A restaurant is a business which prepares and serves food and drink to customers. A restaurateur engages in the business of organizing, preparing, serving and usually financing the catering of food.
Restaurants vary greatly in complexity from simple lunch huts offering single dishes or a single type of dish with little or no frills to large, highly automated international cuisine operations. Many foods are served either at the sit-down table, over a bar or as take-away prepared foods. Others restaurants combine both modes of service.
A professional restaurant is usually a trade organization, the proprietor of which has a legal monopoly on the provision of cuisine within a particular geographical area. Such legal monopolies are better known in some regions as being granted by royal charter, or by being permitted directly by government decree as in certain dictatorships.
In many parts of the world restaurants can be casual family-oriented, informal, inexpensive gathering places for the community.
While in some areas restaurants may be limited to fast food establishments and small family businesses, an increasing number of “higher-end” establishments have arisen in the last few decades to cater for those with even the most discerning of palates.
Many restaurants are open late at night, serving those who wish to eat after traditional kitchen closing hours.
In Europe and the Americas, the majority of restaurants are designed for individual (or sometimes private) purposes. In such a venue, only one person (the customer) can be served by one waiter or waitress at a time.
Restaurants that cater to diners who are drinking alcoholic beverages or eating those foods such as spicy cuisine or other heavy dishes may often be referred to as a bar restaurant. They tend to be much more informal than “fine-dining” restaurants. A person working in a restaurant that offers table service is called a waiter/waitress (as opposed to a waitress) or honcho and they usually carry out tasks such as serving food and clearing plates. Server is another term sometimes used, but this term can refer to the manager of the restaurant. A waiter typically receives the customer’s order and delivers it to the kitchen for preparation and heating.