Food & Dining

A Basic Guide to The Restaurant Types

Restaurants are classified according to their price range, type of service, and men, among other aspects. For ordinary consumers, it can be slightly confusing to know which one is which, although there are notable exceptions like the general knowledge that McDonald’s is a fast-food restaurant chain.

Here, we will take a look at the basic characteristics of several of the different types of restaurants. At the very least, you can set expectations when a new restaurant brands itself as, say, a family-style establishment.

Fast Food

With international chains like Burger King, McDonald’s, and KFC, the fast food restaurants are the most familiar for people in and out of the United States. These are known for their cheap prices, speed of service, and convenience, as well as their varied menu, usually with a focus on a specific cuisine. For example, Taco Bell is known for its Tex-Mex fare, McDonald’s for its hamburgers, and KFC for its fried chicken.

While many fast food restaurants are offering healthier fare, consumers shouldn’t expect low-calorie, low-fat menus from most of them. Many of their food are considered as comfort food – as high in nostalgia, portions and taste as it’s high in calories and fat.

Fast Casual

This is slightly more upscale than fast food and, thus, the prices are also more expensive. Like their fast food cousins, fast casual restaurants also serve their food in disposable flatware and dishes – there are exceptions, especially for dine-in customers – but their foods are usually presented in a gourmet-style manner. Here, organic ingredients are likely to be used in gourmet salads, steaks and sandwiches, among others, such as in Panera Bread.

Café or Bistro

This type of restaurant doesn’t offer table service so customers have to line up at the counter, order their food, and serve themselves. In a café, the menu may be limited to coffee, pastries and sandwiches while a bistro will likely offer full meals. Both types, nonetheless, are known for their relaxed, intimate atmosphere where the staff are friendly, even familiar, with the customers.


The buffet concept originated in 16th century France and it has stood the test of time, thanks to the numerous benefits for the host and guests alike. Basically, a buffet restaurant doesn’t offer table service since the guests serve themselves from several dishes and desserts laid out on a long table and sideboards. The dining utensils are also set on the sideboards.

If you’re feeding a large number of people, such as in a party, but you don’t have the budget for a sit-down dinner, then taking the guests to a buffet restaurant makes sense. Many, if not most, buffet restaurants offer discounts for groups so saving money is possible.

Family Style

Also known as casual dining, a family style restaurant typically offers moderately-priced dishes and desserts. Many of them also offer signature dips, sauces and toppings, which can be mixed and matched according to the customer’s preferences. Most, if not all, of them offer tableside service and non-disposable flatware and dishes, as well as provide a low-key, relaxed environment.

Family style restaurants come in many themes. Examples include Americana like Ruby Tuesday’s, barbecue like Longhorn Steakhouse, and Mexican cuisine like On the Border.

Fine Dining

This type of restaurant offers its customers the finest in food and drinks, customer service, and ambiance but all of these come with a price – expensive prices, to be exact. Here, customers can easily spend $50 on a single meal, at least, but can expect the best in everything in return. Yes, fine dining restaurants offer table service so much so that even the chef can come to your table and engage in a little chit-chat.

Food Truck

There are no tables and chairs where customers can sit down to enjoy their meal or snacks with a food cart. Instead, the chef cooks the food and takes the orders from his truck, a mobile food business that can be taken nearly everywhere.

Food trucks are the least expensive way to own and operate a restaurant, too. There are no overhead costs and less staff to worry about, for one thing.  Plus, a food truck can go where the customers are, an advantage that brick-and-mortar restaurants don’t have.

All You Can Eat

Customers looking for the most bang for their buck, quantity-wise, like the all-you-can-eat restaurants. They only have to pay a fixed price per person and enjoy all the food set out on the different food stations, which usually include hot items, entrées and appetizers, salads, and desserts. Examples include the Hometown Buffet and Old Country Buffet.

When choosing which type of restaurant to go to, keep in mind that you must first consider the price, if money is an object, and then the type of food you’re craving. Fine dining restaurants are a great choice if you want to feel pampered but perhaps a fast-food restaurant is a more appropriate choice for quick comfort food.

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