Restaurant or Cafe: What’s the Difference?

restaurant vs cafe

Eating out is both comfort and luxury for us in the modern world. From lack of time to busy schedules and celebrations, there are endless reasons why you would plan to head to your favorite food place and eat your heart out. But, when you decide to head out and grab a bite with your family, friends, and loved ones, what do you choose- a café or a restaurant?

Yes, you read that right! Restaurant and Café, two terms often used interchangeably, are two different concepts. Surprisingly for most of us, the difference is unknown.

While the craze around food is rising, more and more of us prefer to dine out or take away our favorite food. Sometimes we prefer a restaurant whereas a café remains the first choice to grab a quick bite. But, how do you differentiate between a café and a restaurant? They both serve food and have seating arrangements for dining in and waiters and staff look after your food choices and preparation.

This blog is an attempt to offer you a clear understanding of restaurants and cafés as we explain how the two are different in many aspects.

What is a restaurant?

Restaurants are commonly large, fancy places where an assortment of food choices are offered. Service is the key definer of a restaurant as the customer is taken care of well by the staff right from entering the restaurant to leaving it. Restaurants are large in size and often have a distinguished menu with specialty cuisine.

The word Restaurant was first used in the 18th century in France. A local chef, A. Boulanger, opened an n establishment for selling soups and several other food items on the menu and named every item on the list a restaurant.

He soon expanded his business and started several other establishments where he served food with a dine-in option in ambient space and multiple choices of fine food on the menu. This was a strategy to promote business and offer a premium food and service experience to its clients.

Soon many other food businessmen started following the trend and opened food joints under the name of restaurants. All these establishments had two things in common- great food, preferably a specialty, and fine waiting service.

This is how the word Restaurant became a name used for any place that offers food, dine-in option, waiting for service, and has a focus on customer service & satisfaction.

What is a Café?

The café is a small food establishment where you are offered beverages, snacks, and limited choices of desserts. It is a place with limited seating capacity and an intimate environment. The food is often served on a counter from where the customer has to collect it and carry it to the table.

To your surprise, Café is a much older concept than a restaurant. While most of us consider a café as a modern concept born due to the demand for a swift and contemporary food experience, it dates back to the time when much of today’s food choices were hardly present.

The word Cafe is an alternate form of the Turkish word ‘Kahve’ and means coffee. The concept was first introduced in the City of Mecca and the Arabian peninsula. People would gather at establishments where they can get a nice cup of coffee and comfortable surroundings to talk and debate on different topics of their choice. The discussions were also followed by a round of games preferably board games, card games, and other indoor fun activities.

Much like ancient times, cafes today offer the same experience to their clients. People come to café to have a fun experience, meet up with friends and family, have a discussion, and head back home after a memorable time.

This is how you can define restaurants and cafes by their definition. However, there is more to Café Vs. Restaurant debate and we have outlined the key differences down below.


The first thing that differentiates a café from a restaurant is the menu. Restaurants are primarily focused on offering a complete meal to the clients. You can find a wide range of selection of specialty cuisine on the menu that caters to your food choices for lunches and dinners.

Commonly restaurants have their specialty. You can find Mughal, Afghani, North Indian, South Indian, Japanese, Continental, and Chinese restaurants around you and know that they serve a particular cuisine. They can however have other cuisines on the menu.

Quite contrarily, the menu of cafes is crisp and limited. The majority of the cafes offer beverages as their main offerings along with a few items that act complementary to the beverage. Coffee is the most common item on a café menu. All the snacks like chips, fries, sandwiches, burgers, pasta, and more that people pick with coffee are added as per the café’s preference.

A café is an establishment where you grab quick bites, mostly, and have more time to indulge in talks and fun activities. You can find assortments of drinks, snacks, specialty items as well as desserts in most modern cafes.


Waiting service is another key differentiator between the two. Both restaurant and café have their way to serve the client.

For a restaurant, waiting for service is the ideal practice wherein the client is offered an immediate service as soon as they enter a restaurant. Right from finding them a suitable seating option to helping them with menus( both understanding the listed items and helping them in choosing the right meal) to serving the food at the client’s table, the waiting service spanned out the entire experience of fine dining.

On the other hand, the majority of the cafes do not have a waiting service, instead, they promote the self-service concept. You might get a menu on your table but then you will have to reach out to the cash counter to order your favorite food, pay for it and then come back later to grab the food as soon as it is prepared.


You can chalk out the difference between a café and a restaurant as soon as you enter one. Restaurants are designed and decorated in a way that they value your choices, offer you a chance to be comfortable with your group of people, and have a fine dining experience.

You can head out to a restaurant when you want to have a meal- lunch, dinner, or breakfast. There is a lot of noise in restaurants as people gather to talk and enjoy meals.

In cafes, however, you will get a mixed environment. You can enjoy being alone or having fun with your friends, family, and colleagues while enjoying the food you ordered.


When it comes to size, restaurants can be huge as well as small. Depending upon what they serve and what type of experience they offer, restaurants can have different sizes. Restaurants can be small with a seating capacity of 50 or large enough to host parties or dinners for a few hundred.

But the cafes are usually smaller in size. The majority of the cafes have seating arrangements for not more than a few dozen people at once.

However, the times and trends are changing and modern cafes are built to capacitate much more people than the definition. Today, some cafes can seat as many as a thousand people easily.


Comparing cafés and restaurants on price offers a key difference between the two. Restaurants are generally more expensive than cafes. However, this can’t be the real determiner as modern cafes have raised the pricing standard and now charge significantly more than they did in the past.

However, you end up paying more in a restaurant as you have a complete meal there whereas in cafes you order beverages and munch on some snacks that complement your choice of drink.


Both cafés and restaurants are ancient concepts, evolved to meet modern needs and preferences. They both serve food and beverages but with the difference in cuisine, choices, and cost. A café and a restaurant have their unique ambiance and are chosen by customers for different purposes.

You can make friends, be alone or enjoy yourself with your friends and family in a café. However, in a restaurant, you mostly go with a group of people, eat a proper meal and have a great time.

Hope you have a clear understanding of café Vs. restaurant now! If reading this post made you feel hungry, head out to the nearest café or restaurant and enjoy your favorite food.

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