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Types of Restaurants: 10 Common Restaurant Categories

There are many different types of restaurants within the restaurant industry. Different restaurant categories vary based on several factors, many of which will be discussed in this article. Some key differentiating factors when it comes to the restaurant industry include:

  • A restaurant's concept
  • The dining experience
  • Food items offered
  • Ambiance
  • Food service
  • Price Points

Here is a list explaining 10 common restaurant categories.

Casual Dining

Casual dining restaurants​ tend to have a casual atmosphere overall. These restaurants don’t have a dress code or any formal expectations of their guests. However, this doesn’t mean you aren’t still receiving quality food. At a typical casual dining restaurant, customers are served at their table, the food items are moderately priced, and the decor is unique to the restaurant based on its concept or the type of food being served (i.e., Italian, Mexican, American).

Fine Dining

When we think of fine dining, our mind might jump to images of clean, white tablecloths and sparkling chandeliers. ​Fine dining restaurants​ are much more formal than casual dining restaurants, and the atmosphere is more upscale. Many fine dining restaurants might have a dress code for their customers. For example, men might be required to wear nice pants and a button-up shirt, and women might be expected to wear an elegant dress or skirt. Dress codes will obviously depend on the restaurant, so it’s a good idea to find information on the dress code ahead of time. The food service might be a little different for fine dining restaurants as well. It’s not uncommon to have meals with several courses, including wine or cocktails, appetizers, entrees, side dishes like soup or salad, and dessert.

Because fine dining is generally known to be more high-end with higher-quality ingredients and specialty dishes, there are also higher prices. For this reason, many people choose fine dining restaurants for special occasions like anniversaries, birthdays, or a graduation.

Fast Food

Fast food chains​ are the most widely known type of restaurant, due to large franchise chains that so many of us are very familiar with today. Some popular fast food chains include Burger King, McDonald’s, and Taco Bell. Fast food chains are quick-service restaurants that might have some indoor or outdoor seating options, but the service is primarily over the counter. Most fast food restaurants also have a drive through option for those who do not want to go into the restaurant and order their meal over the counter. Fast food is largely known for the low cost (and, notably, low nutrition) meals; for decades, this has been the type of restaurant people rely on for a quick, easy, and convenient way to satisfy their hunger.

Fast-casual

Fast casual restaurants​ are relatively similar to fast-food restaurants, with a few key differences. At these restaurants, they have counter service instead of table service. This means that customers go up to the counter to either order items from the menu, or build and customize their own meal according to the menu guidelines. If this type of restaurant sounds familiar to you, it’s because it is becoming increasingly popular as people seek out ways to receive more nutritious, quality food items at the same speed they can receive fast-food. Some notable fast-casual restaurants include Chipotle, Panera, and Jimmy John’s.

Food Trucks

Food trucks​ have moderately priced made-to-order food items. Because this is a business that is run out of a truck, there aren’t usually seating options available—just counter service. Food trucks will often specialize in one specific type of food item, whether that be hot dogs, ice cream, sandwiches, tacos, or smoothies. These trucks will drive around to different locations to attract a wide variety of customers. Offices, private events, parks, and flea markets are just some of the locations that food trucks will decide to stop at, mainly because these spots are convenient for the customer.

Family Style

Family style restaurants​ have a similar format to casual dining restaurants. However, in this model, the food comes in large dishes brought out by the server, but the customers will then serve the food for themselves and pass it to their fellow diners at the table. Think thanksgiving dinner, where everyone at the table passes dishes to one another so that each person can help themselves. This type of restaurant has a more relaxed atmosphere and caters to families and large groups of friends.

Cafés

Cafés​ are restaurants that have counter service; they generally offer a wide range of tea and coffee items like espressos, lattes, cappuccinos, and frappuccinos. They will also have a selection of smaller food items such as pastries, breakfast and lunch sandwiches, and wraps.

Cafés will often provide indoor and outdoor seating, but they aren’t very large restaurants, so they don’t require a large staff.

Bars and Pubs

Bars and pubs​ are establishments in the restaurant industry that primarily serve alcoholic beverages. However, many bars have a few casual menu items like burgers and/or fries, as well as other appetizers considered “bar food” or “finger food.” Bartenders are the servers in these types of establishments, and you can often order the food when you order your drink up at the bar. Bars can either be a part of a casual or fine dining establishment, or they can be standalone establishments.

Buffet Style

Buffet style restaurants​ are essentially an extension of family style, but there are key differences between a buffet and a typical sit-down restaurant. Buffets give customers the opportunity to serve themselves from a wide variety of different food options spread out on a long table (or a similar surface). These customizable plates are offered at a fixed price per person. Sometimes, there are all-you-can-eat buffets, in which customers can return to the buffet for multiple servings after only paying one time. Buffet style restaurants can be applied to a variety of specialty cuisine, including pizza, chinese, indian, and breakfast foods.

Ghost Restaurants

Ghost Restaurants​, otherwise known as ​virtual restaurants​ or ​deliver-only​ restaurants are establishments that have no on site location—everything is run through online. There is no table service or counter service; customers instead order food through the business’s website or social media (however it is set up for that particular restaurant). Oftentimes, ghost restaurants will partner with third party delivery services like UberEats or DoorDash. Because there is no physical location for customers to visit, ghost restaurants must have a very strong online presence through their website and their social media—this is how they will attract their customers.