A restaurant (pron.: // or //; French: [ʁɛs.to.ʁɑ̃] ( listen)) is a business establishment which prepares and serves food and drink to customers in return for money, either paid before the meal, after the meal, or with a running tab. Meals are generally served and eaten on premises, but many restaurants also offer take-out and food delivery services. Restaurants vary greatly in appearance and offerings, including a wide variety of the main chef's cuisines and service models.
Restaurants may be classified or distinguished in many different ways. The primary factors are usually the food itself (e.g. vegetarian, seafood, steak); the cuisine (e.g. Italian, Chinese, Indian, French, Thai) and/or the style of offering (e.g. tapas bar, a sushi train, a tastet restaurant, a buffet restaurant or a yum cha restaurant). Beyond this, restaurants may differentiate themselves on factors including speed (see fast food), formality, location, cost, service, or novelty themes, such as automated restaurants.
Restaurants range from inexpensive and informal lunching or dining places catering to people working nearby, with simple food served in simple settings at low prices, to expensive establishments serving refined food and fine wines in a formal setting. In the former case, customers usually wear casual clothing. In the latter case, depending on culture and local traditions, customers might wear semi-casual, semi-formal, or formal wear. Typically, customers sit at tables, their orders are taken by a waiter, who brings the food when it is ready, and the customers pay the bill before leaving.
For some time the travelling public has been catered for with ship's messes and railway restaurant cars which are, in effect, travelling restaurants. (Many railways, the world over, also cater for the needs of travellers by providing Railway Refreshment Rooms [a form of restaurant] at railway stations.) In recent times there has been a trend to create a number of travelling restaurants, specifically designed for tourists. These can be found on such diverse places as trams, boats, buses, etc.
A restaurant's proprietor is called a restaurateur (pron.: //); like 'restaurant', this derives from the French verb restaurer, meaning "to restore". Professional cooks are called chefs, with there being various finer distinctions (e.g. sous-chef, chef de partie). Most restaurants (other than fast food restaurants) will have various waiting staff; in finer restaurants this may include a host or hostess or even a maître d'hôtel to welcome customers and to seat them, together with a busboy and sommelier.