The 5 Most Popular Restaurant Types

Your restaurant type influences everything about your business. Find out the most popular restaurant types with customers.

7 min read
5 Most Popular Restaurants

The restaurant industry has experienced a major shake-up since the pandemic, which gives different types of restaurants the opportunity to rethink their business strategies and adapt to changes in consumer trends. 

But what are the different types of restaurants that will get noticed, exactly? Honing in on concepts for the most successful types of restaurants requires thinking strategically and answering some big questions. With many types of restaurants and cuisines, which establishments are rising in popularity? This kind of thinking can also help you narrow down things like your price point, staffing, and more. According to our research in Finding Your Restaurant Niche and Concept, there are (at least) 11 different types of restaurants — from family-style eateries to food trucks — but some are clear crowd favorites.

To simplify things, we’ll highlight the 5 types of restaurants that are the most popular. Read on to learn about the most-loved restaurant types — and why customers can't get enough of them.

What are the different types of restaurants?

1. Fast food

Fast food, or quick service restaurant (QSR) establishments, offer food served on-the-go, whether from a drive-through window or counter. Customers can also dine in, although it’s less common. These types of restaurants are often well-known 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, and creamy milkshakes in America, street tacos in Mexico, and hot noodles in Japan — and typically feature lower price points (Dollar Menu, anyone?) making them accessible for a breadth of customers.

Why do customers love it?

Fast food is not only low-cost, but incredibly convenient for busy consumers. The menu items can be eaten in a car, on a train, while walking — or pretty much anywhere. Fast food is also 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 far from home. Some types of restaurants that serve fast food even have special local items specific to their region (think: a milkshake mixed with The Netherlands-inspired stroopwaffles, or a pork doughnut). 

2. Fast casual

Fast casual restaurants offer a more upscale and diverse (though still limited) menu selection with slightly higher price points than fast food establishments. But similar to fast food, these types of restaurants have a counter service model where customers place their orders at the cashier and bring them back to their own table. Think: customized chopped salads, signature paninis, superfood-filled smoothie bowls, or higher-quality burgers and shakes, for instance. As a bonus, this category has demonstrated consistent growth over time.

Why do customers love it?

Among the different types of restaurants out there, the fast casual restaurant scene is booming — from farm-fresh salad joints catering to busy work lunches to modern takes on Indian cuisines. Customers love the feel-good effect of being able to get a quality, flavorful meal — even when they’re short on time. The variety, moderate price points, convenience, and often healthier fare make these restaurants increasingly popular.

3. Casual dining

Casual dining encompasses a large segment of the restaurant industry. These types of restaurants cover everything from local independent 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 cuisine, 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 table service. There are casual establishments in nearly every area that meet the needs of a weeknight meal or a more special occasion. Nearly all cuisines are suited to this type of restaurant, so customers are sure to find a casual dining spot that satisfies their cravings.

4. Contemporary casual

Contemporary casual, a relatively new type of restaurant, is a sit-down dining experience marked by an emphasis on the atmosphere and experience. These types of restaurants often balance a relaxed eating environment with modern culinary trends like sustainability, farm-to-table, fusion cuisine, and craft beverages.

Why do customers love it?

Contemporary casual restaurants are ahead of the curve on food trends and social media strategies (think of the highly-Instagrammed wine bar in your neighborhood) — and as a result, these eateries attract younger Gen-Z and Millennial diners in droves. Many contemporary casual types of restaurants are known for mastering a specific meal — for instance, they may have a brunch so deliciously popular, there are lines down the block. 

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. These types of restaurants typically offer counter service and prices are low to moderate. Every country has different traditions for enjoying their caffeinated brews — 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 hours. Australian café-goers love a flat white (similar to a latte); Italians love 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 for these types of restaurants are endless, and customers can get a hot or cold caffeinated beverage crafted perfectly to their taste preferences. And in any country, coffee is a common language.

Learn more about the most popular types of restaurants

These five types of restaurants are merely a snapshot of the extensive varieties across the industry. But with a strong business plan and tasty cuisine, any restaurant can stand apart from competitors and draw in loyal customers.

Though these different types of restaurants serve many purposes, they actually have something in common: they all can extend into off-premise dining. With a technology partner like DoorDash, you can reach new customers who can enjoy your food from the comfort of home. 


Andrew McCarthy

Andrew McCarthy

Content Lead

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