Are you dreaming of opening a restaurant? If so, one of the first things you need to think about is what type of establishment you want to run. Each type comes with its own dining style and customer expectations.

Let’s take a closer look at the most popular types of restaurants to help you find the right one for you.

How Many Types of Restaurants Are There?

There are more than a dozen different types of restaurants out there. Keep in mind that restaurant “types” don’t refer to the type of cuisine that’s served, but rather, the dining style. For example, a fine dining restaurant may have a more formal dress code and table setting. A casual restaurant, on the other hand, is casual.

We're going to cover the most popular types of restaurants in the USA, but there are likely many more out there that are more niche or unique.

What Are the Different Types of Restaurants?

With so many options to choose from, finding the right restaurant type can seem overwhelming. It’s important to understand what each type is and how they work.

types of food restaurants

1. Casual

Casual restaurants are one of the most popular types of food restaurants in America. Everyday families often choose a casual eatery because their menus are affordable, the atmosphere is more laid back, and the dress code is – as you may have guessed – casual.

Casual restaurants typically have décor related to the cuisine that’s served, and customers are served at their tables.

In most cases, these restaurants fall somewhere between a “fancy” restaurant and fast casual.

2. Fine Dining

A fine dining restaurant has a more formal look and feel. Most people dine at these high-end restaurants for special occasions, such as anniversaries, birthdays or weddings.

Fine restaurants typically have:

  • Formal dress codes and etiquette
  • Servers are generally more attentive and follow etiquette rules when serving
  • A more formal atmosphere
  • Menus with exotic dishes and high-quality ingredients

The cost of dining at a high-end restaurant is much higher than other restaurant types.

3. Fast Casual

A fast casual restaurant is somewhere between fast food and a casual restaurant. The menu is more affordable than a casual eatery, but the food is also a bit healthier than in a fast food restaurant.

Fast casual restaurants have:

  • Affordable dishes
  • Casual environment and décor
  • Counter service

In recent years, fast casual restaurants have been growing in popularity because they offer convenience, affordability and quality food.

4. Fast Food

Most people are familiar with fast food restaurants thanks to big-name chains like McDonald’s, Chick-fil-A and Taco Bell. The service is quick, and the food is affordable. In addition, drive-thru service makes it easy for busy families and individuals to grab their food and go.

Fast food restaurants typically have:

  • Counter service and/or drive-thru service
  • Meals are standardized
  • Ambiance and décor are casual
  • Food is served in disposable containers

different types of food restaurants

Generally, fast food restaurants have the lowest menu prices, but the quality of the food is much lower than a fine dining or casual restaurant.

5. Ghost Kitchen

Of all the different types of restaurants, the ghost kitchen is the most unique. Why? Because it’s not really a restaurant in the traditional sense.

A ghost kitchen is also known as a virtual or delivery-only restaurant. Customers can order their food and have it delivered, but you can’t dine in the establishment. Choosing the delivery-only model means lower overhead costs, so chefs can focus on food quality and developing unique menu options.

Ghost restaurants have:

  • Delivery only models and typically use third-party delivery services
  • A strong social media and online presence
  • A range of foods available

In many cases, ghost kitchens don’t have a brick and mortar location. Instead, they often operate out of the kitchen of another established restaurant.

6. Pizzeria

When we talk about the different types of food restaurants, we typically refer to the dining style and not the cuisine type. But the pizzeria is the exception. It’s an entire experience in itself. Pizzerias are generally small eateries that primarily serve pizza, although they usually have other menu items. They may have a small area to sit down and dine, but most customers only enter the restaurant to pick up their order and leave.

Pizzerias usually have:

  • Delivery, pick-up and dine-in options
  • Quick service
  • Limited menus
  • Affordable prices
  • Counter service

With low overhead and high demand for pizza in the U.S., pizzerias can be a profitable option for potential restaurant owners. In 2021 alone, pizza restaurants generated more than $45 billion in revenue.

7. Family-Style Dining

A family-style restaurant is similar to a casual restaurant. The primary difference is that dishes are served in large portions for everyone at the table to share (hence the term “family-style”).

Staff typically serve dishes at the center of the table, and customers serve themselves and pass the food around to other people at the table.

8. Food Truck or Stand

Food trucks have become wildly popular over the last decade. As the name suggests, these are “restaurants” on wheels. Food is served out of a special truck equipped with a kitchen.

Food trucks have limited menus and usually only serve one type of cuisine. Seating is sparse or non-existent, and service is quick.

9. Diner

A diner is a restaurant that offers quick service, a casual atmosphere and good food. Most diners serve breakfast, burgers and fried foods at a lower cost.

Some diners are open 24/7, and many have seats at the counter for quick services straight from the kitchen.

most popular types of restaurants

10. Café

A café is a smaller eatery with outdoor seating, a laid-back atmosphere and small dishes that consist of pastries, tea, coffee and other small breakfast and lunch items. Customers order at the counter and seat themselves. Diners may spend hours working in the café or socializing with friends.

11. Buffet

A buffet serves a wide variety of foods in a self-serve fashion. Guests stand in line and place whichever food items they want on their plates, and seat themselves at tables.

Most buffets specialize in a certain type of cuisine, such as American, Indian or Chinese.

These are some of the most popular types of restaurants. Each one has its own dining style and business model. Consider your vision for your restaurant to see which type fits your dream.