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Tom's Restaurant, a restaurant in New York made familiar by Suzanne Vega and the television sitcom Seinfeld

A restaurant is an establishment that serves prepared food and beverages to order, to be consumed on the premises. The term covers a multiplicity of venues and a diversity of styles of cuisine.

Restaurants are sometimes also a feature of a larger complex, typically a hotel, where the dining amenities are provided for the convenience of the residents and for the hotel to maximise their potential revenue. Such restaurants are often also open to non-residents.

A restaurant operator is called a restaurateur; both words derive from the French verb restaurer.


[edit] History

Restaurants developed in 13th Century Hangzhou, a cultural, political and economic center during China's Song Dynasty. With a population of over 1 million people, a culture of hospitality and a paper currency, Hangzhou was ripe for the development of restaurants. Probably growing out of the tea houses and taverns that catered to travellers, Hangzhou's restaurants blossomed into an industry catering to locals as well. Restaurants catered to different styles of cuisine, price brackets, and religious requirements. Even within a single restaurant much choice was available, an account from 1275 writes of Hangzhou restaurants:

"The people of Hangzhou are very difficult to please. Hundreds of orders are given on all sides: this person wants something hot, another something cold, a third something tepid, a forth something chilled; one wants cooked food, another raw, another chooses roast, another grill".<ref>Template:Cite journal (pdf)</ref>

In the West, whilst inns and taverns were known from antiquity, these were establishments aimed at travellers, and in general locals would rarely eat there. Restaurants, as businesses dedicated to the serving of food, and where specific dishes are ordered by the guest and generally prepared according to this order, emerged only in the 18th century. According to the Guinness Book of Records, the Sobrino de Botin in Madrid, Spain is the oldest restaurant in existence today. It opened in 1725. The term restaurant (from the French restaurer, to restore) first appeared in the 16th century, meaning "a food which restores", and referred specifically to a rich, highly flavoured soup. It was first applied to an eating establishment in around 1765 founded by a Parisian soup-seller named Boulanger. The first restaurant in the form that became standard (customers sitting down with individual portions at individual tables, selecting food from menus, during fixed opening hours) was the Grand Taverne de Londres, founded in 1782 by a man named Beauvilliers.

Restaurants became commonplace in France after the French Revolution broke up catering guilds and forced the aristocracy to flee, leaving a retinue of servants with the skills to cook excellent food; whilst at the same time numerous provincials arrived in Paris with no family to cook for them. Restaurants were the means by which these two could be brought together — and the French tradition of dining out was born. In this period the star chef Auguste Escoffier, often credited with founding classic French cuisine, flourished, becoming known as the "Cook of Kings and the King of Cooks."

Restaurants then spread rapidly across the world, with the first in the United States (Jullien's Restarator) opening in Boston in 1794. Most however continued on the standard approach (Service à la française) of providing a shared meal on the table to which customers would then help themselves, something which encouraged them to eat rather quickly. The modern formal style of dining, where customers are given a plate with the food already arranged on it, is known as Service à la russe, as it is said to have been introduced to France by the Russian Prince Kurakin in the 1810s, from where it spread rapidly to England and beyond.

[edit] Types of restaurants

Image:Greek restaurant.JPG
Restaurants in Greek islands are often situated right on the beach. This is an example from Astipalea.

Restaurants range from unpretentious lunching or dining places catering to people working nearby, with simple food served in simple settings at low prices, to expensive establishments serving refined food and wines in a formal setting. In the former case, customers usually wear casual clothing. In the latter case, depending on culture and local traditions, customers might wear semi-casual, semi-formal, or even in rare cases formal wear.

Typically, customers sit at tables, their orders are taken by a waiter, who brings the food when it is ready, and the customers pay the bill before leaving. In finer restaurants there will be a host or hostess or even a maître d'hôtel to welcome customers and to seat them. Other staff waiting on customers include busboys and sommeliers.

Depending on local custom, a tip of varying proportions of the bill (often 10–20%) may be added, which (usually) goes to the staff rather than the restaurant. This gratuity might be added directly to the bill or it may be given voluntarily.

Restaurants often specialise in certain types of food or present a certain unifying, and often entertaining, theme. For example, there are seafood restaurants, vegetarian restaurants or ethnic restaurants. Generally speaking, restaurants selling "local" food are simply called restaurants, while restaurants selling food of foreign origin are called accordingly, for example, a Chinese restaurant and a French restaurant..

Depending on local customs and the establishment, restaurants may or may not serve alcoholic beverages. Restaurants are often prohibited from selling alcohol without a meal by alcohol sale laws; such sale is considered to be activity for bars, which are meant to have more severe restrictions. Some restaurants are licensed to serve alcohol ("fully licensed"), and/or permit customers to "bring your own" alcohol (BYO / BYOB).

[edit] Specific types of restaurant

[edit] Brasserie, bistro, pub

In France, a brasserie is a café doubling as a restaurant and serving single dishes and other meals in a relaxed setting. A bistro is a familiar name for a café serving moderately priced simple meals in an unpretentious setting, especially in Paris; bistros have become increasingly popular with tourists. Mainly in the UK and other countries influenced by British culture, the pub (short for public house) today serves a similar dual menu, offering beer and other alcohol along with basic food fare. Traditionally, pubs were primarily drinking establishments, whereas the modern pub business relies on food as well, to the point where so-called gastropubs are known for their high-quality "pub food".

[edit] Dining car

Main article: Dining car

A dining car (British English: restaurant car) or diner (but not "diner car," except in uninformed parlance) is a railroad passenger car that serves meals on a train in the manner of a full-service, sit-down restaurant. It is distinct from other types of railroad food-service cars that do not duplicate the full-service restaurant experience, principally cars of various types in which one purchases food from a walk-up counter to be consumed either within the car or elsewhere in the train. While dining cars are less common today than they were in the past, they still play a significant role in passenger railroading, especially on medium- and long-distance trains.

[edit] Fast food restaurants

Main article: Fast-food restaurant

In the U.S., fast-food restaurants and take-outs have become so widespread that the traditional standard type is now sometimes referred to as a sit-down restaurant (a retronym). A common feature of fast food restaurants is a lack of cutlery or crockery, the customer is expected to eat the food directly from the disposable container it was served in using their hands.

There are various types of fast-food restaurant:

  • one collects food from a counter and pays, then sits down and starts eating (self-service restaurant); sub-varieties:
    • one collects ready portions
    • one serves oneself from containers
    • one is served at the counter
      • a special procedure is that one first pays at the cash desk, collects a ticket and then goes to the food counter, where one gets the food in exchange for the ticket
  • one orders at the counter; after preparation the food is brought to one's table; paying may be on ordering or after eating.

[edit] Family style

"Family style", or sometimes called table d’hôte ("host's table") in France, are restaurants that have a fixed menu and fixed price, usually with dinners seated at a communal table such as on bench seats. More common in the 19th and early 20th century, they can still be found in rural communities, or as theme restaurants, or in vacation lodges. There is no menu to choose from, rather food is brought out in courses, usually with communal serving dishes, like at a family meal. Typical examples can include crab-houses, German-style beer halls, BBQ restaurants, hunting/fishing lodges. Some normal restaurants will mix elements of family style, such as a table salad or bread bowl that is included as part of the meal.

[edit] Restaurant guides

Main article: Restaurant rating
Image:La Villetta Burnaby Heights.JPG
Restaurants offering ethnic food have spread all over North America and Australia in the past few decades. One of many Italian restaurants in the Heights commercial district of North Burnaby, British Columbia, Canada

Restaurant guides list the best places to eat. One of the most famous of these, in Western Europe, is the Michelin series of guides which accord from 1 to 3 stars to restaurants they perceive to be of high culinary merit. Restaurants with stars in the Michelin guide are formal, expensive establishments; in general the more stars awarded, the higher the prices. In the United States, the Mobil Travel Guides and the AAA rate restaurants on a similar 1 to 5 star (Mobil) or diamond (AAA) scale. Three, four, and five star/diamond ratings are roughly equivalent to the Michelin one, two, and three star ratings while one and two star ratings typically indicate more casual places to eat. In 2005, Michelin released a New York City guide, its first for the United States. The popular Zagat Survey compiles individuals' comments about restaurants but does not pass an "official" critical assessment. The Good Food Guide, published by the Fairfax Newspaper Group in Australia, is the Australian guide listing the best places to eat. Chefs Hats are awarded for outstanding restaurants and range from one hat through three hats. The Good Food Guide also incorporates guides to bars, cafes and providores. It is released yearly.

Nearly all major American newspapers employ restaurant critics and publish online dining guides for the cities they serve. American newspaper restaurant critics typically visit dining establishments anonymously and return several times so as to sample the entire menu. Newspaper restaurant guides, therefore, tend to provide the most thorough coverage of various cities' dining options.

[edit] Economics

In economics, restaurants are the end of the supply chain in the foodservice industry. There is usually much competition in most cities since barriers to entry are relatively low, which means that for most restaurants, it is hard to make a profit. In most First World industrialized countries, restaurants are heavily regulated to ensure the health and safety of the customers.[citation needed]

The typical restaurant owner faces many obstacles to success, including raising initial capital, finding competent and skilled labour, maintaining consistent and excellent food quality, maintaining high standards of safety, and the constant hassle of minimising potential liability for any food poisoning or accidents that may occur.

Additionally, when economic conditions change—for example an increase in gasoline prices—households typically spend less on dining out.

In 2006, there are approximately 215,000 full-service restaurants in the United States, accounting for $298 billion, and approximately 250,000 limited-service (fast food) restaurants, accounting for $260 billion, according to the 2006 U.S. Industry & Market Outlook by Barnes Reports.

[edit] References


[edit] See also

[edit] Further reading

  • Rebecca L. Spang (2000), The Invention of the Restaurant, Harvard University Press
  • Whitaker, Jan (2002), Tea at the Blue Lantern Inn: A Social History of the Tea Room Craze in America", St. Martin's Press.

[edit] External links

[edit] Industry information

[edit] History

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