Sometimes the hardest thing to choose is where to eat.
That choice becomes even more difficult when you factor in cafés with restaurants.
Since cafés sometimes sell food and drinks, you may wonder what distinguishes a café from a restaurant.
There are a few areas in the food industry where cafés and restaurants diverge.
Here are some of the differences between a restaurant and a café.
Restaurant Or Cafe (What’s The Difference?)
One of the major differences between a restaurant and a café is their origins.
Cafés are older than restaurants.
Their history traces as far back as the Ottoman Empire.
During that period, many shop owners opened stores that served various styles of coffee.
Some also offered small snacks.
They were places where people gathered and played games over some coffee.
Their popularity eventually brought them to Paris and London.
They still sold various types of coffees and small snacks.
Games were still played over the food, but it also became a place where people liked to gather and talk.
Artists, especially, gathered in cafés to discuss their work, philosophy, or political matters.
It’s why some governments eventually had to close them during times of unrest.
They became places where some gathered to speak about revolutions.
Restaurants are also old but not quite as old as cafés.
They got their start around the 18th century in France.
A man named Boulanger has received credit for opening the first restaurant in 1765.
It differed from other eateries because it included a nice place to eat inside of the building where the cooking also happened.
Instead of customers fetching their food, a waiter would see to all of their needs.
They took their orders and delivered them to the cook.
Then they’d deliver the plate of food when it was ready.
This type of eatery grew popular quickly and a few other restaurants started to open around the area.
The fad also crossed the English Channel into London where restaurants got their start.
Instead of focusing on light snacks, the menu consisted of large meals with standard drinks.
A restaurant is different from a café because the café existed before the restaurant.
2. Menu Items
Perhaps one of the biggest differences between a restaurant and a café is the menu.
At a café, you can expect limited food options.
Most tend to focus on serving snacks or desserts.
A bakery café, for example, usually sells donuts, cupcakes, and small cakes alongside their coffee.
That said, you can find some cafés that also sell burgers or fries.
However, the emphasis that a café has isn’t on its food but its drinks.
You only need to think of Starbucks to understand how varied coffee can be.
With tons of different customizable options, Starbucks is always a running joke on how complex coffee can become.
Since it spends most of its time and attention on coffee and not food, a café’s menu is distinct from a restaurant’s menu.
That’s because a restaurant focuses more on food instead of beverages.
When it comes to serving beverages, restaurants tend to stick with the main favorites.
It usually has various non-alcoholic drinks as well as wine and beer for sale.
They often partner with local breweries to give their diners a specific taste of their own community.
However, that’s where most of the complexity of their drinks ends.
When buying drinks at a restaurant, you can expect anywhere from three to five different options for every type of drink.
The emphasis goes to the restaurant’s food.
A restaurant wants its dishes to shine.
These establishments usually sell medium or large portions of various dishes.
Like a café, a restaurant may also have a certain theme.
Seafood restaurants tend to offer a lot of seafood dishes.
Family restaurants have milder dishes that everyone in the family can enjoy.
Restaurants that feature a certain ethnic background, like Chinese, Indian, or Italian, tend to feature food from that specific country.
Cafés and restaurants are different because of their menus.
A café has more drink options and fewer food options.
A restaurant has fewer drink options and more food options.
3. The Ambiance
Another distinct difference between a café and a restaurant is the ambiance.
When entering a café, one of the first things you’ll notice is how relaxed the environment is.
That’s exactly the sort of ambiance that it strives for.
Cafés have a reputation for being places where students, writers, workers, and introverts like to hang out.
The atmosphere is usually quieter, although not as quiet as a library, and it seems to promote an element of intellectualism.
This might be a remnant of its history as a place where artists and great thinkers gathered and discussed matters of the world.
You can usually expect calming music like an acoustic guitar or something similar playing.
There are rarely any televisions in a café.
If it does have any, then it’s usually on the news station or features calming scenery.
The scent of coffee is also strong since it contains so many different coffee beans and mixtures.
This is in stark contrast to a restaurant.
Where a café is relaxing and quiet, a restaurant is anything but.
The very heart of a restaurant is socializing.
It encourages people to speak with one another or to even speak to another table of diners.
It’s rowdy, lively, and often features loud music of the latest hits on the radio.
Some restaurants that run under a certain theme might feature music that lines up with that theme.
A lot of restaurants also have televisions.
Sports-themed restaurants, for example, have tons of TVs, all showing different games.
These types of restaurants tend to be the loudest since it encourages diners to celebrate and bemoan the action on the screen as it happens.
While you do sometimes find a solo diner at a restaurant, it’s usually a group activity.
This emphasis on the group rather than the individual is a hallmark of the restaurant ambiance.
Both restaurants and cafés have a particular ambiance about them.
Cafés tend to be quieter and more cerebral and relaxing.
Restaurants are louder and focused on merriment and socializing.
The speed with which you receive services also differs between a restaurant and a café.
At a café, service is usually fast.
Even if you have to wait in a long line during the morning rush, you can expect your order in a few minutes.
Some people may decide to extend their stay and decide to drink in the building.
While this may extend your time at the café, the service, itself, is still fast.
Cafés tend to be more like fast-food restaurants.
While they maintain high-quality products, the goal is to get people in and out of the line as fast as possible.
The speed that you receive service at a restaurant is different.
It’s much slower.
Restaurants want you to enjoy your stay.
While they do want to turn over tables in order to get as many guests through the door as possible, they’re not as eager for you to leave as cafés are.
Part of the reason that the service takes longer at a restaurant is that they make the food fresh.
The chef doesn’t start cooking the meal until the order is in.
That means you usually have to wait a few minutes for the chef to cook everything that you ordered.
If you have a large party of people, then it can sometimes take an extended amount of time to finish everything.
That’s because restaurants prefer to get everyone’s dish out at the same time.
There are several courses that people tend to eat when at a restaurant.
They have an appetizer, the main dish, and sometimes dessert.
Not only do you have to wait for each meal to finish cooking, but then you also take time to eat the food.
If you’re sticking around for some drinks, then your time at the restaurant extends even further.
Visiting a café can take as long as a few minutes, not counting the time it takes to stand in line.
Visiting a restaurant can take anywhere from a half-hour to several hours.
The difference does disappear, however, when examining fast-food restaurants and cafés.
Fast-food restaurants also want to serve the people in line as fast as possible.
Because of that, those who order from a fast-food restaurant can expect a similar speed of service as when ordering from a café.
Because cafés tend to focus on small dishes and drinks, they also tend to be cheaper than restaurants.
That’s because it costs a café lot less to do business.
The most important ingredient that a coffee house needs is coffee beans.
One of the ideal aspects of coffee beans is that they’re small and compact.
That allows coffee houses to buy a lot of them in bulk.
While they do eventually go bad, they don’t spoil nearly as fast as vegetables or raw meat.
That allows coffee houses to store them for a longer amount of time.
It keeps costs down.
Since it doesn’t cost much to do business, cafés tend to charge lower prices.
The type of employees that work at cafés also keeps operational costs low.
They tend to be high school or college students just starting their careers.
While serving complex coffee orders does require quick-thinking and keen memorization skills, the job isn’t overly complex.
No one needs a degree to work at a café.
Because of that, owners are able to pay their employees a smaller wage compared to others.
That’s different from restaurants who tend to be more expensive.
One of the biggest reasons that restaurants tend to be more expensive is the food that they offer.
They need to order a lot of food to serve their diners.
If they run out of food, then that results in an unhappy customer.
It also means that they’re missing out on money.
They buy food in bulk, but the problem is that the food doesn’t always last.
To avoid fines for serving food that’s past its due date, many restaurants have to end up wasting their food.
To make up for the waste and the cost of the food itself, they have to price their dishes at a higher amount.
The type of employees they hire also factors into how expensive the restaurant is.
If they have a famous chef in the kitchen, for example, then you can expect the items on the menu to be expensive.
The restaurant has to pay that chef’s wages to keep them happy.
Restaurants that don’t have a famous chef or a chef who has received a culinary degree tend to be a bit cheaper.
They don’t pay their employees as much.
That said, they’re still going to be more expensive than cafés.
A major difference between cafés and restaurants is the cost.
If you want something cheap, then you should go to a café.
If you want to splurge, then you should go to a restaurant.
You can usually tell the difference between a restaurant and a café by the size of the space the establishment occupies.
Coffee houses tend to be smaller in size.
They have enough space to house their ingredients and some space in the front for diners to sit.
There are usually only a few tables, chairs, and benches, however.
Some are so small that only a single table can fit inside.
This is different from restaurants which tend to prefer larger buildings.
The larger a building is, the more diners the business can serve at a time.
However, if the restaurant is too large processing all those orders will be impossible.
That’s why restaurants tend to use the medium to large buildings.
They also need plenty of storage space for their freezers and fridges to store their food.
The kitchen also needs significant space for ovens, stoves, and countertops on which to prepare food.
Both the back of the house and the front of the house need to be large.
You can expect to see many tables and chairs in a restaurant.
Some restaurants also use booths as a more comfortable and luxurious form of an eating location.
You only need to look at the building’s size to determine if it’s a café or a restaurant.
A final difference between cafés and restaurants is the formality of each one.
Cafés tend to be more casual.
That’s because it’s a fast-food service.
While you’ll often find people dressed up at a café, that’s usually because they’re coming from a formal place like work.
The café, itself, is very casual.
That’s why some first dates happen in a café.
It offers a relaxed atmosphere where people don’t feel as though they need to dress or act a certain way.
Restaurants, on the other hand, tend to be a bit more formal.
While some restaurants can be as casual as cafés, others are extremely formal.
Fine-dining restaurants, for example, often expect their diners to wear fine clothes.
Suits and dresses are staples in these restaurants.
There’s also an unspoken decorum or etiquette that’s expected of you when you dine at a restaurant.
Patience and polite manners are some of the hallmarks.
You’re expected to thank your waiter for their service and leave them a tip.
It’s also good form to clean up after yourself as much as possible when you’re done eating.
Cafés tend to be more informal whereas restaurants tend to be more formal.
What Are The Similarities Between A Café And A Restaurant?
Many people consider the phrase, “All cafés are restaurants but not all restaurants are cafés,” when comparing the two.
That’s because they share a lot of similarities.
Here are some of the similarities between a café and a restaurant.
1. Food And Drinks
The most obvious similarity between the two is that you can expect to find both food and drinks at either of them.
Even cafés that don’t sell full meals will still sell cookies or other snacks.
Restaurants also sell coffee, albeit not as many options as a café.
Both restaurants and cafés are also ideal locations for socializing.
While cafés tend to be quieter, they’re great places for groups to come together to work on group projects for work or school.
Many friends like to stop by the local café to catch up, too.
Restaurants are the king of places to socialize.
They arrange the tables and chairs in such a way to promote communication.
Many use TVs and show sports to encourage people from different tables to communicate and share.
Both cafés and restaurants are great places for socializing.
3. To-Go Delivery
While not all restaurants offer to-go deliveries or takeout, many have adopted the service.
Because of that, restaurants and cafés are similar.
Diners can order their meal and pick it up at the restaurant or have someone deliver it to them.
You can also go through a drive-thru at most cafés to order and receive your drink.
Restaurants and cafés are similar because restaurants have adopted to-go services.
There are many differences between a restaurant and a café.
However, both try to bring people together through their love of food and beverages.
You can refer to the differences we have discussed in this article to determine whether an eatery near you is a café or a restaurant.