Restaurant or Cafe: Differences and What to Choose

Nowadays, people have little time to prepare meals at their homes, since most are busy with their schedules. Opting for food cooked by others therefore would be the best option. This leads to aspiring business owners asking which is better: a restaurant or a cafe?

Given their popularity, which one should you choose? Don’t worry, because we’re here to help you answer the debate between restaurant vs cafe.

In this article, we will talk about the differences between a restaurant and a cafe.

What Is a Restaurant? 

counter design idea

A restaurant sells food and beverages. We dine and order food in a restaurant. 

Specifically, a restaurant prepares and serves food and drinks in exchange for money for their service. Payment is either done before the meal, after the meal, or through a running tab.

Restaurants normally serve meals on a dine-in basis. However, a lot of restaurants also offer to-go and food delivery services. 

In addition, restaurants considerably differ in a lot of aspects. Appearance and their offerings can differ depending on the variety of the chef’s cuisines and the quality of their service.

A restaurant can also be a kitchen or catering facility where people prepare food for serving in another place or location. A restaurant can also have a bar inside its establishment.

Restaurants mostly offer a wide variety of food or cuisines to serve their customers. These can range from appetizers, entrees, salads, soups, main courses, and desserts. 

The staff serves the meals to the table while the customers sit. The typical dining setup of a restaurant is inside dining. 

However, many restaurants nowadays offer alfresco dining, where you can dine just outside the premises. Those who want fresh air while enjoying their meals often prefer this setup.

What Is a Café?

cafe or restaurant

Also known as a coffee shop, a cafe is a business establishment that sells different types of coffee drinks and other types of beverages, snacks, or simple meals. 

A cafe usually offers meals that are to be consumed inside their premises. The name came from the French word for coffee, cafe.

Technically, a cafe can also be considered a restaurant. While coffee shops focus on coffee, cafes focus more on food rather than coffee. However, most cafes have snacks such as bavarian donuts on their menu paired with coffee.

Since coffee shops mainly focus on coffee rather than food, it doesn’t have the quality of being a restaurant.

In addition,  you can relax while having a sip of your preferred coffee in a cafe. Therefore, cafes can be considered as a social interaction place and can be closely compared to a bar or a restaurant.

Traditionally, cafes serve light snacks and simple dishes. Sometimes, a cafe can also offer a vast selection of cakes and pastries. 

The normal ordering process in a cafe will be a customer queueing up at the counter for his chosen menu. Oftentimes, these meals or snacks are prepared way before the customers arrive.

Nowadays, cafes have already expanded their menu to offer desserts such as red velvet cake, Japanese cheesecake, and no bake cheesecake. Usually, cafes have outdoor areas just like in the famous streets of Paris. You can see patrons enjoy their coffee while reading a newspaper or just watch the world go by.     

Differences Between a Restaurant and a Café

why cafe is a good business

Since cafes serve coffee and restaurants also list coffee in their menus, then that means that the two can be considered as the same thing. However, the focus of restaurants is more on food and beverages. This draws a fine line with cafes whose main focus is serving different types of coffees and drinks.

If we follow this logic, then it can be considered that all cafes are restaurants, but not all restaurants are cafes.

Almost all cafes can be considered as restaurants. The only difference between the two is just the services that they offer. 

A restaurant normally serves food and drinks and typically has a license to operate. Restaurants also serve coffee, as most of them have it on their menus. However, only regular coffees are being offered by restaurants.

So, if you are planning to open a restaurant or cafe, you should carefully consider the differences between the two.

Here are the  differences between a cafe and a restaurant:

Year of Origin

Like superheroes, cafes and restaurants have their stories of origin.

The very first cafe was established in 1550 in Constantinople. Then, cafes started to open in Italy, France, and Germany during the 17th century.

On the other hand, the first restaurant was opened by a Parisian and Boulanger in 1765. On rue des Poulies, near the Louvre, Boulanger’s establishment serves mostly bouillons restaurants which are restorative broths.

Cost per Person

Considering that most cafes have only a limited selection in their menu, they usually have lower costs per person compared to a restaurant with a widely varied menu.

Building Size

Cafes have limited food and drinks on their menu. Thus, they have a small dining space. 

Meanwhile, a restaurant serves proper, full meals. Therefore, restaurants usually have medium to large dining spaces.


Both cafes and restaurants offer different kinds of menus. Normally, cafes offer lighter meals and snacks, rather than a variety of dishes and a few selections of drinks.

On the other hand, a restaurant caters to a wide variety of dishes and a few selections of drinks.

If you have a sweet tooth, you’d most prefer to go to a cafe than a restaurant. Though desserts are also served in restaurants, they are usually not as varied or delectable as what cafes offer.

In a similar manner, if you’re needing a heavy meal to get through the day, you’d find yourself grabbing a to-go from a restaurant that suits your liking.

Most restaurants would only have at least a brewed coffee in their menus. Restaurants keep their caffeine to a bare minimum and focus on main dishes instead compared to a cafe.


Traditionally, cafes have more of a quiet and intimate ambiance when compared to a restaurant. 

Students, workaholics, and introverts usually find refuge in a cafe with its warm lighting, WiFi, and charger ports. The typical cafe has at least one customer whose nose is buried into a book, or a group of colleagues discussing school or work-related stuff. 

Interacting in big circles is one of the things that a restaurant’s ambiance encourages. Thus, restaurants usually host big gatherings like family or school reunions, birthdays, and send-offs.

While restaurants may have a bigger space for dining and can cater to a bigger circle, cafes provide a more personal experience. If you want to have a me-time, going to a cafe would be your best option. However, reuniting with people whom you haven’t seen in a while will be more exciting if done in a restaurant. 

Parameter of ComparisonCaféRestaurant
Year of Origin15501765
Cost per PersonLowerHigher
Building SizeSmaller, more confinedBigger, more dining space
MenuLimitedWide variety
AmbianceLittle chit-chats usually happen in cafesRestaurants usually cater to big events like birthdays and send-offs

Restaurant or Cafe: Pros and Cons of Owning a Restaurant


Why Restaurant is a Good Business

There are plenty of reasons why opening a restaurant can be a good business move. For one, the food industry is always booming, so there’s always potential for success. Secondly, starting a restaurant gives you the opportunity to be your own boss and control your own destiny. thirdly, with a carefully crafted marketing strategy, a good location and quality food and service, a restaurant can become a well-known destination spot that attracts people from all over.

1. Restaurants are in high demand.

People need to eat, and some do it at least three times a day. Since many people lead busy lives with no chance to cook, owning a restaurant becomes an advantage. 

2. No day is ever dull.

Every day in the restaurant industry is different. You get to present fresh challenges in serving different types of customers with the daily special. 

 3. Giving back becomes easier.

One of the definite benefits of owning a restaurant is the opportunity to give back to your community. There are restaurant owners who sponsor little league teams, donate food to local shelters, or host fundraisers.

4. You call the shots.

Being your own boss can be considered as a pro of owning a restaurant. As the boss, you get to decide everything from the menu down to the decor. For a lot of people, this becomes more fulfilling than a 9 to 5 job in the long run.

Cons of Owning a Restaurant

1. Keeping up with the competition is tough.

Owning a restaurant doesn’t just mean that you have to compete with another restaurant. Other retail giants, like SM Supermarkets who also offer convenient services like food delivery and pick-up. Therefore, having a competition with giant local grocers can be considered as a con in owning a restaurant.

2. A restaurant can be hard to keep.

The restaurant industry has a high turnover rate. Thus, a lot of restaurant owners tend to overpay their staff to keep them satisfied and happy. However, money is not the only strategy in keeping your employees. 

In the long run, the possibility of them leaving still exists. Creating a positive work environment and non-monetary benefits like flexible work hours for part-time or working students could make them happier and satisfied more than the pay itself.

Restaurant vs Cafe: Pros and Cons of Owning a Owning a Café 

Why Café is a Good Business 

Cafe is a good business because it offers an intimate setting where people can relax and enjoy a cup of coffee or tea, along with a light snack. It’s also a great place for people to gather and socialize.

Cafes offer customers a unique experience that they can’t get from home or from working in an office. They provide a relaxed atmosphere where people can take a break from their busy lives and relax for a while. And since cafes are typically considered as one of the small business ideas in the Philippines now, the owner has the opportunity to get to know their customers on a personal level. This builds customer loyalty and encourages return visits.

1. A cafe offers better profits.

Most savory food and baking businesses ‘ main objective is to gain profits. Starting a cafe business almost assures you of generating revenue, as long as you use the right social media strategies

In addition, the demand for coffee rises nowadays. As long as your cafe serves high-quality, wholesome, and fresh snacks, customers will patronize your shop. This means more sales for you. The more sales you make, the more profit you will generate. 

2. A cafe gives you a sense of satisfaction.

Other than generating profits, your personal vision makes your business priceless. Success cannot be measured alone by the profits you make. It is also measured by the satisfaction and contentment you feel about what you’re doing. 

By starting a cafe business, you get the opportunity to work from the heart and not just the money alone. If you get to reach your goals and create something special for people to enjoy, you get a lot of joy.

3. A cafe helps you create your own schedule.

Once you have your own cafe business, you become your own boss. You hire employees where you assign work accordingly. 

Additionally, you get to determine which hours should be spent working and which ones become your personal time. Starting your own cafe can also give you freedom. This can give you a more empowering lifestyle.

4. A cafe allows you to be part of a community.

Setting up a  cafe brings people together in your community― may it be a talk over a warm cup of coffee, briefings, or meetups. 

Your cafe might also serve as an instrument for an inviting and peaceful experience for people in your community to enjoy coffee. Since coffee is a social drink that brings people together, they feel more connected when having it. 

5. A cafe has an inviting atmosphere.

Cafes are more aesthetically pleasing and welcoming in terms of long periods of conversation or dates.

Moreover, an inviting atmosphere will most likely attract a larger crowd than a coffee shop. The ambiance can give your customers another reason to stay in your cafe more than just the food and beverage offerings.

Cons of Owning a Café 

1. A cafe requires more decorative effort.

A lot of customers prefer cafes because of the ambiance and the decorations. Given this, the effort and time to decorate your cafe might be one of the cons of owning a cafe. 

2. A cafe requires more preparation.

Other than the higher rate of spoilage in a cafe, more time for preparation is another con of owning a cafe. 

Hiring additional staff makes the preparation time shorter. However, you might have to spend more to pay for an employee’s service.

Which is Better: Restaurant or Cafe?

why restaurant is a good business

Since the trend of dining out became so popular, the traditional habit of people eating home-cooked dishes slowly died down.

However, a lot of people use the terms cafe and restaurant interchangeably to mean one thing, they still differ in a lot of aspects.

The majority of the people nowadays go to these establishments to have a quick meal. Although both are places to grab food to go, there is a vast difference in terms of their services, menu, and even dining experience.

Although they differ, it can be concluded that opening a restaurant or cafe is a great opportunity, especially now that the world is fast-paced and relies on industries as such.


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