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Which Type of Restaurant Should You Open? 12 Popular Options

Planning to open a restaurant is an exciting journey that offers many opportunities. However, there is always that question of what kind of restaurant you want to open. There are several different restaurant types, and finding the right one might not be as easy as you think.

Selecting a concept for your restaurant needs to be one of the first decisions you make, as many of the choices that follow will depend on the direction you choose, so you’ll want to think strategically. But what exactly are the different options? What will work best for your market and your goals? In this article we’ll explore 12 popular options you can explore.

1. QSR / Fast Food Restaurant

A quick service restaurant, or QSR, is one of the most popular types of food establishments. Also known as a fast food restaurant, the focus in a QSR is quick service that patrons can eat on the go. These restaurants, while having dine-in options, often have drive-through windows and to-go packaging ready for the majority of their customers.

Most of these restaurants are easily recognizable names with global franchises. The menus aren’t complicated, but instead focus on classic favorites (like burgers, hot dogs, and fries) that have low price points and can easily be eaten in the car, or while the customer is on the go or doing other activities.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

As mentioned above, QSR restaurants have some of the most recognizable names in the industry, including:

  • McDonald’s

  • Burger King

  • Wendy’s

  • Subway

  • Taco Bell

  • KFC

  • Chick-fil-A

  • Domino’s Pizza

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

The number one reason that quick-service restaurants are so popular among customers is the price point. These restaurants often have low cost value menus and meal deals that are easy, convenient, and filling for only a few dollars. This also means that there are great profit margins for the restaurant owners with many opportunities for upselling.

There is also a nostalgia factor to many QSR food establishments, as they are long-standing brands that families might have fond memories of. Ordering at a QSR doesn't require table service, allowing the focus to remain on customer convenience.

2. Casual Dining Restaurant

Different types of restaurants cover different customer needs. Another example is the casual dining restaurant. Rather than focusing on fast food and to-go orders, this type of restaurant has table service for sit-down meals. These restaurants focus on comfort, and typically incorporate comfortable seating and themed decor that reflects the cuisine.

Casual dining can have a wide range of menus, all depending on the establishment’s theme. These restaurants are also often recognizable chain names, and the food is moderately priced.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Examples of casual dining restaurants include:

  • Buffalo Wild Wings

  • Olive Garden

  • Red Lobster

  • Outback Steakhouse

  • Texas Roadhouse

  • Denny’s

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

Casual dining restaurants still allow customers to eat relatively quickly while creating a warm, welcoming atmosphere with great table service. The menus are often expansive, making them popular with families and large groups.

3. Fine Dining Restaurant

A fine dining restaurant is the most high-end type of restaurant. These restaurants have expensive menus, high-quality ingredients, and formal atmospheres. The menus often feature exotic or unexpected dishes that a diner couldn’t find anywhere else in the area. There is often a dress code and specific dining etiquette that is expected of guests as well.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

While many fine dining restaurants are standalone establishments, there are a few fine dining chains, including:

  • Ruth’s Chris Steak House

  • The Capital Grille

  • Morton’s The Steakhouse

  • Fleming's Prime Steakhouse & Wine Bar

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

A fine dining restaurant is popular among customers for special occasions like birthdays, anniversaries, and holidays. The entire experience, from the atmosphere to the decor to the staff to the menu, creates a unique night out that is an event in itself. Because the prices are high, there is a great opportunity for profit even if there aren’t as many patrons as other types of restaurants.

4. Fast Casual Restaurant

Fast casual is one of the fastest-growing types of restaurant. As a combination of fast food and casual dining, the fast casual restaurant offers diverse menus at a higher price point than a QSR while avoiding the table service of a casual restaurant for counter service. A diner will order online or at a counter like a fast food restaurant, then eat at a table inside.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

The fast casual restaurant is one of the most popular dining establishments, and includes recognizable brands like:

  • Panera Bread

  • Chipotle Mexican Grill

  • Panda Express

  • Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwiches

  • Noodles & Company

  • Five Guys

  • Pret A Manger

  • Shake Shack

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

The fast casual restaurant experience is quickly becoming a customer favorite. The wide variety of menus and cuisines available means that there is plenty to choose from. The food is often more fresh and flavorful than at a QSR, and customers usually have the option to customize their orders. And there is still plenty of convenience for customers, as they don’t need to wait for a table and a server to get their order.

5. Contemporary Casual Restaurant

A contemporary casual restaurant is a newer type of restaurant. This is a sit-down dining experience that is both relaxed and trendy, with unique menus that target younger demographics and marketing tactics that try to capitalize on food trends.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Most contemporary casual restaurants aren’t chains and are instead local places. However, they do have some common features, including:

  • Craft beverages

  • Fusion cuisine

  • Farm-to-table ingredients

  • Emphasis on sustainability

  • Focused marketing

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

A contemporary casual restaurant is often featured on social media. This creates a digital buzz about the restaurant that can be used to build public interest. Things like digital signs, influencer marketing, and photo-ops can help bring in more people for specialty dishes.

6. Family-Style Restaurant

A family-style restaurant is a place that focuses on shared meals. Rather than individual plates, meals are presented on platters and are meant to be served and shared among multiple people. Some restaurants will have individual and family options on the same menu.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Common family-style restaurant cuisine includes:

  • Tapas

  • Italian food

  • Mexican food

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

The family-style restaurant is a great option for families who want to share a tray of lasagna or order a few different appetizers to share. This can mean reduced costs for both the diner and the restaurant. The menu can also be concise, making it easier to manage your food and staffing costs.

7. Food Truck, Food Stand, or Food Cart

A food truck is exactly what it sounds like: food served out of a truck rather than a brick-and-mortar building. The same is true for food stands and food carts. These options are great for customers who are looking for food in unconventional areas like at ballgames, fairs, farmer’s markets, or out and about in the city.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

While again, these are often one-off businesses that don’t have large chains, there are some famous food trucks and carts across the nation (some of which have trucks and walk-in locations):

  • Oink & Moo (New Jersey)

  • Luke’s Lobster (New York City)

  • Ms. Cheezious (Miami)

  • Kogi BBQ (Los Angeles)

  • Mac Mart Truck (Philadelphia)

  • Fava Pot (Washington D.C.)

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

There’s nothing more convenient than having a delicious food option right where you are. Food trucks often explore unique menus and flavor combinations that attract customers from far and wide. The limited menus also mean that owners have greater control over food costs.

8. Cafe

Rather than focusing on food, a cafe or bistro instead puts the emphasis on the beverages they serve. While food options are also available, they aren’t the main draw. Cafe prices are often reasonable, and the service is quick and efficient with a wide menu of drinks.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Some examples of popular cafe chains include:

  • Starbucks

  • Tropical Smoothie Cafe

  • Tim Hortons

  • Dunkin Donuts

  • Peet’s Coffee & Tea

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

While a customer can come to a cafe to grab a drink and go, they are often used as meeting places or work areas due to their relaxed atmosphere. People might come to a cafe with a book to read or a computer to do work on while they sip. Coffee shop menus are typically highly customizable, so it’s easy to cater to patrons with food allergies or sensitivities.

9. Buffet-Style Restaurant

A buffet-style restaurant, also called an “all you can eat” restaurant, will have long serving stations set up with food options that the diners will approach and select on their own. Rather than a menu with pricing per item, buffet prices are typically a fixed cost per person. There are often relatively few service staff members beyond those cooking the food, and there is usually a full range of courses — appetizers and small plates, salads, entrees, and desserts.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Some of the most widely known buffets include:

  • Golden Corral

  • Pizza Hut

  • Cici’s Pizza

  • Old Country Buffet

  • Sizzler

  • Souper Salad

  • Chinese buffets

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

People often feel as though a buffet-style eatery is the best deal you can get. Because there is no limit (or a very high limit) on how much food one can get, diners can fill up without paying for more sides or meals. Buffets also have an expansive range of options, making them popular with families.

10. Bar and Grille Restaurant

A bar and grille restaurant is similar to a casual dining restaurant — however, a bar and grille focuses on drinks and drink specials alongside their food. While the casual atmosphere is still welcoming and can even be family-friendly, there are dedicated bars and drink menus.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Here are some bar and grille restaurants that you might already be familiar with:

  • Smokey Bones

  • BJ’s Steakhouse

  • Chili’s

  • Applebee’s

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

This restaurant concept can cover a wide variety of cuisines and menus and full table service while also featuring specialty drinks and a full bar. This means that there is often something for everyone in a dining group, regardless of preferences.

11. Pop-Up Restaurant

A pop-up restaurant doesn’t have a fixed location. Instead, a team creates a restaurant in a space like a warehouse, outdoor area, or even in another kitchen for just a short time — usually only a single night, although it could be a longer period. A rising trend, pop-up restaurants often focus on high-quality food and creating a unique dining experience.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Here are some pop-ups in the restaurant industry that became so popular among diners that they established permanent locations:

  • Saison (San Francisco)

  • Semilla (Brooklyn)

  • Superiority Burger (New York)

  • Coquine (Portland)

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

A pop-up is a unique experience for diners as it is a limited experience. The menus are often diverse and high-end, but because the restaurant isn’t permanent, it can be a great cost-saver for the operator.

12. Ghost Restaurant

A new type of restaurant is the ghost restaurant, sometimes called “ghost kitchens.” Rather than having a storefront, the restaurant operates as a delivery-only location. There is no dining room, or even a drive-through option. By using online ordering, ghost restaurants focus on food quality and delivery services.

Examples of This Type of Restaurant

Examples of ghost kitchens include:

  • CloudKitchens

  • Kitchen United

  • REEF

  • Zuul

Why People Love This Type of Restaurant

From the customer perspective, there isn’t much of a difference between a ghost kitchen and any other restaurant on a delivery app. However, from a business perspective, you can save on staffing costs, decor costs, and many other typical restaurant costs that don’t exist when you don’t offer dine-in or take-out options — delivery only.

Enhance Your Restaurant’s Technology With INFI

There’s nothing quite like opening a restaurant. However, among all the excitement, selecting your restaurant’s concept and style should be one of the first choices you make. Knowing what options are out there is a great way to make the best decision for your market.

You’ll also want to think about the different technology and customer-focused experiences you can bring to your restaurant. The InfiKIOSK is the premier self-ordering kiosk for restaurants of any style. Get a demo of the InfiKIOSK today to explore the solution and see how it can improve your customer experience.

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