difference between cafe and restaurant

What Is the Difference Between Cafe And Restaurant?

While you could argue that cafes serve coffee, some restaurants also have it on their menus. If both places serve food and drinks, doesn’t that essentially make them the same thing? 

Generally speaking, a restaurant refers to any establishment that serves food and beverages. Meanwhile, cafes are places that serve different types of coffee and drinks.

Before you go into an existential crisis, don’t worry – we’ve got you. Let’s look at the basics and figure out the factors that place the cafe and restaurant in different categories.

Difference Between Cafe and Restaurant

Eating out has been a pleasure for all. There are tons of different kinds of foods out there. Mughlai, Chinese, North Indian, South Indian, Japanese, Korean, so many that one can’t even remember all the names. 

In today’s world, eating out has become convenient because of the busy lifestyle. In this fast-paced life, most people have little time at home for lunch and dinner. 

As a result, they often choose to have a bite outside. Sometimes, they also decide to eat out for a change or special occasions. When eating out, two common eating joints are restaurants and cafes

Surprisingly, many people find it difficult to distinguish between these eating places due to their close resemblances. The article focuses on the basic differences between a cafe and a restaurant.

On visiting a restaurant, you are offered a menu, whereas a cafe has limited food displayed with the rates on its walls.

difference between cafe and restaurant

A Cafe

A Cafe refers to a small restaurant with an enclosed serving place. However, a cafe in Forest Lake also has an outdoor section where the customers can enjoy their coffee and snacks in the open. A cafe is mostly defined as an establishment where customers are served a variety of coffee and some snacks such as sandwiches and burgers.

A cafe is a small place where beverages and food are offered. A cafe can be a small building or a large one. It depends on how much business they have. A cafe dominantly offers beverages. 

The most popular beverage in cafes is coffee. Why is that? Originally cafes were known as coffee houses. That is why.

The first cafe opened in 1550 in Constantinople, which was the then capital city of the ottoman empire. The English word Cafe derives from the Turkish word ‘kahve’, which means coffee. 

A cafe’s menu includes beverages the cafe can provide, cookies and bread as compliments to the beverage and other things. Cafes also keep chips on side tables because chips go well with beverages. Cafe’s specialise in their beverages. Most cafes specialise in coffee, and some even specialise in tea. 

Cafes became popular. The very first popular cafes were in London. In the 17-19th centuries period, these coffee houses became the main spot for the latest news, gossip, discussions, and even gang meetings. The concept of modern cafes arose from there. 

Cafes are imminently popular among the young generation and those who want to work. In recent times cafes have become a popular place for freelancers, people in business, and other workers. The cafe is also popular in the dating scene. Most first dates happen in a cafe! 

As cafes don’t offer proper meals, one goes to a cafe looking for something casual to eat or drink.

A Restaurant

The word ‘restaurant’ is originally a French word that refers to eating out places where food and drinks are served. In restaurants in Forest Lake, a patron not only purchases meals but is allowed to eat the meals in style. Most restaurants prefer and serve the food after a patron orders from a menu. Once the meal is prepared, waiters and waitresses serve the food.

A restaurant is a medium-large size place. In a restaurant, both beverages and food are offered. The main focus is on providing the food. Beverages are a complementary addition to the restaurant menu.

The first restaurant was opened in 1765 in Paris. It was started by a soup vendor. The board outside his establishment advertised restoratives food that restores. The name ‘restaurant’ is derived from ‘restaurer’, which means to restore.

Restaurants mainly offer food, food that can be eaten as a meal. The menu of restaurants is large and inclusive of all kinds of food. A restaurant can offer rotis, rice, dal, sabzi and other kinds of food. 

They also include desserts on their menu because people usually want to eat something sweet after meals. Their menu also includes beverages made without any special requirements, such as coffee, tea, lemonades, etc.

Restaurants are known for their flavour. Most restaurants specialise in some dishes, and most include their specialty in their advertisements. For example, a restaurant can call itself ‘A North Indian’ restaurant. That would mean that the restaurant specialises in North Indian food.

Restaurants are popular among all sorts of people. There are tons of restaurants to choose from, and each one has its specialty, such as Mughal, Afghani, North Indian, South Indian, Japanese, Continental, Chinese! There is a ton of variety in food in a restaurant. If you go to a restaurant, you will surely spend 10 minutes just looking at the menu! 

Restaurants are the go-to place if you’re looking to have a meal outing. It could be dinner or lunch, or even breakfast. A restaurant is a chatty and loud place, and one cannot hold meetings or do work in such a place! However, restaurants mean business for your stomach! 

difference between cafe and restaurant

Cafe vs Restaurant: Origin

Although people worldwide have sold food for a long time, the first use of the term restaurant goes back to 18th century France. In 1765, French chef A. Boulanger opened a business that sold soup and other “restaurants” on its menu in Paris. 

Almost two decades later, Antoine Beauvilliers founded La Grande Taverne de Londres, the first eatery in recorded history that combined good interior and cooking with excellent service from waiters.

While they may not be the first-ever restaurants, they provided a common name for the different types of food establishments that sprang up across the globe. Today, you can distinguish restaurants for their specialties (cuisine), speed (fast food), formality (fine dining), and other gimmicks.

Meanwhile, the history of cafes goes back further east to Mecca and the Arabian peninsula. By the time coffee became a big thing for the Ottoman Empire, the area had many coffee houses where people – usually intellectuals – would meet, converse, and play board games over a cup of coffee. That doesn’t sound too far from your favourite corner cafe.

Coffee has always been associated with waking people up and kick-starting their creative juices. It only makes sense that in England, cafes also served as a popular meeting place for artists and writers. The Café Procope in France particularly served the Enlightenment’s greatest minds, with Voltaire, Rousseau, and Denis Diderot as frequent patrons.

Cafe vs Restaurant: Menu

If someone asked you to name all the Starbucks drinks there are, you might give up before you even get to the Frappuccinos. Wouldn’t blame you at all since cafes like Starbucks have dozens of drinks made in twice as many different ways.

History aside, a cafe and restaurant offer different kinds of menus. Typically, cafes would serve lighter meals and snacks, while restaurants have more varied dishes in their arsenal with fewer drinks.

When you’ve got a bit of a sweet tooth and want to indulge in cupcakes, you’d most likely make a detour for the nearest bakery-cafe to get that sugary fix. Though you’d find desserts in your average restaurants, they’re usually not as varied nor as tempting as those displayed in cafes.

Similarly, if you get caught up in the lunch rush needing a heavy meal to get through the day, you probably wouldn’t have much luck with cafes. More often than not, you’d be better off grabbing takeout from the nearest restaurant that serves whatever you’re craving. 

However, it’s not unheard of for some cafes to offer entrees, burgers, or pasta with their beverages.

On the flip side, it’s safe to say that most restaurants would have at least a regular brewed coffee on their menu. Compared to cafes, most restaurants keep to a bare minimum of caffeine, letting their dishes shine instead.

All in all, the difference in menus boils down to one point: You’d know not to look for round eye steak in a cafe the same way you shouldn’t expect a Venti latte with ten pumps of vanilla and extra whip from a local restaurant.

Cafe vs Restaurant: Ambience

Hunger and diet aside, the difference in atmosphere between a cafe and restaurant might be the factor that makes you choose one over the other.

In a traditional sense, cafes usually have a quiet, intimate ambience. The warm lighting, WiFi, and charger ports make cafes a refuge for students, workaholics, and introverts. Almost every cafe has that one customer holed up with their nose buried in a book. 

There would also be that one group of colleagues (not-so) quietly discussing a project or work thing. Along with the ambient guitar music playing in the background, the powerful scent of coffee ties the whole experience together.

On the other hand, a restaurant’s ambience encourages interacting in bigger circles. You wouldn’t go to a restaurant buffet to “chill”. And if you brought a book to a fast-food chain, people would look at you funny. For this reason, restaurants are usually more likely to host big celebrations such as reunions, get-togethers, and send-offs. After all, who wouldn’t want to make memories over some good food?

Simply put, cafes provide more of a personal experience, while other restaurants cater to more social affairs. If you want to have some much-needed me-time, retreating to a cafe would probably be good for you. 

However, reuniting with friends you haven’t seen in a while would be more exciting and eventful at a bigger venue. For a first date, trying out food that you haven’t tried before could be great to keep the convo going. It’d leave less room for awkward silences than just hanging out at a cafe.


Main Differences Between Cafe and Restaurant

  • The word cafe is derived from the Turkish word ‘kahve’. On the other hand, the word ‘restaurant’ is derived from the Frech word ‘restaurer’.
  • A cafe is a place where mainly beverages are offered. On the other hand, a restaurant is where proper food is offered.
  • A cafe is a place where one goes for a quick bite. On the other hand, a restaurant is where one goes for a proper meal. 
  • A cafe is usually a quieter place because of its small seating capacity. On the other hand, a restaurant is a noisier place because of the large seating capacity.
  • A cafe is a place where you can go for a meeting, a date, or even meet a friend as cafes are usually quiet. On the other hand, a restaurant is a place where you can still go for a meet, go on a date, or catch up with a friend, but the restaurant will be noisier. 
  • In cafes, the different types of coffees are served with snacks, while in the restaurant, proper meals are served.
  • The ambience of a café is of a casual eating place, while in the restaurant, there is a formal dining place.
  • A great variety of foods are served in a restaurant while the array is limited in the café.
  • In cafes, self-service is familiar. While people enjoy the hospitality of the staff in the restaurant as waiters serve everything and the customers can relax there.
  • Few employees are required in the café, whereas too many employees are needed for the restaurant as it is built on a large scale and gives complete facility to its valuable and important customers.
  • Menu cards are first served in the restaurant so that the person can select the food according to their requirements while the price list is displayed on the walls of the café.
  • At a restaurant, food is served by staff, and it is expected to leave a tip on top of the total amount, which is not anticipated in cafes.

FAQs About Melbourne Restaurants & Cafes

Cafes may be one of the most common types of the restaurant! They typically do not eat full meals instead of serving foods like pastries, cookies, and cold and hot sandwiches. They usually offer food for breakfast and options for lunch, but they would probably not be suitable for dinner.

"Cafe" is a restaurant that does not offer table service. Customers order their food from a counter and serve themselves. A cafe menu traditionally offers coffee, espresso, pastries, and sandwiches. Cafes originated in Europe and are strongly associated with France.

Etymologically speaking, cafes serve drinks (originally, coffee). Diners are places where you eat (dine). Diners will serve you breakfast/dinner any time of day, unlike cafes.

A restaurant is a relatively large place that invests in the ambience and experience, along with the food. An eatery is a smaller place with food as its main focus. The best they have is a few benches. Please take it as an open kitchen that happens to sell food, great for take-aways.

The cafe is a part of the specialty eatery industry, including outlets specialising in savouries, doughnuts, frozen yogurt, and ice cream.


Cafes or restaurants are both places that offer food and beverages. Both of the names have a history attached to them. A cafe is your place if all you’re looking for is a quick byte! Cafes are usually quiet too. You can hold important business meetings, go on a date, and even gossip with a stranger in cafes.

Although cafes are indeed a type of restaurant, they’re a world of their own compared to other food establishments. While you could say that a fast-food chain and a buffet have similarities, the same can’t be said for cafes. 

Although recent trends may combine the two, there’s still a clear line that puts them in different niches. As cafes attract the artistic crowd, social butterflies would still definitely go for a steakhouse or a pub.

Aside from the food on your plate, the experiences we get in restaurants also provide food for the soul. Whenever you debate between the two, look inwards to find what you need.

On the other hand, you should go to a restaurant if it’s a meal you desire to have. You cannot chat with a stranger in most restaurants. However, if you are with your family and are looking to have a meal outside of your home, to escape the routine food and try something new and refreshing, go to a restaurant near you!


Cafe Vs Restaurant: What’s The Difference?

Difference Between Cafe and Restaurant (With table)

What is the Difference between Café and Restaurant?

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