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Restaurant Vs. Café: What Is the Difference?

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When people talk about food and places to buy food, certain terms are often thrown around. Two of these terms are restaurant and café. These two words are so popular when talking about food that they are used interchangeably to the point that many people either do not realize that they have different meanings or simply do not know the difference between café and restaurant.


What Is a Café?

A café is a small dining establishment that sells small meals and drinks. On the surface, it might be easy to confuse with a restaurant but when you examine its unique features, the concept of a café becomes much clearer.

Features of a Café

  1. Location: Cafés are usually located in commercial areas and near city centers. This is because the individuals who patronize cafés usually do so during lunch hours or right before work to get coffee. They are also sometimes located in shopping malls for easy access for their target audience.
  2. Types of food/drinks sold: They specialize in the sale of small meals and light refreshments rather than full course meals. Popular foods sold in cafés include coffee, hot chocolate, pastries, and pies.
  3. Atmosphere: Cafés usually have a very casual atmosphere about them and usually have both indoor seating and outdoor seating, depending on their location. They usually have smaller chairs and tables than other dining establishments and they are not the type of establishment where long-lasting meals are the norm but rather a quick bite to eat.
  4. Prices: They usually sell foods and drinks that are relatively cheap. A typical 'meal' at a café would feature a cup of coffee and some pastry and would usually cost $5 to $15 in total.

What Is a Restaurant?

A restaurant is a dining establishment where people pay to sit and eat and is designed to serve full meals and in some cases, meals with multiple courses.

Features of a Restaurant

  1. Location: Restaurants differ from cafés in that they are more diversely located. They can be located in commercial areas, malls, city centers and so on. They do not primarily target commuters and so they do not have to be located primarily in commercial areas.
  2. Types of food/drinks sold: Full meals are sold here rather than light snacks which make them differ from cafes. There are restaurants that sell all types of food such as Chinese, Indian, gourmet and so on.
  3. Atmosphere: These are more formal than cafes and customers are expected to sit down and take their time to enjoy the meal rather than hurriedly eat during lunch hour or buy a cup of coffee-to-go. Depending on the type of restaurant, restaurants may have a strict dress code.
  4. Prices: Restaurants are more expensive than cafés as full meals (sometimes with multiple courses) are being purchased. A full meal at mid-level restaurants can cost between $25-$50 per person while prices at high-end gourmet restaurants can reach several hundreds of dollars per person.

Confused: Restaurant or Café?

There are a number of reasons why people cannot explain the difference between a café

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The two words are used interchangeably: This is probably the biggest reason why café and restaurant often seem like the same thing. Many times, when we speak of meetings at restaurants and cafés, we use the two words interchangeably without much regard to the fact that the two words have different meanings. For example, talking about meeting in a café when the establishment in question is a restaurant. This has inevitably led to people often confusing the two.

Similarities in food and drinks sold/setup: While cafés sell light snacks rather than meals, many people tend to think of a café as simply a place where food is sold. The same is thought of restaurants which leads to them being confused. This is made worse by the fact that they both have seating arrangements for consumers which can make them even harder to differentiate.

It is better to know the difference between such notions as restaurant and cafe. You should also read the experiences of other customer in order to be ready. For example, from Panera Bread reviews you can find that some people miss their favorite food and others say that some dishes are not tasty.

What Is the Difference Between a Restaurant and a Café?

With their various features examined, it is still important to answer the question of what is the difference between café and restaurant.

To do this, it is important to compare their features to truly know if the establishment is a restaurant or café.

  1. Location: While cafés are almost exclusively located in commercial areas to suit their clientele, restaurants can be located in commercial areas, malls and downtown.
  2. Types of food/drinks sold: Cafés serve only drinks and light snacks for quick meals while restaurants serve full meals. If the dining establishment doesn't sell full meals, it is more likely to be a café than a restaurant.
  3. Atmosphere: Restaurants have a more relaxed atmosphere while cafés are usually packed during morning and lunch time with people trying to buy food in a hurry.
  4. Prices: A restaurant is almost always much more expensive than a café. While you might be able to get a full 'meal' at a café for a few dollars, that would be very unlikely at a restaurant.

Though the two words are often confused, knowing the difference between a café and a restaurant can help to avoid unnecessary confusion, manage customer expectations and ensure a better dining experience.

Read Reviews to Know What to Expect from a Chosen Restaurant or Cafe

  • Panera Bread reviews
    You should also read the experiences of other customers in order to be ready and know what to expect. For example, from Panera Bread reviews you can find that some people miss their favorite sandwiches or the sandwiches were not as described.

© 2018 Helen D

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