Many people dream of owning a restaurant or a chain of restaurants at some point in their life. If you are one of them, you are lucky to live in times when the restaurant business is booming. With the average American eating outside 5 times a week and spending nearly 10% of their income on outside food, now is the time to embark on your restaurant entrepreneurship journey. However, starting any business venture requires in-depth research and a thorough understanding of the industry landscape to make informed choices.
Educating yourself about different types of restaurants is a logical starting point to embark on your restaurant business journey. Restaurants can be classified into different types based on their menu style, the experience they offer (fine dining/casual dining), business model), theme, pricing, and a myriad of factors. In this blog, we take a look at the differentiating factors and the different types of restaurants.
Elements that define different types of restaurants
- Dine-in experience and service levels
One of the most significant factors that define how casual or high-end a restaurant is its décor, service levels (full-service or self-service), the way guests are expected to dress, how the staff dresses, and the overall air of formality. Based on these parameters, restaurants can be classified into two broad categories:
- Fine dining restaurant: Luxurious decor, formal dress, full service, five-course menu, exceptional service levels, alert and observant servers.
- Casual restaurants: Relaxed and laid back vibe, youthful and contemporary décor, casual dress code, full table service and counter service, friendly and less formal servers.
- Price point
Another differentiating element is the price point. Depending on the menu, location, and brand positioning, a restaurant may fall under a price range of inexpensive to quite pricey. Classification will be as follows:
- $ Inexpensive
- $$ moderately priced
- $$$ pricey
- $$$$ priciest
Most fast food chains, for instance, fall under the inexpensive or moderately priced categories. Fine dines, cafes, and pubs, usually fall under the pricey and priciest category.
- Type of food served
The type of food a restaurant serves is another differentiating factor. The menu of a restaurant may be based on cuisine from a particular region, such as Chinese/Japanese/Indian/Italian/Middle-Eastern/European etc. There may be chef special restaurants as well, which may solely feature innovations from the chef. Gordon Ramsay’s chain of restaurants in the US is one such example.
Different Types of Restaurants
- Fine Dining
A fine-dining restaurant has high-end luxurious décor and a formal atmosphere. All staff and servers are attentive and follow a set protocol to attend and serve guests. The food served comprises exotic dishes and an elaborate five-course meal paired with exotic wines and alcohol. Some of these fine-dining places often have sommeliers to assist guests with appropriate food and wine pairings. Fine-dine restaurants are usually on the pricier side. Guests are often expected to follow a specific dress code.
- Casual Dining
Casual restaurants may vary significantly from each other based on the food they serve and the kind of customers they target. However, a few factors that are common across casual dining restaurants is the fact that they are moderately priced, have a laid-back casual atmosphere, décor is often theme-based/unique/quirky/young, and the menu is wide, often including a variety of cuisines.
- Family restaurant
Family-style restaurants usually serve large shareable platters for big groups. They serve individual portions too. The restaurants can be both fine dining and casual, but the seating is designed so that large groups can be accommodated to sit together. The food is moderately priced and the service is done at the table. A family restaurant may or may not offer wine and alcohol options. However, they do offer a variety of hot and cold beverage options to suit all age groups. As the target customers for these restaurants are usually families the cuisine comprises a variety of cuisines such as Italian-American, Chinese-American, traditional American food, stir-fries, and finger foods to cater to all age-groups.
- Fast casual
Fast-casual restaurants are a perfect choice for people looking for quick and healthy eating options at an affordable price point when compared to sit-down, casual restaurants. The service is typically over the counter instead of table service. Customers can order items from a menu or also build their own customizable meals at the counter. The kind of food these restaurants serve comprises sandwiches, salads, burritos, tacos etc. These food places usually have a casual and relaxed seating arrangement. California Burritos is one of the most popular fast casual chains in the US. Fast casual restaurants are fast becoming popular because of the perfect balance of healthy food options, a casual atmosphere, and delivery speed like fast-food outlets that they offer.
- Contemporary casual
Contemporary casual restaurants have become a trend in the last five years. Modern and trendy with a distinct brand identity, these restaurants follow eco-friendly protocols, have an interesting unique, healthy, and fusion cuisine. The food is served at the table, special attention is given to the food presentation, décor, and the overall atmosphere to make it Instagram worthy. These restaurants target young professionals in metropolitan and urban areas.
- Fast food joints
Also known as quick service restaurants (QSR), fast food joints are the most popular format. Some of the most popular fast food chains in the US are McDonald's, Burger King, Wendy’s, KFC, Dunkin Donuts, and many more. Fast food joints have a distinct brand identity and a similar look and feel across all outlets. These restaurants serve food over the counter or a drive-thru and are inexpensive. Fast food joints offer a fixed-menu with mass-produced and pre-cooked food to ensure fast service. Many people wish to own a fast-food franchise as established brands already have a huge customer base, so owners can expect to become profitable sooner as compared to other styles of establishments.
- Coffee House
Coffee house has gained immense popularity with the likes of Starbucks, The Coffee Bean & Tea Leaf opening coffee houses across the globe. These places have some unique features like limited collection of cold and hot foods, gourmet bakery fare (croissants, cheesecakes, sandwiches), casual seating, a perfect seating and atmosphere for executives to do a casual business meeting, spend long hours in a relaxed setting, self-service, and a young and trendy vibe. The focus is on a variety of hot and cold beverages with coffee and beverages taking centre stage.
- Bar and pubs
Alcohol and bar areas take centre stage in these establishments. The food-menu is limited to finger foods, burgers, and pizzas. Fine-dine bars and pubs have a self-seating bar area too. Most pubs have a dance floor, live DJ, or loud music appropriate for dancing. Kids and young adults below 18 years are not allowed in most bars and pubs.
- Food trucks
Food truck is a great way to test waters before investing in a full-fledged restaurant. Fast-food trucks operate from a vehicle, move from one location to another, have a counter service, and no seating option. The menu is limited to serving different varieties of a single food item such as burgers/sandwiches/pizzas/ice-creams/crepes/pancakes/fries etc.
- Pop-up restaurants
These are temporary establishments which open at a location for a limited time. With an option of both self-serve and table service, these places usually have limited seating and menu. The concept of these establishments is unique. This again is a great format to test a concept and menu before making huge investments in a business.
Our lifestyles, environment, work culture, and industries that service us are evolving at a fast pace. Today, sky's the limit when it comes to being creative with any business and more so the food business. So, let your imagination run wild, give your own flavour to your restaurant or choose a restaurant style that attracts you the most. Assess your projections and investment capacity and hop on your restaurant entrepreneur journey.