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Yes you heard that right — Difference between cafe and restaurant. If this blog caught your eye, you must be either a fan of food or you are pursuing your dreams of opening your food business. With people preferring to eat out again, the number of cafés and restaurants keeps growing. It is great news if you are looking to open your own food business or even if you are a foodie.

Nowadays, the average person has tons of café and restaurant options to choose from. However, competition for the next new café or restaurant is higher than ever. Most consumers are younger and more digital-savvy than previous generations. Gen Z and Millennials trust online reviews for recommendations on where to eat. Catering to the needs of your consumers based on the location you serve is critical for the success of your business.

In this scenario, you will wonder if you should open a café or a restaurant. So how do you know which option would be best for your customers and your business?

Know the difference between a café and a restaurant!

Imagine going to a restaurant and ordering a Matcha Crème Frappuccino or going to a café and ordering an Ossobuco or a Beef bourguignon.

To be more relatable, you wouldn’t go to a typical South Indian restaurant and expect Vanilla Latte on their menu or go to a café and expect a full Vegetarian Thali. It wouldn’t make any sense, would it?

Does this spark a question in you as to why we cannot exchange the services of a complete restaurant with that of a café?

To give you more clarity on the difference between café and restaurant, let’s get to the etymology, aka the origin of the two terms

Story of Café

The English term café, borrowed from the French, derives from the Turkish kahve, meaning coffee.

The First Coffee House in Turkey

The first café is said to have opened in 1550 in Constantinople, today’s Istanbul in Turkey.

Another interesting fact about the category is the difference between ‘Coffee’ in Italy and France — caffè and café. The accent switches too. The two coffee cultures differ a lot too.

Restaurant Chronicles

  • The word comes from the Latin’ restaurant,’ meaning “to renew.”
  • A 512 record from Egypt states the presence of a public eating establishment similar to a restaurant that served a dish, a plate of cereal, wildfowl, and onions.
  • The Arthashastra mentions establishments that sold prepared food in ancient India.
  • Early eating establishments sprang up in Song dynasty China during the 11th and 12th centuries.
  • In 13th century France, inns served a variety of food — bread, cheese, bacon, roasts, soups, and stews — usually eaten at a common table.
  • In the 16th century in Japan, a restaurant culture emerged from tea houses.
  • The first modern restaurant emerged in 1765 by a Parisian named Boulanger.
  • Boulanger’s establishment on rue des Poulies, near the Louvre, served mostly bouillon restaurants.

Difference Between Café and Restaurant: The Place

A Café is usually a relatively small place that sells non-alcoholic beverages and a few food items such as sandwiches and pastries. A café can be located inside a building, or it can be an open-air establishment. In Europe, cafés also serve alcohol.

Since the Café is French, it is imperative to understand how the ambiance in a typical French Café feels.

Let’s look at how France does it. Paris leads the way to coffee shops home to roving waiters flitting among locals and tourists. The French Café is a space, a true environment, with sweeping terraces and cozy interiors, and a beloved destination for tourists and locals alike.

You can expect a perfect atmosphere that allows you to relax. Bring your laptop, book or a newspaper and sit and wax the day away, sipping your coffee, and no one will pressure you to leave.

In other parts of the world, Italy, for instance, cafés aren’t as immersed in the culture as it is in France. Instead, there are bars where locals quickly gather to down their morning espresso before heading to work.

Cafés usually have a seating capacity of about 40 -50 seats and does not require any reservations.

Cafe — The Vintage Indian Way

Unlike contemporary coffee houses, a typical Indian coffee house tells a different story. Post-independence India would be incomplete without mentioning the Indian Coffee House in Mohan Singh Place, Connaught Place, Delhi. It is one of the 400 coffee houses run by the Indian Coffee Worker’s Society.

In this age of high-end coffee outlets patronized by the younger generation, the Indian Coffee House boasts many young customers. Loved by youngsters for being pocket-friendly, many visit the coffee house to brainstorm and write books, scripts and blogs. Others are marketing and sales executives that visit to have meetings.

Furthermore, A ‘cafeteria’, on the other hand, is an establishment where the customer selects the food items he wants, puts them on a tray and pays for them before sitting down to eat — what we in India sometimes refer to as ‘self-service’. Usually, in a cafeteria, you pay first and eat later.

Café à la mode

The old coffee house should not be confused with the coffee shop of recent decades. Modern Coffee houses are like mini restaurants serving a typical menu of diner food and basic coffee.

How is a restaurant different from a Cafe in its Ambiance?

On the other hand, a restaurant offers much more in terms of the atmosphere. The ambiance in a restaurant is very different based on the theme of the restaurant. Theme-based restaurants have a unique decor to enhance the atmosphere, providing a serene place to relax. However, it varies from one restaurant to the other. Fine dining restaurants ensure their decor stays cohesive to the vibrant gourmet platter they offer.

Moreover, the seating capacity ranges from 100 -150 seats normally. As for the dress code, not all restaurants call for a dress code. However, certain posh fine dining restaurants demand a dress code to allow access to diners. Also, the cost is more expensive than the Cafés based on the cuisine served and the hospitality rendered. Most restaurants operate as walk-ins, but fine dining restaurants require reservations.

Difference Between Cafe and Restaurant: The Food

Café varies from a restaurant in the menu it offers. Normally Cafés provide a variety of hot and cold-brewed coffee alongside various pastries and light food like pizzas and burgers

What’s on the restaurant menu that is different from a Cafe?

A restaurant is a comparatively bigger place that serves a broad cuisine. However, the beverages served include a basic coffee. It is usually served as a complimentary beverage alongside other condiments.

Restaurants serve various cuisines like Continental, Chinese, Mediterranean, North Indian, South Indian, and Afghani.

A restaurant is not to be confused with a hotel. The difference between a restaurant and a hotel is that a restaurant serves food without offering accommodation. But a hotel is a place which offers accommodation along with food

A quick recap about the difference between Cafe and Restaurant:

Although a café or a coffee shop is like a mini restaurant that offers some snacks and basic food, it offers a wide variety of coffee. A restaurant serves different cuisines and a basic coffee as a complementary part of the meal ordered. The difference between a coffee shop and a specialty restaurant is in the food each serves and in the ambiance it holds.

With that being said, you can now decide which one will be the best for you — a café or a restaurant, if you are planning to start a food business.