/hostess)

Customers have to offer at the counter

The atmosphere can be either formal or casual

Only for casual dining

The menu is more diverse and it includes starters, salads, entrees, wines and etc.

Customers can make small orders (a coffee, a sandwich, some fries) instead of ordering a full meal.

Portions focus on quality rather than on quantity

Portions focus on quantity rather than on quality

Customers need to wait for their food to be prepared on the spot

Food is already pre-cooked

Offer alcoholic beverages

Usually, do not offer any alcoholic beverages

Prices tend to be higher compared to those in fast food restaurants

Prices are cheap

Clearly, restaurants owners are now trying to break out of the mould. That is why there is an increasing number of thematic dining out places. The Mad Rex is a perfect example of that as it offers its visitors an atmosphere and a unique dining experience since it is a top-quality restaurant in Philadelphia which revolves around an interesting post-apocalyptic vibe. It is one of the few eating-out spots which falls into a category of its own. Most other restaurants, however, stick to a more standard and well-known concept.

Main types of restaurants

Today, ethnic restaurants are more popular than ever and that may be because people have become more open-minded to foreign and more exotic cuisines. As their name suggests it, these restaurants serve either national or ethnic cuisines. In the United States, the most preferred establishments from this category are Chinese, Mexican, Italian, Japanese and Greek restaurants.

If you are looking to grab a quick but also a sizable snack, you can go either to fast food or fast casual restaurants. Yes, these are two different things. Even though in both of these places, customers have to order their food at the counter, fast casual eateries tend to be the more expensive option of the two because the food served there is cooked on the spot.

Based on the quality of the service and the dining experience, there are three different types of restaurants – casual dining, premium casual and fine dining restaurants. As you can probably guess, the fanciest and priciest of them is the latter. The fine dining experience consists of many meal courses all of which have been prepared by top chefs. Usually, in such establishments, there is even a dress code and clients must follow a strict dining etiquette.

Premium casual restaurants can mainly be seen in Canada and can be described as a more expensive and refined version of the casual restaurant. In fact, the latter comes in all shapes and sizes and that is probably due to the fact that they have always been the most popular category of a restaurant in the world. A widely-spread casual dining option in hotels, restaurants and casinos is the bistro. This is a dining establishment in which diners serve themselves. Another casual dining restaurant is the brasserie. It originates from France and it is a dining place that mainly offers single meals in a very casual, yet relaxing atmosphere.

A formal brasserie

Pictured: A formal brasserie

Restaurants around the world

While you can find the above-mentioned restaurants in nearly every part of the world, to enjoy certain dining experiences you will literary need to go the extra mile.

  • Churrascaria – a type of steakhouse restaurant in Brazil where they serve mainly grilled meat;

  • Teppanyaki restaurant – focuses on Japanese cuisine and offers the so-called teppanyaki grill;

  • Pizzeria – originates from Italy and it offers mainly pizzas;

  • Trattoria – another type of Italian restaurant which serves local dishes;

  • Chiringuito – a type of casual drinking establishment in Spain that aside from beverages, often offers meals too;

  • Taverna – a small Greek restaurant that offers a Greek atmosphere and serves a nice selection of traditional dishes from the country of Greece;

  • Ramen-ya – a category of restaurants in Japan that mainly serve noodle soup meals;

What about pubs and cafes?

Even though they also serve food, pubs and cafes are mainly viewed as drinking establishments, at least from a historical point of view. That is why they are more known as casual drinking restaurants. In other words, they have a classification of their own. Just like the ones featuring casual dining restaurants, this one is also growing. For instance, the term and the concept of “gastropub” is a relatively new one because it first appeared back in the 1990s.

So much dining options to test out and so little time! Don’t waste it – just go out there and learn more about the different types of restaurants from a first-hand experience.