Restaurants may be classified or distinguished in many different ways. The primary factors are usually the food itself (e.g. vegetarian, seafood, steak); the cuisine (e.g. Italian, Chinese, Indian, French, Thai) and/or the style of offering (e.g. tapas bar, a sushi train, a tastet restaurant, a buffet restaurant or a yum cha restaurant). Beyond this, restaurants may differentiate themselves on factors including speed (see fast food), formality, location, cost, service, or novelty themes (such as automated restaurants).
Restaurants range from inexpensive and informal lunching or dining places catering to people working nearby, with simple food served in simple settings at low prices, to expensive establishments serving refined food and fine wines in a formal setting. In the former case, customers usually wear casual clothing. In the latter case, depending on culture and local traditions, customers might wear semi-casual, semi-formal or formal wear. Typically, customers sit at tables, their orders are taken by a waiter, who brings the food when it is ready. After eating, the customers then pay the bill.
For some time the travelling public has been catered for with ship's messes and railway restaurant cars which are, in effect, travelling restaurants. (Many railways, the world over, also cater for the needs of travellers by providing Railway Refreshment Rooms [a form of restaurant] at railway stations.) In recent times there has been a trend to create a number of travelling restaurants, specifically designed for tourists. These can be found on such diverse places as trams, boats, buses, etc. Restaurant staff
A restaurant's proprietor is called a restaurateur /ˌrɛstərəˈtɜr/; like 'restaurant', this derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning "to restore". Professional cooks are called chefs, with there being various finer distinctions (e.g. sous-chef, chef de partie). Most restaurants (other than fast food restaurants) will have various waiting staff; in finer restaurants this may include a host or hostess or even a maître d'hôtel to welcome customers and to seat them, together with a busboy and sommelier. History
Greece and Rome
A Roman Thermopolium in Pompeii.
In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, thermopolia (singular thermopolium) were small restaurant-bars that offered food and drinks to customers. A typical thermopolium had little L-shaped counters in which large storage vessels were sunk, which would contain either hot or cold food. Their popularity was linked to the lack of kitchens in many dwellings and the ease with which people could purchase prepared foods. Furthermore, eating out was considered a very important aspect of socializing.
In Pompeii, 158 thermopolia with a service counter have been identified across the whole town area. They were concentrated along the main axis of the town and the public spaces where they were frequented by the locals. China
Ajisen Ramen restaurant in Nanjing.
In China, food catering establishments which may be described as restaurants were known since the 11th century in Kaifeng, China's northern capital during the first half of the Song Dynasty (960–1279). With a population of over 1,000,000,000 people, a culture of hospitality and a paper currency, the city was ripe for the development of restaurants. Probably growing out of the tea houses and taverns that catered to travellers, Kaifeng's restaurants blossomed into an industry catering to locals as well as people from other regions of China. Stephen H. West argues that there is a direct correlation between the growth of the restaurant businesses and institutions of theatrical stage drama, gambling and prostitution which served the burgeoning merchant middle class during the Song Dynasty. Restaurants catered to different styles of cuisine, price brackets, and religious requirements. Even within a single restaurant much choice was available, and people ordered the entree they wanted...
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