Owning and running a restaurant is appealing to many. There is a certain excitement in creating a space where people come to experience great service and food curated by your staff. If you desire to have your own restaurant, you need to be confident about the format you choose. While there are various types of restaurants, your restaurant format helps you stand apart from the crowd.
Based on the type of restaurant you wish to start, your investment will vary. For instance, a cloud kitchen doesn’t require as much investment as a fast-casual cafe. But a full-blown restaurant will require much more investment than a fast-casual cafe. Your target audience and marketing strategies also change depending on the format of the restaurant.
Important factors that are considered while classifying restaurants:
Price points Cuisine Food arrangement Food quality Range of formality
Before you go ahead and invest your hard-earned money into a restaurant concept, gathering information about all the different types of restaurants is a must. This allows you to decide the right format, capital, and location that will help you achieve expected results. Below are the most popular types of restaurants:
1. Fast Casual Restaurants The most common type of restaurants are the fast casual ones with quick turn around. This format has become very popular recently because of the combination of fast food and casual dining experience. Not to be confused with casual dining where people sit at leisure, these restaurants are different because customers usually come to quickly grab a bite. Fast casual restaurants stand out from the other options because of their affordable pricing & quick service.
While fast casual and casual dining restaurants are both QSR (Quick Service Restaurants), fast casual restaurant format doesn’t have any at-table service. For instance, when you visit a McDonald’s or a Subway, you walk to the counter, pay for your order and then head to the delivery queue to pick it up. You then take it to your own table to eat. There is nobody serving you the food by bringing it to your table. So both of these qualify as fast casual restaurants.
2. Casual Dining Restaurants The main characteristic of a casual dining restaurant is its economical pricing. It’s ambiance and decor also does not fall in the fancy category. Even the investment required for a casual dining restaurant is quite low unless you are serving a cuisine where the raw materials, cooking equipment and techniques are expensive.
The main difference between a casual dining restaurant and fast casual restaurant is that the former offers table service. Although its menu items may be slightly high priced in comparison to a fast casual restaurant, the prices are quite lower than a fine dining restaurant. Most casual dining restaurants have an extensive menu and serve multiple cuisines. They generally serve 3 course meals and are generally considered family restaurants.
3. Fine Dining Restaurants Fine dining restaurants are known for their high prices and classy ambiance. Offering an exotic and elaborate range of menu items, this format requires guests to be dressed well for dining at the restaurant. The restaurant staff is exceptionally well-groomed as compared to all other restaurant formats. This creates a very formal and sophisticated atmosphere.
If you wish to open a fine dining restaurant, it is crucial to include several meal courses. While serving alcohol is not a compulsion, most fine dining restaurants offer wine. Since fine dining restaurants highly attract crowds spending a special occasion, champagne is also available to create an aura of luxury and elegance.
4. Cafes Cafes are usually associated with beverages and are considered a place to socialize rather than eat extensively. With menus featuring limited items like coffee, tea and snacks for a quick bite, cafes offer people an environment to spend time leisurely. This means there is no rush to vacate the table for the next customer which makes cafe’s so popular.
Cafes are, in most cases, moderately priced and offer table service as well as counter service. The pricing also contributes heavily to their popularity. The best part about cafes is that they serve multiple purposes. You can have a coffee alone while working on your laptop from a cafe or hangout in a cafe with your friends for hours.
5. Food trucks One of the most exciting restaurant types that have emerged in the past decade is the food trucks. As opposed to other restaurant types, food trucks bring the food to the people. It is a restaurant set up in a large van that can accommodate the food cooking and cooking. While food trucks offer many different cuisines, they stick to only a few limited items that they excel at. Their price points depend on the cuisine and the style of the food.
Food trucks have one major drawback – they do not have a designated seating or serving area. Because of this, food truck owners have to stick to food options that can be quickly consumed. This also means that there is very little set up cost. Moreover, it can be parked at any location where customers are conveniently available.
6. Bars & Pubs Considered as one of the most profitable restaurant formats, bars attract a lot of young crowd. The restaurants that fall under this category do not have an extensive food menu as they rely mainly on alcohol sales. Many argue that fast casual restaurants are the most profitable formats, but since bars and pubs have high markups on alcohol they end up making more profits.
When people visit bars or pubs, they expect a lively atmosphere and events like sports screening, live music, open mic, karaoke, quiz nights, etc. Loud music is also very common in bars, a factor usually not seen in any other restaurant format. In the past few years, brewpubs have also become highly popular. Microbreweries brew their own beer and sell it directly to their customers in a brewpub.
7. Delivery Only Restaurants A delivery-only restaurant only serves food through home delivery. It doesn’t have any set up to attend customers in the restaurant space. It is also known as cloud kitchen, dark kitchen, virtual restaurant or ghost restaurant. These names signify that the orders are taken virtually – online or through phone calls, which means they rely heavily on technology and constant marketing.
What sets apart a cloud kitchen from other restaurant types is that it only requires a kitchen to run the business. Since this means low investment and more profits, the pandemic saw the rise of many delivery-only restaurants. Read more about whether or not cloud kitchens are more profitable than other restaurant types.
8. Buffets A buffet style restaurant works on fixed pricing for every guest. Served together on a row of counters, buffets serve menu items belonging to various different cuisines. Buffet style restaurants gain popularity because of their wide selection of items making the guests feel spoilt for choice. You can expect everything from juices, fruits, salads, appetizers, desserts, and more.
Also termed as all-you-can-eat restaurants, these restaurants have tables but guests are expected to serve themselves from the counter and take their food to their table. A lot of buffets also feature a live cooking counter for a few limited dishes but even for those, there is no table service option.
9. Bakeries & Sweet Shops This segment of restaurants is mainly born out of the passion of the chef. Bakeries serve an extensive menu of bread and baked goods. They have very limited seating arrangement and rely mainly on home delivery. Depending on the setup, they offer table and self-service options. A display shelf is a must for a bakery to showcase the available options.
Similar to a bakery, a sweet shop has an extensive menu consisting of sweets and snacks. But they do not have any seating area or home delivery. Guests are expected to walk in, place an order and take away the sweets along with them. The unique part about a bakery and sweet shop is that they have food items in every price range.
10. Contemporary Casual Restaurants This is the newest restaurant type on the block and is mainly associated with organic food. Contemporary casual restaurants resemble a fine dining restaurant created for the modern and urban crowd. This means the visual appeal of the food is very important to tempth the Instagram generation but the overall restaurant atmosphere is more casual.
Just like a fine dine restaurant, these restaurants also have table service done by well-groomed staff. Regardless of the cuisine they serve, the food in a contemporary casual restaurant is fusion food created with modern culinary techniques. A lot of contemporary casual restaurants also cater to vegans. There is a heavy focus on the restaurant interiors to give it a more cosmopolitan look.
This is not an exhaustive list of restaurant types, but we have listed the top 10 restaurant types. Whatever the format or business model of a restaurant, serving high quality food is a distinguishing factor that helps it succeed. How many of these restaurant formats have you visited and experienced? Let us know in the comments below!