Saturday, December 2, 2023

Difference Between Cafe and Restaurant – How do They Differ? 

In today’s generation, people of every age group have developed a considerable liking for outside food. People want to taste every possible cuisine available on Mother Earth at least once.

The pace of globalization is ever-increasing, and so is the availability of every kind of food. This trend has given birth to all sorts of restaurants and cafes where they can enjoy different forms of food with all the more delightful & unique experiences. If you read the previous line properly, you might ask, “Aren’t Cafes & Restaurants the same thing?”.

Well, in that case, let’s agree to disagree. I want to give you some insights into how cafes differ from restaurants when both of them:

Provide food and beverages

  • Have a sitting space for a get-together.
  • Have the proper staff to take your order.
  • Many people find it difficult to differentiate between the two. But there are a lot of factors that make a cafe distinct from a restaurant, not only in terms of food but also the overall experience.

So, this blog will focus on those distinctions to make it easy for you to understand the difference. Firstly, let us focus on the origin of both terms.

What is a Cafe?

The word ‘Cafe’ originated from the Turkish word “Kahve”, which means coffee. So, generally speaking, a cafe is a small informal coffee house serving various forms of coffee & other related beverages along with bakery delicacies & some light bites.

The first known cafe was opened in 1550 in Constantinople, the capital of the Early Roman Empire. During the 17th century, cafes opened everywhere in Italy, France, Germany, and England. Europe’s first global coffee house was opened in London not before the early 19th century.

A cafe is more of a personal affair than a social one. It gives you more of an intimate feeling of your own space.

What is a Restaurant?

The restaurant originated from the french word “Restaurer”, which means to restore. The first restaurant proprietor was Boulanger, a soup vendor who opened in Paris in 1765.

A formal restaurant serves proper meals and refreshments that could include simple brewed coffee.

It is more of a social affair where people come to have a fine dining experience. A restaurant generally serves a variety of cuisines and is considered a formal setting.

We have gone through the origins and meanings of cafes and restaurants. Now, let’s give the points that distinguish between both terms.

Cafe vs. Restaurant

1. Ambiance

AmbianceThe ambiance of both a cafe and a restaurant plays a crucial role in setting apart the two. So, when I am talking about the ambiance, it reflects more on the overall interior of both the cafe and the restaurant, and it plays a vital role in deciding the customer’s mood.

The cafe’s ambiance leans towards a new & creative design setting based on an artistic approach. Nowadays, establishments look carefully at all the interiors, from the architecture to the lighting, seating plan, color setting, furniture designs, themes, and so on. They are going for out-of-the-box thinking in every aspect of designing the interiors.

A cafe is a small and cozy establishment that gives you a feel of your personal space. It is achieved by having seating arrangements in the form of comfortable loungers and some high chairs, well-designed furniture, and dim lighting, especially the warm white ones with fancy hangings. The walls are adorned with chic posters and modern art.

You can tell apart a cafe by getting a whiff of freshly brewed coffee and a savoring scent of croissants or something equally tasty. It just adds up to the aura of a cafe.

In contrast, the ambiance of a restaurant focuses more on a formal front. Their interiors are done to give their customers a perfect fine dining experience. Unlike cafes, a restaurant could have bigger space but with well-placed traditional tables and chairs. Generally, they are not known for their comfort. They usually go for ambient lighting, which is neither too dim nor too sharp. The focus is more on pre-meal and post-meal services, which should be up to the mark to be considered a good restaurant.

2. Menu

MenuA cafe’s offerings are humble compared to a restaurant’s menu. It consists more of offerings related to coffee. You will find different types of coffee on their menu and various coffee-related beverages.

Along with coffee, it’s a hotspot for freshly baked items like cupcakes, pastries, cookies, and some freshly baked bread, too, with some light snack items like sandwiches, pizza slices, and a variety of pasta.

A cafe does not entertain a proper meal concept. Instead, it’s about quick bites. So, if a person wants a quick bite or freshens up by having a nice cuppa, they usually go to a cafe to have it on the spot or a takeaway if in a hurry.

On the other hand, a restaurant has a full range of food menus for its customers. It could have all types of cuisine like north Indian, south Indian, Chinese, Italian, Lebanese (depending on their specialty), and much more starting from the starters to the main course to the desserts, followed by some beverages to complement their food.

It’s a concept to have a 3-course or 5-course meal. A restaurant is more of a formal fine dining than for having quick bites. People go there to have a belly full of delicious food.

3. Crowd

CrowdPeople going to a cafe are generally looking for an intimate setting where they can catch up with their friends, have a small business meeting, have a date, work remotely while sipping some nice coffee, or chill.

Students, workaholics, business people, and artistic people usually prefer cafes as their place to be.

You won’t find much hustle in the cafe, and the reason is that people go there for their alone time. Cafes are attractive hotspots for to-be artists and book/content writers to create new & exciting content over a cup of coffee.

On the flip side, a restaurant is more about a social gathering. People with a big circle looking for a kind of reunion or get-together go to a proper restaurant to enjoy a decent meal with their family and friends. People entertaining guests generally look for a nice restaurant to give a better experience to their company.

4. Service

ServiceRegarding the service aspect of both places, cafes work more on self-service, where you select your order and collect it from there yourself. It’s not necessarily a given but a trend. A cafe doesn’t necessarily have some staff who will take your order and serve it at your table.

Whereas in a restaurant, a formal dining process is followed, where a well-dressed butler will come to your place and take your order. They will provide the cutlery according to their standards, and afterward, they will serve your meal at your table and even serve portions on your plates.

A restaurant takes care of all the appropriate pre and post-meal services, giving you the best fine dining experience.

5. Price

PriceThe price is a central talking point for both settings. When you go to a cafe, you are paying much less than the same category restaurant as you are not taking extra services generally provided while in a restaurant.

For example, if you go to a Starbucks or any barista and order a cup of coffee with some side bites, the maximum sum will come out to be around Rs. 500-600.

On the other hand, if you go to a five-star restaurant, you would pay at the end at least Rs. 2000 onwards, considering that you have had a proper meal there. In the above example, the price also sets apart a cafe from a restaurant.

Overview: Cafes vs. Restaurants

Basis Cafe Restaurant
Year of Origin 1550 1765
Ambiance Creative & Artistic interior Formal interiors
Food Menu Coffee with a bakery item All forms of specialty cuisine
Crowd Students, artists & workaholics Social gathering, reunion & get-togethers
Service Self- Service Proper butler service
Price Reasonable pricing High pricing
Place Small cozy space Bigger space
Experience More of a personal experience Fine Dining experience
Cost Less investment( includes room, staff, food options, maintenance, etc.) Massive investment (space, multiple food options, staff, maintenance, marketing, etc.)

By now, I hope my readers are clear about the main differences between a cafe and a restaurant. So, now the question that might come to your mind is, “What’s better, a cafe or a restaurant?”

As you read above, they are way different from each other. Both places have their pros and cons. It’s not about which one is better; it’s about which one you prefer. People choose whether to go to a cafe or a restaurant depending on their needs, previous experience, mood, etc.


This was all about the difference between a cafe and a restaurant. A cafe or restaurant are different experiences to relish and enjoy with or without your loved ones. Both can have a lasting impression on your idea of a meal or some new dish with a twist. This way, you learn more about the latest trends in food spheres and what tickles people’s bellies.

Trying out different cuisines in a restaurant also gives you knowledge about other cultures and their food habits.

Happy munching!

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Anubha Aggarwal
Anubha Aggarwal
I am a graduate in Business Administration. Did my MBA in International Business & finance. I am a web content writer looking to alter some perceptions through my words.

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