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Restaurant or Cafe: What's the Difference?

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When you are looking for a place to eat, where do you go? If you're not sure, then this blog post is for you! We'll talk about the difference between a cafe and a restaurant. Cafe has more of an informal vibe with delicious coffee drinks and snacks like pastries. Restaurants will often have table service with full meals that can include appetizers or desserts.

What is a Cafe?

cafe montmartre
Café Montmartre in Paris

Cafes have a more relaxed, casual vibe. They often sell coffee drinks and tasty snacks like pastries or sandwiches. Some cafes offer live music as well as free Wi-Fi for their customers to enjoy while they sip on that latte!

What is a Restaurant?

Manhatta, a Restaurant in New York with a View on the Empire State Building

Restaurants are the place you go when you're looking for something fancier than just an average cafe. You can expect table service at restaurants with appetizers or desserts included in your meal cost (or sometimes even both!). Many times at restaurants there will be servers who deliver food to your table, but not always. These places tend to be pricier than cafés since meals usually include all of your chosen items rather than separate drink/meal costs.

The definition of what makes it "a restaurant" is more ambiguous than the definition for cafes because there are many different types of restaurants.

Restaurants may also be seen as formal places where you sit & eat while being waited upon by waiters. Others see restaurants as an establishment where one sits at tables/chairs while eating instead of standing or sitting on stools (like you do when visiting most cafes). Many people define restaurants by their menu which means they would only go to places with specific menus e.g., Italian, French, etc.

Difference Between a Cafe and a Restaurant

The difference in menus

There is a vast difference in terms of what food is served in cafes and restaurants. The menu of a restaurant will usually consist of starters, main course, and desserts whereas the menu of a cafe may consist only of light snacks such as sandwiches or cakes along with tea & coffee.

Most of the time, people visit cafes only to have a cup of tea or coffee whereas people visit restaurants for food.

The difference in ambiance

Most cafes are generally small and cozy with bright lights while most restaurants tend to be big, bright, spacious areas with dark lighting. Cafes usually don't offer much privacy as they may not have enough sitting spots available. But at a restaurant, you can always find some isolation between tables in case you want it. Most of the time cafes are preferred by singles or couples who prefer less company when having their light snacks while restaurants attract families and groups because of good seating arrangements & availability of privacy during meals. The atmosphere also varies from being casual to formal depending on what kind of place it actually is-cafe or a restaurant!

The difference in table service

When it comes to seating arrangement and table services both types follow different procedures. In most cases, you can expect proper seating arrangements when visiting a restaurant with people being seated at their own tables. Although there are exceptions where groups visit together for socializing purposes. Unlike regular dining places which offer waiter/waitress services, cafes either provide takeaway food or self-service facilities so that customers get to choose what they want to order and eat at their own pace.

The difference in the price range

Restaurants usually have a higher price range on the menu which makes it difficult for people who are looking for affordable dining options to visit them. But cafes on the other hand are reasonably priced. But this is more due to the fact that they offer smaller meals so their menu can easily fit into anyone's budget.

The difference in atmosphere

Cafes are generally more relaxed than restaurants. At most cafés, you can sit for hours nursing your cup of coffee with the newspaper or book. At most restaurants, on the other hand, customers usually eat quickly so they can be served by busy waiters and leave promptly after finishing their meal.

As already mentioned above, cafés let customers linger over their meals while restaurant patrons must move along soon after eating unless they want to pay an extra charge. This is because restaurateurs have limited space for dining rooms that need to be shared with other customers. Cafés, on the other hand, do not have this problem since they are smaller and can serve smaller custom-made dishes to each patron quickly without much hassle.

Comparison Chart: Cafe Vs Restaurant

PricingLess expensiveMore expensive
Food optionsLessMore
Family FriendlyNoYes

Similarities between Cafe & Restaurant

Cafe and restaurants are both places where people can eat food. They have similar opening hours, usually from early in the morning to late at night. Both cafes and restaurants serve a wide range of foods that you may purchase with money or a credit card.


What makes a place a cafe?

If a place is more focused on serving small snacks & coffee drinks then it is more likely to be a cafe.

What makes a place a restaurant?

If the main focus of an establishment is food, rather than drink or coffee, this tends to make it feel like you are just visiting their kitchen. Restaurants have higher pressure on staff and so require more training before being able to serve guests effectively.


Restaurants and cafes are both places where you can go to eat, but they each have their own unique attributes that set them apart. The distinction between the two is important for marketing purposes because it helps customers know what to expect when they enter a restaurant or cafe. If your business sells food in either setting, then understanding how these locations differ will help you create more effective marketing campaigns.


Feel free to comment and discuss about the article in the comment space below if you have any information or remarks to add. If you think we made a mistake, you can also report it there.
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About the Author: Tom Vincent

Tom Vincent graduated with a bachelor's degree in economics and social studies. He then started his higher education at the University of François Rabelais in Tours with a DUT Information Communication. To expand his knowledge, he also followed a professional degree in e-commerce and digital marketing at the Lumière University of Lyon. On this project, he is in charge of articles covering language, industry and social.
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