What is the difference between a restaurant and a cafe to avoid further confusion?


difference between a restaurant and a cafe

We suggest considering the differences between a restaurant and a cafe.

Definition of a cafe and restaurant

If you look up explanatory dictionaries, for example, in Ozhegov’s dictionary, this French word is interpreted as “a small restaurant.” In other sources, there is an afterword “were to have a snack”. That is, the cafe is not designed for a long stay, but as a place where you can quickly satisfy your hunger or have a cup of tea or coffee. The cafe offers visitors uncomplicated snacks or semi-finished dishes.

It is customary to describe restaurants as catering establishments, where the visitor is offered a wide range of food and drinks, including exotic or difficult-to-prepare dishes. That is why cooking in a restaurant takes a long time. In terms of size, restaurants are usually rather large premises with several halls, for example, a banquet or VIP hall, and a dance floor.

Service Principles

The presence of waiters is one of the basic principles of the work of any restaurant. The duties of the restaurant waiter include: setting the table, advising the restaurant’s customers and helping to prepare the menu, taking orders, serving food and drinks according to etiquette, solving any problems that arise, issuing bills, and taking payments. In this case, the invoice also includes a percentage for the service.

You might not even see the waiter in a coffee shop. If there is one, it performs the following functions: keeping the tables clean and tidy, changing ashtrays, and cleaning dirty dishes. Most often, a visitor to a café takes the menu himself at the bar and leaves an order there. In some cases, the waiter can help choose dishes and charge the customer.

Furnishings and interior design

In cafes, the interior is usually rather modest. It can even be plastic tables and chairs. In institutions of a higher level, the design can be furnished in a certain style. In a cafe, the absence of tablecloths is allowed, and linen napkins can be replaced with paper napkins. Until the visitor has placed an order, his table remains empty, and all cutlery and often spices are brought with him.

The tables are already set in the restaurant. At the same time, the presence of a tablecloth and linen napkins is required. Tables in restaurants are also often decorated with fresh flowers. The presence of live music is considered a good level of the restaurant. Restaurant interiors can be very diverse. As a rule, these are high-quality and comfortable furniture, testifying to a certain style and direction of the restaurant’s work. For the comfort of visitors, restaurants are equipped with air conditioners, which are responsible for maintaining the temperature in the room. The restaurant can be divided into a smoking and a non-smoking area.

We summarize the following:

  1. A café is a relatively small establishment that does not have several halls. The restaurant is a spacious venue, it may have a separate banquet hall, and smoking, and non-smoking areas.
  2. People come to the cafe for a bite to eat, and the restaurant is intended for a good rest.
  3. The cafe has an uncomplicated menu, which can include dishes from semi-finished products, and the menu of restaurants – complex dishes with a variety of ingredients, including exotic ones.
  4. There are no waiters in a cafe, while they are required in a restaurant.
  5. If the café has a waiter, then he has very limited functions: cleaning the dishes and keeping the café in order, taking orders, and checking payments. In the restaurant, the waiter serves the table, offers visitors food, advises them, and also serves them according to etiquette.
  6. Cafe interiors can be quite modest, while restaurant interiors suggest fresh flowers and expensive furniture.
  7. Music is one of the main attributes of the restaurant, especially live music. There may be no music in a coffee shop.
  8. In a cafe, the absence of tablecloths is allowed, and instead of linen napkins, paper napkins are used. Tablecloths and only linen napkins are required in the restaurant.
  9. In modern restaurants, air conditioning systems are installed that are too expensive for cafes.

Many modern cafes are increasingly resembling stylish and trendy restaurants, most people no longer notice the difference in these establishments. Therefore, it is necessary to understand what the main differences are and how not to confuse these two concepts.

There are several criteria to help you sort the types of facilities. Such features allow you to easily distinguish a standard cafe from an expensive restaurant.

Many restaurants in St. Petersburg have not lost their popularity to this day, since most of them have a wide range of dishes and expensive drinks. To distinguish such an institution from a cafe, you need to understand the main characteristics and subtleties.

The restaurant is known to offer its visitors a choice of many delicious dishes that are difficult to prepare. It can be exotic species, the cuisine of a specific country, or just new and trendy recipes.

Complex dishes always take a lot of time to prepare. Therefore, only professional chefs who are familiar with all the intricacies of work can be involved in such a process.

Another special feature of the restaurant is the table decoration. Compulsory subjects include:

  1. tablecloths made of expensive materials;
  2. decorations on the table;
  3. Set of instruments.

As for the last point, such a portion can be presented in three versions. This is a morning tool kit, day and night.

To identify a restaurant, you need to look closely at the inside. Basically, such establishments are distinguished by an elegant style, all the details of the design are thought out to the smallest detail.

The last point is the prices. It is well known that eating out in restaurants is very expensive.

Distinguishing a café from a restaurant is quite simple. To do this, the following characteristics must be taken into account:

  • the interior does not differ in one style, it can combine several types of design;
  • the presence of a single menu for food and drinks;
  • there is no portion;
  • Availability of self-service (in some cases).

Also, it is necessary to compare the pricing policy. Basically, the food in the café is not very expensive.

As for the interior, many modern establishments use original and interesting styles. A wide variety of items and accessories are used as decor, with which you can convey bold design fantasies.

In contrast to the restaurant, the café belongs to a small establishment. There are no separate rooms or areas for smoking visitors.

There are differences. On the one hand, there is the breadth of the services offered. The restaurant has it the most. Accordingly, licenses, space requirements, the presence of a wardrobe, a stage, a microclimate system, the quality of furniture and dishes, a menu – with or without photos, printed using a computer or typographic process, the presence of branded napkins, in general, many things – differ. The main differences are described below according to GOST. And if you want to study in detail, then google GOST for the provision of catering services, or whatever it is called there.

In addition, restaurants and bars are divided into three classes – “Luxury”, “Superior” and “First”. And as for the McDuck and why it’s a restaurant. Legally, McDuck is hardly considered a restaurant, since it does not meet many requirements – the presence of a cloakroom, luxury furniture, tablecloths, disposable porcelain, glass, etc. Most likely, this is a fast-food service.

The main points are as follows:

1. Restaurant – a public catering business with a wide range of sophisticated dishes, including customized and special dishes and products; alcoholic, soft drinks, hot and other drinks, flour confectionery, bakery products, tobacco products, shopping goods, with a high level of service and usually in combination with the organization of recreation and entertainment.

Restaurants are distinguished:

difference between a restaurant and a cafe

According to the range of products sold – non-specialized and specialized (fish, beer, cheese, etc .; restaurants of national cuisine or cuisine of foreign countries);

By location – in residential and public buildings, including family houses, hotels, railway stations, in cultural, entertainment, and sports facilities, recreation areas (landscape), in transport (dining cars, etc.);

According to the interests of consumers (club restaurant, sports restaurant, restaurant nightclub, restaurant salon);

By methods and forms of service – a restaurant with waiter service, a restaurant with buffet service, a catering restaurant;

Depending on the composition and purpose of the premises – stationary and mobile (restaurants on the sea and river ships, on trains).

2. Bar – a catering establishment equipped with a bar counter and, depending on the specialization, sells alcoholic and (or) non-alcoholic drinks, hot and cold drinks, cocktails, cold and hot snacks, and meals to a limited extent, purchased goods.

Bars distinguish between:

According to the interests of consumers (club bar, sports bar).

3. Cafe – a public catering business for catering and (or without) consumer recreation with a limited range of products for public catering compared to a restaurant, selling customized branded dishes, products, and alcoholic and non-alcoholic beverages.

The cafe features:

  • By location – in residential and public buildings, including family houses, hotels, and railway stations; in cultural, entertainment, and sports facilities; in recreation areas;
  • By methods and forms of service – with waiter service and with self-service;
  • At the time of operation – permanent and seasonal;
  • Depending on the composition and purpose of the premises, they are stationary and mobile (car cafe, car cafe, cafe on the sea and river ships, etc.).

Cafe, translated from French, cafe means “a place where they drink coffee.” Today, a café is a catering establishment where you can not only drink coffee but also have a snack. A café is a place of gastronomy and recreation. At a lower price point than a restaurant, the café attracts a younger contingent of visitors.

A bar is a pub that sells alcoholic beverages for immediate consumption. There is not much difference between establishments such as a bar, pub, saloon, pub, or tavern. It is also believed that a bar is a place of relaxation for those who want to have a sincere conversation with friends or just get acquainted with someone offering a cocktail.

Everyone understands that there is a big difference between a cafe and a restaurant because of the name. But what is it? Most likely, it will be difficult for a common man on the street to answer this question unequivocally. By definition, a cafe is a small restaurant with a lower price policy, and a less wide and demanding range of services and dishes. But that’s not the only difference. You can understand the requirements for these establishments in more detail.

Why do we go to certain facilities?

You go to a coffee shop for a light break, a relaxed atmosphere that offers fun, communication, and the opportunity to surf the Internet and relax. The whole atmosphere of the cafe is created in such a way that it becomes a place for short meetings with the possibility to have a snack or coffee, and hold a business lunch on weekdays.

On the way to the restaurant, guests are well positioned and ready for a long rest. Therefore, the responsibility of the restaurant is to create comfort and an enveloping atmosphere, as well as slight privacy. Establishments of this level offer a wide range of prepared dishes, and large halls offer the opportunity to hold buffets and large events. The slightly intimate, relaxed atmosphere is conducive to business meetings and negotiations. Most high-end restaurants have a dress code, which in turn governs the quota that can get into that institution, and are therefore considered elite vacation spots.

How do you meet us?

The visitor bill may include a service charge in both a café and a restaurant. However, in a restaurant, this amount will be an order of magnitude higher, as will the quality of service.

difference between a restaurant and a cafe

So what are we paying for?

In the cafe:

Two types of service are allowed: self-service or waiter service. If a self-service procedure is set up in the café, the visitor has the right to pick up any food, pay at the cash register and take any free seat in the café.

A waiter’s duties may include: keeping tables clean, replacing ashtrays, tidying up dirty dishes

The waiter can be relieved of functions such as menu output and visitor accounting. In this case, visitors can take the menu at the bar and place their order and pay the bill themselves.

A higher-level waiter can help choose dishes and count customers

It is considered that the presence of a waiter is mandatory, who not only takes orders from the menu and brings food but also has a number of strict rules and requirements for appearance and quality of service.

The waiter’s work can begin at the threshold, when he meets the customer, escorts him to a free table, serves the menu, takes the order, serves all the dishes, pours drinks, and also checks their constant availability

The tasks of a restaurant waiter also include serving food and drinks according to generally recognized etiquette, clarifying questions, advising on the composition of the dishes, the origin of the ingredients, etc.

The waiter calculates the visitor and gets paid.

Also in terms of decoration and the comfort offered, there are big differences between the two types of establishments. What are visitors entitled to and what can they not rely on in both cases?

Food is different too

The prices of dishes in a cafe are calculated based on a margin of 200-300% … For a restaurant, these figures are within 300-600% … However, exclusive meals served in a restaurant can have a higher markup percentage.

Reasons for such a big difference between a restaurant and a cafe in markup:

There is a rule for serving a single menu for a cafe that includes all the food and drinks offered in that institution. The dishes prepared in the kitchen are mostly uncomplicated and easy to prepare and do not require long waiting times or exclusive ingredients. There can be a combination of dishes from different cuisines.

The restaurant, in turn, offers a fairly large selection of dishes, exquisite cuisine, and high qualifications of chefs. Most dishes have complex cooking technology or original and expensive ingredients. The restaurant adheres to one cuisine: French, Italian, Russian, and others.

The way the food is served is also different. If in a cafe the quality of the dish is more important than its appearance, then the restaurant is responsible not only for the quality of the food served, but also for the originality, sophistication of taste, and design of the dishes served.

Banquet hall

Cafe set up and serving requirements

In a café you might not see tablecloths on the table; Cloth napkins can be replaced with paper napkins. This is allowed for this type of setup. Table setting and condiments may not be available and are provided in a minimal set while the dishes are being served. A separate smoking room may not be available.

The furnishing solution is usually not limited, depending on the proposed kitchen, it can combine different styles or be composed according to any design ideas and fantasies. Cafe owners have the right to choose the facility for the facility at their own discretion and according to the budget. It can be both comfortable leather sofas and simple plastic furniture. The musical accompaniment is determined at the discretion of the owner

Restaurant setup and serving requirements

For a restaurant, one of the requirements for obtaining this status is the availability of the preset on the tables (at least in the morning and afternoon, full in the evening), high-quality expensive tablecloths, cloth napkins, fresh flowers, and plants in the interior and on tables.

No matter what style the interior is decorated in, whether it is calm classics, national motifs, or modern design trends, everything must be impeccable and consistent. Since a restaurant is an expensive elite establishment, there are special requirements for the style of the entire interior. Not only furniture and coatings correspond to a general theme, but also small details up to the color and texture of napkins on the table.

The restaurant must have live music. This speaks for the high value of the restaurant, as well as the availability of high-quality and comfortable furniture, air conditioning, and separate rooms for smokers and non-smokers.

It’s almost impossible to say unequivocally that a better cafe or restaurant is almost impossible. Of course, a restaurant has a number of advantages over a cafe, but not every situation requires a visit and will feel comfortable at that moment.

How is a coffee shop different from a restaurant? This topic has recently become more and more relevant. With the development of gastronomy, the border between these concepts has become almost invisible. In large cities of Russia, at every step, enterprises are opened under the franchise of Western companies. And this adds even more confusion to the terminology of Russian gastronomy. The thing is, in the US, for example, any establishment is called a restaurant. However, in Russian, this word has a narrower meaning. How is a coffee shop different from a restaurant?


Before answering the question of how a cafe differs from a restaurant, it is worth understanding the origin of these words. Perhaps there was no difference between such institutions for a hundred or two hundred years?

“Restaurant” is a word of French origin. In the middle Ages, there were taverns and taverns in Europe. Travelers, as a rule, stayed in such facilities. After paying a small sum for a no-fuss meal, they satisfied their hunger and set off again. Restaurants (like establishments where guests can order any of the dishes on the menu) arose later – in the 18th century. And they appeared in Paris because this word passed from French into German, English, and, of course, Russian.

The origin of the word “cafe” is not easy to determine. According to one version, like “restaurant”, it comes from French. After another, “Café” came into the speech of Europeans from the Ethiopian region of Kaffa. But what does it mean? Most dictionaries say that a café is a place to eat. That is, it is not customary to spend a lot of time in such a facility.

We found out the origin of the concepts. But how does a café differ from a restaurant from a commercial point of view?


The restaurant menu offers a wide range of food and drinks. In addition, the preparation of the food here is a complex process. Several employees work in the kitchen of the restaurant. One deals with the preparation of cold appetizers and salads. Another is responsible for the “Hot Shop”. They can only replace each other in exceptional situations.

To understand how a restaurant differs from a café, it is worth taking a look at the menu. In the first set, it can be a stout leather-bound book. In cafés, the range of dishes is often presented on several A4 pages.


A waiter is not just a person who takes an order. This is a specialist whose work requires the presence of certain skills and knowledge. The waiter should not only know the choice of food well but also be able to tell the guest how it is prepared. It’s not just a wide variety of food, but also the number of staff. There are usually at least three waiters in the restaurant hall. In a coffee shop, they may not be at all. In such an establishment, one employee often acts as a waiter and even as a cleaning lady.

difference between a restaurant and a cafe


If you ask a simple man on the street what are the characteristic differences between restaurants, a cafe a diner, or, say, a pizzeria, most likely he will answer in size. And he will be partly right.

A restaurant is an institution that can occupy an impressive area and be located in a two-story or even three-story building. A café is often a small room with a bar counter. A diner can consist of two or three tables and a display case. Such catering establishments are often found in shopping malls. They have little in common with a full-fledged restaurant.

If we talk about the appearance of the institution, it is worth noting another feature that is often absent in a cafe. Usually designed in a thematic style. In addition, the owner of such a facility ensures that employees fully comply with service standards.

What is the legal difference between a restaurant and a cafe? In both the first and second cases, we are talking about an organization that produces and sells culinary products. Restaurants, cafés, snack bars, pizzeria, and bars – are all catering establishments. The owner of such an organization should formalize its activities with the relevant authorities according to a certain scheme. The way he calls his business – restaurant, cafe, or dumpling – will not affect the accounting in any way. That is, legally there is no difference between a restaurant and a café.

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