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Restaurants play a vital role in our nation's economy, providing convenience for busy working families, and enjoyment for those who appreciate having others prepare food and serve them.  The restaurant industry employs nearly 9% of the work force of the United States, and is the nation's largest employer outside of the government.  It is also one of the few industries where unskilled workers still have a chance to start at the bottom and work their way up.  The restaurant industry continues to grow through both good and bad economic times because food is a staple of life, and eating away from home has often become a necessity for busy Americans.

Most restaurants fall into one of three segments:  quick-service, mid-scale, and upscale.  The quick-service segment includes fast food, coffeehouses, and takeout restaurants, and tips are usually not required.  Fast food restaurants provide a limited selection of foods and beverages and are relatively inexpensive and quick.  Customers pick up food at the counter or through a drive-thru window.  Take-out restaurants provide food, but no seating, so food must be taken off the premises to eat.  Coffeehouses provide a selection of coffee beverages, pastries, and sandwiches in a casual environment conducive to conversation.  Some coffeehouses also serve as a venue for local artists and musical entertainment.

romantic restaurant Mid-scale restaurants include family-style, cafeterias, and atmosphere restaurants.  Tips are usually required, and mid-scale restaurants may or may not serve beer, wine, or other alcohol.  Family-style restaurants provide a casual meal in a relaxed atmosphere.  Cafeterias display food and beverage selections for customers to choose and usually provide booths.  Atmosphere restaurants are classified as such because of the view, special artifacts, or historical context they provide.  The dress may be a bit more formal than at a family-style establishment.

Upscale restaurants include gourmet restaurants.  They often feature a full liquor service and even a dress code.  Gourmet restaurants are more formal than family-style or atmosphere restaurants, and provide gourmet food and a relaxed ambiance.

There are a wide variety of restaurants available to suit every taste and budget.  With Americans eating away from home an average of 5.4 time per week, the restaurant industry continues to thrive while providing a much-needed service to patrons everywhere.

For more information about the restaurant industry, visit the National Restaurant Association website, and read the book entitled Running a Restaurant for Dummies.

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