1. Fine dining restaurants offer diners an upscale meal experience often comprising several courses (e.g.g. salad, appetizer, entree, dessert).These types of restaurants try to create a stylish atmosphere that speaks of elegance, exclusivity, and class.

Fine dining establishments can operate as a franchise for broader appeal or as a single location to increase their sophisticated image.

2. Casual Dining

Casual dining types of restaurants usually share the following characteristics:

  • Customers are served at their table
  • Food offerings are moderately priced
  • Atmosphere is low-key
  • Decor is often unique and based on the type of food served

As a general rule, casual dining restaurants fall between fine dining and fast casual on the “fancy” spectrum.

3. Fast casual

Fast casual restaurants cater to customers who are looking for fare that is relatively quick yet, at the same time, healthier than fast food and more affordable than a casual dining establishment.

As such, fast casual types of restaurants offer quality food, counter service (as opposed to table service), and a more casual, contemporary style and decor.

4. Family style

A family style restaurant is similar to the casual dining model mentioned above with one significant difference: servers deliver the food in large dishes and customers then serve the food for themselves and pass it to other diners at the table.

These types of restaurants often have a more relaxed atmosphere than the fine dining and casual dining models and cater to families with children or groups of friends.

5. Fast Food

Fast food is the most widely recognized type of 

restaurant thanks to franchise chains like Taco Bell, 

Burger King, and KFC.

Fast food restaurants attract diners because of 

their price, convenience, and speed. Because of this

 focus, ingredients in fast food restaurants are usually preheated or precooked (though not always).

Food is then delivered over the counter — or through a drive-thru window — and customers seat themselves.

6. Food Truck, Cart or Stand

Food trucks, carts, or stands are unique modern businesses that normally specialize in a single type of food (e.g., tacos, sandwiches, hot dogs, ice cream, smoothies, etc.) and serve a limited menu that revolves around those items.

They are generally categorized together with fast food restaurants because the focus is on speed. Additionally, seating options may be sparse or even non-existent.

7. Cafe

Cafes are characterized by outdoor seating, an unhurried atmosphere, and the loyalty of their repeat customers. Offerings include coffee, tea, pastries, small items for breakfast or lunch, and a small sampling of desserts.

Diners order food at the counter, pay on the spot, and serve themselves, so the cafe model does not require a large staff.

Turnover in cafes is usually low, and customers may work or socialize for long periods of time.

8. Buffet Restaurant

Buffets are an extension of the family style restaurant where customers are provided a selection of food at a fixed price.

Guests serve themselves and can return to the buffet as many times as they want.

The buffet concept lends itself well to specialty cuisine, including pizza, Indian, Chinese, “home cooking,” and breakfast foods, although this is not a prerequisite.

9. Pubs

Pubs have a long tradition of being the place to go when you need to unwind and enjoy a beer or other alcoholic beverage at the end of a long day.

At first, they were little more than bars. But, in modern times, pubs have expanded their menus to offer food items and full meals as well as beer, liquor, and non-alcoholic beverages.

Because of the wide range of fare and the festive atmosphere, pubs typically provide full table- and bar-service as well as casual decor, games (e.g., darts, pool, etc.), televisions for sports, and possibly even a dance floor.

10. Cafeteria

If you attended grade school or high school in the United States, you’re probably familiar with cafeteria-style dining.

By definition, a cafeteria serves ready-cooked food items arranged behind a long counter. Patrons line up, take a tray, and file in front of the various food choices, picking out what they would like to eat along the way.

Some cafeterias offer:

  • Fresh-cooked fare ordered from an attendant (omelets, waffles, cut-from-the-bone roast beef)
  • Ready-made, pre-plated portions
  • Self-serve portions (salads, soups, etc.)

Cafeterias are similar to buffets, but cafeterias typically have servers behind the counter ready to dish out the food you choose.

Some large corporations, factories, and hospitals have in-house cafeterias to feed employees and patrons alike.

That concept, though, extends to stand-alone restaurants all across the country. In fact, back in the first half of the 20th century (the 1940s, 50s, and 60s), cafeteria-style automats were a very successful type of restaurant in large cities like New York.

Automat cafeterias featured banks of vending units — not the automated kind of vending machines you’re used to in the 21st century — that displayed fresh food for sale.

Patrons would take a tray, deposit coins in the machine that offered their choice, lift a small window, and remove the food item therein. Attendants and cooks in the kitchen behind the vending machines would then replenish the food item for the next patron.

11. Coffee House

With the spread of Starbucks around the world, most people are familiar with the concept of the coffee


As a type of restaurant, the coffee house offers some unique features that you won’t find anywhere else, including:

  • Casual atmosphere
  • No table service
  • Limited selection of cold foods such as pastries, donuts, and sandwiches
  • Allowing guests to relax and socialize without the pressure to leave after eating

Coffee shops are similar to cafes, but the focus at the coffee house — and the item that most people show up for — is the hot beverage.

Coffee houses offer a wide variety of coffee drinks as well as hot tea and other drinks. The food in a coffee house often takes second place as a draw for customers.

For more information on this type of restaurant, take a moment to read our article, How To Start A Coffee Shop | A Detailed Guide.


The bistro concept got its start in France as a place to serve hearty meals at a moderate price in a not-so-formal setting.

When restaurateurs began opening bistros in the United States, the format evolved to include more refined decor, fewer tables, finer foods, and higher prices.

Most bistro owners don’t consider their restaurant a fine dining establishment, per se — multiple courses in an opulent atmosphere — but, rather, as classy (and classic) fare in an upscale atmosphere.

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