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Businesses focusing on providing catering services are varied and multiple. Restaurants offer customers a range of food, drink and service options. At the high end of the market there are a la carte restaurants, so-called because of the type of menu which lists and prices all items individually and prepares dishes to order. Service is generally of a very high standard with waiters/waitresses as well as specialist bar staff and wine waiters and the atmosphere is formal. Within this category, gourmet restaurants are the most expensive, reflecting the high quality of food and beverages and the fact they often have recommendations from important food critics and organisations, which are highly prized.

Table d'hOte menu restaurants with fixed-priced menus, a set number of courses with choices within each course, are a cheaper alternative. Items on the menu are ready at the same time, rather than made to order. This kind of restaurant is often family-run with a more informal atmosphere. Examples of specialist restaurants are steakhouses, seafood or vegetarian restaurants. There are also ethnic restaurants providing food and drink from a particular country. The most widespread of these are Italian, Indian and Chinese restaurants. Both ethnic and speciality restaurants can have either an El la carte, table d'hote or a combination of both kinds of menus.

Nowadays, many restaurants are part of a regional, national or international chain, so menus, service, ambiance and cost are unified and you know exactly what to expect. This is particularly true of fast food outlets, many of which specialise in a particular type or region of cuisine and prepare food which is served and eaten quickly. These can either be eat-in restaurants, which are mostly self-service, or takeaway restaurants where you buy cooked food to eat somewhere else, or sometimes both. Examples include pizzerias, kebab or fish and chip shops.

In addition to restaurants, cafes, coffee bars, bars and pubs also provide catering although the focus may be more on drinking than eating. Cafes and coffee bars serve reasonably priced hot and cold drinks and light meals or snacks and are usually only open during the day. Bars and pubs are always open at night but increasingly they are serving food and drinks during the day too. In pubs the food is usually home-made and traditional, whereas bars tend to offer a European-style menu of salads and sandwiches.


1 What do restaurants offer customers?

A range of food, drink and service options.

2 What is highly prized by gourmet restaurants?

3 Why do you know what to expect in chain restaurants?

4 What is the main characteristic of fast food?

5 What are the main differences between table d'hote and a la carte menus?

6 When are cafes and coffee shops usually open?

7 What kind of food can you eat at a specialist restaurant?

8 Which are the most popular ethnic restaurants?

9 How does pub and bar food differ?


Use the information in exercise 10 to write a short entry for an online guide about the catering services available in your area. Include a general introduction and some specific recommendations. You could give marks for cost, atmosphere, service and food and drink and suggest the best dishes to try.

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