18 Types of Restaurants to Open


There are so many different types of restaurants, concepts, and dining options out there for you to consider. Most probably you have experienced a number of them without knowing each one had its own unique characteristics. Before you start printing your menus and start cooking, you will need to have an idea of what kind of restaurant you want to run.

The options available are many, and depend on what your vision is for the restaurant. Are you looking to make money quickly, are you looking to bring some fine dining experience to the area? Will buying a franchise work for you or would you prefer to set up your unique restaurant from scratch? In this article, we will offer a rundown on some popular types of restaurants and what distinguishes them from others.  

The Restaurant Industry in the United States

According to the National Restaurant Association, the US had a vibrant restaurant industry last year despite the pandemic. Sales in the restaurant industry had reached $659 billion and it employed some 12.5 million Americans. A majority of restaurants (nine in ten) employ less than 50 employees with seven in ten restaurants being single-unit operations.

18 Different Types of Restaurants to Consider for Your Business

Broadly speaking the types of restaurants can be segmented into several categories. They can be a restaurant chain, an independent restaurant, or a franchise. Below we will give you some popular restaurant types available across the U.S.:

1. Contemporary Casual Dining Restaurants

Contemporary casual dining restaurants are popular as they offer a trendy and more relaxed ambiance. A contemporary casual dining restaurant concept can be distinguished through its signature food item, creative bar menu, and unique décor. Here customers are served at their table and often fall somewhere in between fine dining and fast food outlets both in pricing and attire. Some examples of casual dining restaurants include Applebee’s, Olive Garden, and Buffalo Wild Wings.

2. Fast Food Restaurant

Fast food restaurants are probably the most commonly known types of restaurants in America. The main reason why fast food establishments are popular is that they offer convenience. Fast food restaurants can churn out orders quickly. And this makes it easy for those who do not have time to wait around for their meals. Another reason they are so popular is that fast-food restaurants are inexpensive. A fast-food restaurant can include a drive-through for fast and convenient customer service. And some of these chains go a step further and are open 24/7 or at least available late at night.

Franchises that have carved out a loyal following through their carryout, delivery and fast food dining include:

3. Fast-Casual Restaurants

Fast-casual are types of restaurants that fill a niche between quick service and casual dining restaurants. These restaurants typically offer counter service instead of table service with disposable dishes and flatware. They can be described as using high-quality ingredients, offer fresh made-to-order menu items, healthful options, upscale décor and carry-out meals option. And often serve sandwiches, burgers, burritos and salads.

4. Fine Dining Restaurants

A fine dining restaurant refers to upscale establishments where food, drink, and service are more expensive than other establishments. Often patrons visit them for special occasions, such as a wedding, anniversaries, or birthdays. In some cases, dining customers would bring business guests and write off the meal cost as a business expense. Fine dining restaurants may require patrons to dress up in accordance to their dress code and offer to shelf wine and drinks.

5. Brasserie

Brasseries follow a sit down restaurant model and typically offer a wide selection of meals with beer or cider. They are open every day of the week and serve the same menu all day mostly steaks, seafood, and other classic items.

6. Delivery Only Online Restaurants

Delivery-only online restaurants operate on a strictly delivery services business model. Here meals are prepared in a kitchen and there is no onsite service. Instead, orders are taken online and delivered to customers.

7. Family-Style Restaurant

Family style types of restaurants blossomed out of the coffee shop–style restaurant and offer table service. These establishments are often located in or within easy reach of the suburbs and are informal with a simple menu and service designed to appeal to families. They offer tableside service, offer non-disposable dishes, and menus are often moderately priced. Some of these eateries offer wine and beer but most do not serve alcoholic beverages.

8. Cafeteria

Cafeterias offer meals with little or no waiting staff table service. And is often located in institutions such as office buildings or schools.

9. Drive-In

Drive-in restaurants allow meals to be ordered at a counter and served in a to-go bag. These restaurants have a drive-through for fast and convenient customer service.

10. Food Truck

A food truck business is a restaurant on wheels and offers moderately priced meals and offer made-to-order meals from the kitchen inside the vehicle. Food trucks can offer counter service specializing in food items like barbecues, hot dogs, sandwiches, tacos and ice cream. Food trucks can be great investments as you are only required to purchase a small food truck instead of a large brick-and-mortar space. They can also offer Chinese, Indian and Thai while often go from place to place to reach clients such as offices, markets, or events. In terms of manpower, food trucks will require a lean workforce thus help cut labor costs.

11. Cafés and Bistro’s

Cafes cater to patrons by providing hot drinks with light meals that include pastries, salads and sandwiches. Bistros offer entire meals that include tarts, braises and stews for patrons.

12. Cavery Establishments

Cavery restaurants offer patrons cooked meat that is freshly sliced and in some cases, they offer unlimited servings for a fixed price. These are commonly held during weekends to cater to a large number of people. These are table service establishments where meat dishes are accompanied by potato, stuffing, vegetables, gravy and sauces.

13. Specialty Eateries

These are establishments that offer limited-service serving specialty snack items or nonalcoholic beverages that are consumed on-premises. They include bagel shops, coffee shops, doughnut shops, ice cream parlors, juice bars, and smoothie shops.

14. Buffets

Buffets restaurants offer an assortment of meals at a fixed price per individual. In such establishments, customers will serve themselves by choosing from a selection of dishes laid out on a bar or a row of tables. Also referred to as ‘all you can eat’ restaurants, patrons can fill up their plates as many times as they may want.

15. Prepare Yourself Restaurant

Are restaurants where they either serve themselves or are served from a counter and pay before eating.

16. Bars and Pubs

Bars and pubs (often used in the United Kingdom) are licensed establishments that mostly serve alcoholic beverages with some finger food. These are among the most profitable types of restaurants as they offer a casual dining atmosphere for patrons to relax and catch up. And they also offer small-scale entertainment such as darts, pool tables, video games, and jukeboxes.

17. Pop Up Restaurant

These are dining establishments that are open for a limited period of time at specific locations. A pop-up restaurant offers counter service or table service and is used by chefs and entrepreneurs to test the waters with menus and dishes before they commit to opening a full-fledged restaurant.

18. Sports Bar

Sports bars offer convenient venues for customers to eat, drink and socialize while watching televised sporting events. These types of restaurants an atmosphere in which customers can relax while watching a sporting event, as such, they have several televisions across the restaurant. They provide table service and also feature special promotions, local sports celebrity appearances, giveaways and other events that may attract sports fans.

How to Choose the Right Type of Restaurant to Open

To kick start your restaurant business you will first need to choose the concept. Your restaurant concept should include the type of restaurants you want to open, the style of cuisine, the service and of course the source of funding you want to bring in to set up the businesses.

Local Competition

It is important that you develop your own niche in your area offering a unique eating experience. This will mean that you will need to distinguish yourself from the competition based on the cuisine on offer, service, pricing, comfortable furnishings with more style than the competition. In terms of competition, you have two types of completion direct and indirect competition. Direct competitors are those who offer a similar price, atmosphere, food and service style. While indirect competitors do not offer the same food you offer but target your customers in regards to location and pricing.

The Type of Food You’d Like to Serve

Creating your menu is the next step in the process of opening your restaurant. You will need to choose which menu items will be popular with patrons. The food you serve will determine the type of equipment you’ll need and the skills you will need from your staff.

Price Points

To determine your menu price points, you will need to factor in consumer demographics, running costs, competition, and your acceptable standards. If you decide to charge more than your competition makes sure to establish your point of difference in terms of quality of food, atmosphere, service, cooking techniques and other facets to justify the price.

A Hole in the Market

The success of any enterprise is your ability to tap into unmet demand in the market along with the types of restaurants in the area. Your restaurant should identify what the hole in the market is and how can you work towards fulfilling it.

Your Target Customer

You should also consider your demographic. If you are located in a college town, for example, your restaurant menu should be tailored to college-age customers and might sway towards fast and low-cost foods. If you are located in a business district fast casual or fine dining might be your niche.

The Dining Experience

Restaurants are more than just the food and service it is about the experiences they provide to visitors. Start by making sure that your establishment is clean, has an inviting environment that matches the theme of your restaurant and that your visitors leave your establishment 100% satisfied.

How You Want to Present Your Meals

The presentation of your meals can add true value to your establishment. Make sure that you also focus on the aesthetics of the dishes by plating them properly, that you provide the appropriate dinnerware, side dishes, and garnish them appropriately.

Food Items

Your menu should provide ample options for your customers. Not only can you provide meals based on pricing but also include healthy options. Think about your service restaurant from the customers’ point of view and look to include items that they might expect, get delighted with, and come back for more.

Quality of Your Ingredients

Quality ingredients are key to great-tasting food. Food ingredients are enhanced based on their freshness and the natural nature that the best ones bring to the table. If you are not using the best ingredients, you risk sending out mediocre meals that do not live up to their true taste potential.

What is the most popular type of restaurant?

Some of the most popular types of restaurants include pizzerias, Italian, Chinese, burgers, BBQ, seafood, steakhouse, and sandwich shops.

What are the main restaurant characterization factors?

Restaurants can be categorized based on whether they are chains, independent, and franchise restaurants.

How many different types of restaurants are there?

There many different types of restaurants based on the service, menu offering, pricing, clientele and uniqueness. Based on the combination of these factors they can be broadly characterized as quick service, fast food chains, fast-casual, family-style, casual, fine dining, specialty, and others.

Image: Depositphotos

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Samson Haileyesus Samson Haileyesus is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has several years of progressive experience in media, communication and PR working with government, NGOs and private sector. He is passionate about public outreach, branding, media relations and marketing.

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