The restaurant industry is heating up. Food service profits are growing by the minute — and projected to generate over $12 trillion (USD) globally by 2020. With no sign of this growth slowing down, aspiring restaurateurs are at an advantage to open or operate a restaurant now.

But what kind of restaurant will get you noticed, exactly? Homing in on a restaurant concept requires thinking strategically — and answering some big questions. Like: With a truly endless variety of restaurants and cuisines, which types of establishments are rising in popularity? This kind of thinking can also help you narrow down things like your price point, staffing, and more. There are (at least) 11 types of types of eateries — from family-style eateries to food trucks — but some are clear crowd favorites.

To simplify things, we’ll narrow these restaurant categories down to 5 of the most popular categories. Read on to find out the most-loved restaurant types — and why customers can’t get enough.

1. Fast food

Fast food establishments offer food served on-the-go (whether from a drive-through window or counter). Customers can dine in, although it’s less common for them to do so. There are many well-known fast food chains or franchises, with a nationwide or even global presence. The menus are made up of standardized fare — think greasy double-patty burgers, crispy fries, creamy milkshakes in America, street tacos in Mexico, and hot noodles in Japan — and typically feature lower, accessible price points (dollar menu, anyone?) making them accessible for a breadth of customers.

Why do customers love it?

Fast food is nostalgic for many people, and can bring up memories of special childhood moments like family road trips and after-school treats. Many large chains have a worldwide presence, providing a familiar comfort for travelers who may be far from home. Some fast food locations even have destination-centric specials that are specific to their region (think: a milkshake mixed with The Netherlands-inspired stroopwaffles, or a pork doughnut . The quick-service environment is also convenient for busy consumers, and foods can be eaten in a car, on a train, while walking — or pretty much anywhere.

2. Fast casual

Fast casual restaurants fill the needs of more health-conscious diners who still need a grab-and-go meal. Similar to fast food establishments, these restaurants have a counter service model — but center around higher-quality ingredients and command slightly higher price points. Think: chopped salads, spinach wraps, superfood-filled smoothie bowls, or sushi made with cauliflower rice, for instance. As a bonus, this category has demonstrated consistent growth over time.

Why do customers love it?

The fast casual restaurant scene is booming, from farm-fresh salad joints catering to busy professionals to better-for-you Indian cuisine. Customers love the feel-good effect of getting a lighter, yet highly flavorful meal — even when they’re short on time. The variety, moderate price points, ambiance, and healthier fare make these restaurants increasingly popular.

3. Casual dining

Casual dining encompasses a large segment of the restaurant industry. This category covers everything from local one-of-a-kind spots to big franchises, but defining characteristics include table service and a sit-down meal. There’s generally a theme, specific decor, and ambiance that make the dining experience stand out. Depending on the theme, a customer dining at a casual establishment could find nearly anything: a salad bar, spaghetti and meatballs, pad thai, or even all-day breakfast offerings like pancakes and waffles

Why do customers love it?

Casual dining customers can still get a relatively quick meal, but they’re able to sit down and enjoy it. There are casual establishments in nearly every town and city, and they meet the needs of a weeknight meal, or a slightly more special occasion. Nearly all types of cuisine are suited to this model, so customers are sure to find a casual dining restaurant that satisfies their cravings.

4. Contemporary casual

The contemporary casual bracket ranges from casual to upscale — it’s a sit-down dining experience marked by an emphasis on the atmosphere and experience. These restaurants provide a greater level of service and may experiment with more global flavors.

Why do customers love it?

Contemporary casual restaurants are ahead of the curve on food trends and have a social environment (think of the highly-Instagrammed brunch spot in your neighborhood). They balance a culinary experience with a relaxed eating environment. Many contemporary casual restaurants are known for mastering a specific meal — for instance, they may have a brunch so deliciously popular, there are lines down the block. These eateries are more modern and attract younger Gen-Z and Millennial diners in droves.

5. Cafés

A café is — at its simplest — a beverage-focused establishment. Offerings usually include coffee, tea, and a smaller menu of food or snacks. Cafés typically offer counter or table service, or both, and prices are low to moderate. Every country has different traditions for enjoying their caffeinated brews, too — in America, for instance, coffee is often consumed on the go in infamously large cups. But around the world, many cultures sit and sip for a while. Australian café-goers love a flat white, a similar beverage to a latte; the Italians love their pure espresso; and the French might reach for a café au lait or a cappuccino — and use it as a vessel for dipping croissants.

Why do customers love it?

Cafés serve many needs: They can be a social meeting place, a mobile office, a leisure spot, or somewhere convenient to grab a matcha latte or a quick bite. The options are endless, and customers can typically get a hot or cold beverage crafted perfectly to their taste preferences. And in any country, coffee is a common language.

Following the breadcrumbs

These five restaurant types are merely a snapshot of what’s out there. But with a strong business plan and tasty cuisine, any restaurant can stand apart from competitors and draw its own loyal customers.

Though these restaurants serve different purposes, they actually have something in common: they all work incredibly well for delivery. With a third party service like DoorDash, you can reach new customers, and diners can enjoy food from their favorite type of establishment in the comfort of their home when wait times are long, or when the weather is bad — keeping restaurant sales high.

Interested in finding out about the other 6 types of restaurants, and which is right for you? Explore our guide, Finding Your Restaurant Niche.


DoorDash can help you grow your sales and popularity — learn more today.