A Comprehensive Guide to 10 Different Types of Restaurants

Aspiring to launch a new restaurant is a challenging yet thrilling endeavor. As far as conceptualizing the business model and implementing the menu ideas is concerned, the sky is the limit. This blog lets you know in detail about the different types of restaurants.

With high dispensable incomes and dining out trend increasing, 51% adults like to dine out more.

So, this is the ideal time to open a restaurant. It is always better to know the different types of restaurants before kickstarting your journey in the highly competitive restaurant industry. Only when you are aware of the various options available to you can you choose a business model that suits your goals and ensures long-term success.

As a budding restaurateur, the industry offers more than a dozen options for you to run. It is essential to hone your magnificent ideas into something concrete and profitable. Identify your niche and find an unshakeable footing as the founder of a new food establishment.

In the US, the quick-service restaurant type generates an average of $200 billion as annual revenue.

The different types of restaurants are classified based on the following factors:

  1. Menu Style
  2. Cooking Method
  3. Prices
  4. Seating Facility
  5. Method of serving the food

10 Different Types Of Restaurants

1. QSR (Fast Food Restaurants)  

This is one of the most popular restaurant types in the US. Known commonly as Fast-food restaurants, QSR customers tend to consume their food on the go. Several restaurants also offer seating. Such outlets offer drive-through window ordering and delivery that enables busy car commuters in the US to enjoy food during transit. People are attracted to QSRs because of the quick service, low cost and convenience. But people preferring a nutritious option will be disappointed as food is mass-produced with less quality ingredients. Meals are either frozen or pre-prepared or precooked to ensure speedy food delivery. Such restaurants are the first choice of customers during family road trips. Fast-food restaurants are one of the three most popular restaurant types in the US. Due to their prevalence over time, people tend to attach nostalgic emotions with such restaurants and the food served is treated as comfort food.

Popular fast-food restaurants including Burger King, KFC, McDonald’s and Taco Bell are franchised businesses or fast-food chains that are either regional, national or global destinations. Such food outlets enjoy a better profit margin due to the need for lesser staff, less expensive ingredients and higher sales.

The average profit margin of Quick Service Restaurants is between 6-9%.

2. Casual Dining Restaurants

Casual dining is again a very popular restaurant type and a small business trend in the US. The reason is they are crowd-pleasers and offer classic dishes in large filling portion sizes at not-so-expensive prices. This type of restaurant offers a welcoming, fun and relaxed ambiance. Casual dining restaurants include Olive Garden, Party Fowl, Outback Steakhouse, O’Maddy’s Bar & Grille, The Cheesecake Factory, Red Lobster and so on.

Olive Garden and Applebee led the casual dining franchise sector in 2021. Each generated a revenue of over $4 billion.

A casual dining restaurant serves customers at the table with guests waited on by a server or bartender, the food is priced moderately, ambiance is modest, comfortable and laid-back. The decor is unique and is based on the cuisine served. You can find televisions in the dining or bar area. Such restaurants fall between the fine dining and fast casual category in the fancy range and are popular with families and the younger dining out demographic. They also enjoy a sizable repeat customer base.

3. Fine Dining Restaurants

Fine dining is a restaurant experience dominated by sophistication. Such restaurants ensure they are unique and offer expensive food unlike the ones served in an average restaurant. They stand out by providing a luxurious dining experience.

Aspiring restaurateurs seeking to provide white tablecloth service can opt for the fine dining category as it is the fanciest of all restaurant models in the list. You must be financially robust to serve impressive wines and entrees like filet mignon or cedar plank salmon.

Guests must be impressed with outstanding cuisine and unique food plating techniques. The atmosphere must be upscale, and food must be served with exceptional service, specially curated music and alluring lighting.

This is a full-service restaurant where you will be seated and served exceptionally in a sophisticated dining room getting to choose from a multi-course menu. Usually, consumers of fine dining restaurants are not regulars to the outlets. People visit a fine dining restaurant only to celebrate special occasions like their birthday or anniversary.

So, running a fine dining restaurant is highly challenging as the restaurateur cannot rely on the number of customers they host but on the amount their guests spend. With genuine customer testimonials readily available online, customers are wary of their choice of fine dining restaurant. So, one must always strive to win honest, positive reviews.

This can be achieved by engineering a superb menu powered by high-end preparation, recruiting highly professional staff and providing an upscale atmosphere. To ensure quality and maintain high standards, such restaurants have only very limited menus. They must also engage in routine new adaptations and evolutions to keep up with the trends, seasonality and culinary innovation. Steakhouses need not adhere to these rules as they offer menus highly influenced by their key ingredient – steak.

In short, fine dining is characterized by full service at the table along with some wine pairings. The service is moderate to long. Restaurants like Yolan, Sunset Marquis, Rio in Las Vegas, Sepia and The Highlawn are examples of fine dining restaurants.

4. Contemporary Casual Restaurants

This type of restaurant is an offshoot of the fine dining model. The younger demographic prefers frequenting these kinds of restaurants as they have a relaxed menu and setting. Such restaurants also align with the preferences of millennials and Gen-Z consumers like following eco-friendly practices, using farm-fresh ingredients, purchasing ingredients from local producers and offering fusion cuisine.

The contemporary casual model emphasizes the atmosphere as well as the experience. They cater to modern trends and offer a menu that fulfills the needs of the young consumers. Contemporary casual restaurants are mostly the trend setters. They thrive by catering to modern trends. They provide full-table service, and the service time is moderate.

They accomplish this by generating a huge social media following, offering their food in a visually appealing manner, using unique decor in the dining room, cultivating a celebrity clientele and offering new experiences based on creative themes like dark dining, etc. Wildair, Mister Jius, The Marshal Restaurant are examples of a contemporary casual restaurant.

5. Fast Casual Restaurants

Such restaurants are a fusion of fast food and casual dining restaurants. They are one of the modern restaurant concepts. They offer an upscale menu with healthy and fresh ingredients. They are quite popular among working adults and provide a quick turnaround. People looking for a healthy diet and a convenient lunch prefer frequenting such fast casual restaurants.

Chipotle generated a revenue of $7.5 billion in 2021 alone.

With restaurants embracing digitization the concept of fast-casual dining is quickly catching pace in the restaurant industry. Even Chipotle experienced a 24.7% increase in digital sales which is about 45.6% of the total sales in the year 2021. The market growth of fast casual restaurants will accelerate at a compound annual growth rate (CAGR) of 8%. 

The market value of fast casual is estimated to reach $209 billion in 2026.

In short, the characteristic of a fast casual restaurant includes counter service, limited or no table service. The service time is moderate or fast and prices are not too high. Examples are Panera, Five Guys, BurgerFi, Smashburger, Corner Bakery Cafe, Shake Shack, Chipotle Mexican Grill, etc.

6. Ghost Restaurant

A ghost restaurant is also known as virtual restaurant, delivery-only restaurant, online restaurant, cloud kitchen or dark kitchen. This is a type of food service business that takes up food orders and processes them either through phone or online platforms or both. To run this business efficiently, you will require smart gadgets like a computer, tablet or smartphone.

One of the newest concepts in the restaurant industry is that these restaurants do not have a traditional storefront with unique decor, welcoming signage or a large dining room. Ghost kitchens need only a space to prepare food and parking for delivery drivers.

The concept of ghost restaurants is comparatively new and experienced great growth with the onset of the pandemic and the consequent lockdowns. The price of the food depends on the cuisine offered. Although there is no need to set up a seating area, one must still have ample space for packing orders, getting the food set for delivery and a decent parking space for couriers to pick them up without any hindrance.

Ghost restaurants take advantage of the $150 billion food delivery industry that has tripled since 2017.

With the number of U.S. delivery app users reaching an estimated 54 million in 2023, third party food delivery apps have proven to be a catalyst in the growth of the delivery industry. Budding entrepreneurs prefer adopting the ghost kitchen business model due to the limited overhead involved.

However, in the case of independent or chain restaurants, one must provide neat dining rooms, table service, waiting areas and parking lots. The recurring expenses in a ghost restaurant are low as there is no need to recruit several employees. Factors including a minimum total investment result in a quicker launch and higher profit margins. The best part is delivery and online visibility is facilitated by the apps themselves.

Ghost restaurants need just 200 square feet of real estate, a minimum of four staff members and about $30,000 as investment to thrive. If you have the right manpower, you can launch a successful ghost kitchen within 6 weeks.

In short, a ghost kitchen offers only delivery or pickup with a fast service time. Uber Eats, DoorDash and GrubHub apps are the third-party food delivery apps that support ghost kitchens.

7. Pub Or Brewery

People in the US have got accustomed to the habit of visiting a pub when they wish to unwind, enjoy a beer or any other alcoholic drink at the end of a strenuous day. Initially, pubs were a little more than bars. But, in recent times, they have modernized their menu and expanded it to offer not just beer, liquor or non-alcoholic beverages but food items and full meals as well.

Pubs are a very common and beloved restaurant type in every North American city and town. With the craze for craft beer steadily increasing, breweries are also becoming increasingly popular.

Pubs serve what people consider ‘comfort food’ and fulfilling meals along with beer. The menus of pubs are highly dominated by burgers, sandwiches and pizzas. Prices are kept budget-friendly so that guests order themselves a beer along with food.

Due to the wide variety in food and the vibrant atmosphere, pubs provide full-table and bar service in casual decor. You also get to play games like darts or pool, watch sports events on huge television screens and even possibly shake a leg on the dance floor.

8. Cafe

The restaurant concept of cafes dates back decades. While it was originally borrowed from Europe, it is now mainstream in North America. Cafes most often function as the heartbeat of their respective neighborhood as they are tied to rituals like morning coffee run or a casual get-together with friends.

A cafe or coffee bar ideally serves a variety of coffee. But modern cafes have also introduced a variety of teas, specialty coffees and even sandwiches and desserts in their menu to cater to a wider range of customers. The menu of certain cafes even features convenient breakfast or lunch items. The atmosphere of a cafe is suitable for everyone and almost any occasion including first date or a formal business meeting. The food prices are reasonable.

Modern cafes also don the status of being a co-working space offering a calm and productive atmosphere for remote workers who sip into their favorite cup of coffee while working on their laptops. Coffee, tea and exotic food create a relaxed atmosphere wherein guests can linger for a longer period to socialize.

In short, the service style of a cafe is counter service, drive through and no table service. Food is served fast at not-so expensive prices. Examples of cafes are Starbucks, Dunkin’ Donuts, Tim Hortons, Lavazza, Folgers, Costa Coffee, Peet’s Coffee.

9. Food Truck

A food truck business is a great option for several aspiring restaurateurs as it combines the elements of both street food and conventional dining. Food trucks have an indispensable role to play in modern American food culture. There are more than 30,000 food trucks operating across various cities. The food truck trend that started over a decade ago continues to remain robust.

The food truck industry was valued at 2.7 billion dollars in 2017 and is likely to have tripled today.

The market for food trucks is constantly expanding as it appeals to both experienced restaurateurs looking to venture into new market niches and amateur chefs willing to try alternatives to conventional restaurants.

From mac and cheese to tacos and even waffles, food trucks can cater to the varying needs of a wide spectrum of audience. The price of the food is generally low. So, it is important to keep the startup costs minimal as well. A great advantage of the food truck is that it keeps the business mobile. A food truck can be found in summer and outdoor events and is synonymous with a fun environment.

Restaurateurs must set up the food truck at points where guests will be able to hang out for a while or be seated while their food gets prepared and packed. It is important for food truck owners to procure all the necessary permits and licenses necessary to run it.

In short, food trucks offer quick service. Customers place orders at a counter or food truck window before carrying their food in to-go packages. Examples of popular food trucks are Kogi BBQ, The Cow And Curd, Luke’s Lobster, Mac Mart Truck, Grilled Cheeserie, The Taco Truck.

10. Bistro

The concept of Bistro started off in France as a place with a not-very formal setting serving fulfilling meals at moderate rates. When restaurant owners started operating bistro type food outlets in the US, the business model evolved and started functioning with fewer tables, fine food, higher prices and exquisite decor.

The concept of Bistro originated in Paris. It was almost like a cafe laying greater emphasis on breakfast and lunch rather than on specialty coffees.

Bistro owners do not consider their restaurants as a fine dining restaurant as the latter offers multiple courses in a splendid ambiance. Bistros are, however, a type of limited-service restaurant serving classy fare in an upscale ambiance. Guests place food orders and pay at the counter. Once they are seated, a server brings them their food. The prices of food are higher than the range you would find at a fast-food restaurant. 

In short, if you wish to serve artisan grilled cheese sandwiches, soups and salads in a light and airy atmosphere with fresh fare, you can opt to set foot in the food industry through a bistro restaurant model.   

As an entrepreneur willing to set foot into the restaurant industry, this blog would have helped you understand the different types of restaurants that are popular amongst the people. For more assistance in restaurant website building and the latest digital marketing practices, get in touch