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The DR Guide to Restaurant Definitions

7th May 2010

There are so many different types and styles of restaurants these days, as owners and chefs attempt to break the mould and avoid clear cut classification in their quest for providing something different. But sometimes you need to go back to basics, with some simple restaurant descriptions to help you follow your nose.

Broadly speaking, restaurants fall into several industry classifications based upon menu style, preparation methods and pricing and how the food is served.

Fine Dining

Full service restaurants with specific dedicated meal courses using quality ingredients prepared on site.  Décor is higher quality with an eye towards atmosphere desired by the individual restaurateurs taste.  Waiting staff are usually highly trained with formal attire.  Fine dining restaurants are almost always small businesses and most commonly single location operations or have just a few sites.

Destination Restaurant

A restaurant that has a strong enough appeal to draw customers from beyond its community.

Bistro and Brasseries

In France, a brasserie is a cafe doubling as a restaurant serving single dishes and other meals in a relaxed setting.  A bistro is a familiar name for a café offering moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting.

Casual Dining

Serves moderately priced food in a casual atmosphere.  Except for buffet style restaurants, casual dining restaurants typically provide table service.  Casual dining comprises a market segment between fast food establishments and fine dining restaurants.  They usually have a full bar with separate staff, a larger beer menu and limited wine.  Frequently, but not necessarily, they are part of a wider chain.

Fast Casual Dining

Similar to fast food in that it does not offer full table service but promises a somewhat higher quality of food and atmosphere.  Average prices are higher than fast food and non disposable plates and cutlery are sometimes offered.  Restaurants tend to be franchised or part of a larger chain.


Cafes are informal restaurants offering a range of hot meals and made to order sandwiches.  Many cafes are open for breakfast.  In some areas cafes offer outdoor seating.  The major difference with a café and most casual dining establishments is how the guests orders and pays.  A café can offer table service but mainly the guest orders at the front and food is brought to the table.  Then, while at most casual dining restaurants the guest pays the server, at a café the guest most often pays with a single cashier.


This is usually a restaurant serving ready cooked food arranged behind a food serving counter.  There is little or no table service.

Pubs and Gastro Pubs

A pub is a bar that serves simple food.  Gastro pubs are often essentially fine dining establishments, known for their high quality pub food at higher prices.  Usually a large selection of beers and ales.

Family Style

Restaurants with fixed menus and fixed price, usually with diners seated at a communal table such as bench seats.

Fast Food

Fast food restaurants emphasise speed of service and low costs over other considerations.  Commonly they have a lack of cutlery or crockery with the customer expected to eat directly from a disposable container.

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