A restaurant or an eatery, is a business that prepares and serves food and drinks to customers.
Restaurants vary greatly in appearance and offerings, including a wide variety of cuisines and service models ranging from inexpensive fast food restaurants and cafeterias, to mid-priced family restaurants, to high-priced luxury establishments.
People have been eating outside of the home for more millennia, buying a quick snack from a street vendor or taking a travel break at a roadside inn for a bowl of stew and a pint of mead.
In Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, thermopolia were small restaurant-bars that offered food and drinks to customers.
The very first establishments that were easily recognizable as restaurants popped up around 1100 AD in China, when cities like Kaifeng and Hangzhou boasted densely packed urban populations of more than 1
million inhabitants each.
In Japan, a distinct restaurant culture arose out of the Japanese teahouse traditions of the 1500s that predated today’s “seasonal” and “local” movements by half a millennium.
In the West, most early versions of the modern restaurant came from France and a culinary revolution launched in 18th-century Paris. But one of the earliest examples of a true restaurant culture began 600 years earlier and halfway around the world.
Restaurante Botín in Calle de Cuchilleros, Madrid, Spain was opened in 1725 by a French cook called Jean Botín and his Asturian wife at the beginning of the 18th century with the intention of working for a nobleman of the Spanish Royal Court. The restaurant is still open today.
In 1765, a French chef by the name of A. Boulanger established a business selling soups and other restaurants (“restoratives”). While not the first establishment where one could order food, or even soups, it is thought to be the first to offer a menu of available choices.
However, the “first real restaurant” is considered to have been “La Grande Taverne de Londres” in Paris, founded by Antoine Beauvilliers in either 1782 or 1786. According to Brillat-Savarin, this was “the first to combine the four essentials of an elegant room, smart waiters, a choice cellar, and superior cooking”. In 1802 the term was applied to an establishment where restorative foods, such as bouillon, a meat broth, were served (“établissement de restaurateur”).
In the United States, it was not until the late 18th century that establishments that provided meals without also providing lodging began to appear in major metropolitan areas in the form of coffee and oyster houses.
Delmonico’s opened its doors in 1837 featuring luxurious private dining suites and a 1,000-bottle wine cellar. The restaurant, which remains at the same Manhattan location, claims to be the first in America to use tablecloths, and its star chefs not only invented the famous Delmonico steak, but also gourmet classics like eggs Benedict, baked Alaska, Lobster Newburg and Chicken à la Keene.
Restaurant guides review restaurants, often ranking them or providing information to guide consumers (type of food, handicap accessibility, facilities, etc.).
One of the most famous contemporary guides is the Michelin series of guides which accord from 1 to 3 stars to restaurants they perceive to be of high culinary merit. Restaurants with stars in the Michelin guide are formal, expensive establishments – in general the more stars awarded, the higher the prices.
The main competitor to the Michelin guide in Europe is the guidebook series published by Gault Millau. Its ratings are on a scale of 1 to 20, with 20 being the highest.
In the United States, the Forbes Travel Guide and the AAA rate restaurants on a similar 1 to 5 star (Forbes) or diamond (AAA) scale.
The largest restaurant is the Bawabet Dimashq Restaurant (Damascus Gate Restaurant) which has 6,014 seats.
The highest restaurant in the world is at the Chacaltaya ski resort, Bolivia, at 5,340 m (17,519 ft).
The highest restaurant from ground level is At.mosphere, situated at a height of 441.3 metres (1,447ft 10 in) and located on Level 122 in Burj Khalifa, in Dubai, UAE, developed by Emaar Properties PJSC and officially opened in Dubai, UAE, on 23 January 2011.
The word “restaurant” derives from the French verb “restaurer“ meaning “to restore” or “to revive” and being the present participle of the verb, it literally means “that which restores”. The term restaurant was defined in 1507 as a “restorative beverage”, and in correspondence in 1521 to mean “that which restores the strength, a fortifying food or remedy”.