As you consider which restaurant you’d like to start a career in, you may come across the many different types of establishments. You’re probably wondering what the differences between them are.

In essence, restaurants are most commonly classified by the type of service they offer to their customers. The work and pay will be different at each so we thought we’d give you a quick rundown of what each service type is and what you can expect at each.

Fast Food

Fast food restaurants have a bad reputation in the industry and within pop culture. Normally, these are restaurants where the food is cheaper, ordered at a counter, and paid for before the food is presented. Typical fast food establishments serve hamburgers, pizza, and fried foods. The bad reputation comes from the fact that these restaurants are associated with unhealthy menu options as well as low wages.

Before you condemn working in a fast food establishment, think about these two things:


  • These are usually the big chain restaurants with locations all over the country, maybe even the world. Their size enables them to provide benefits to their employees other types of restaurants may not be able to.
  • These restaurants also provide a well-established training system which translates across the industry, so starting with a fast food chain gives you a solid foundation to take to higher level management positions.

Fast Casual

The main difference between fast food and fast casual is that more of the food is actually prepared on location at a fast casual restaurant. Normally, the food and ingredients used will be of a higher quality than at fast food restaurants, too. Customers will still order at a counter and pay first, but the perception given is the food is better quality, meaning it must be healthier, and therefore worth the slightly higher prices.

Restaurants in this category make up some of the fastest growing chains in the country. A number of the big fast food chains also own fast casual concepts under different names. The good thing about that is, the training and benefits will still be available. It also opens up many career paths for anyone who chooses this type of restaurant to specialize in.


Just a hair different from fast casual, but still a step up. The cafe/bistro originated in Europe but still does not always offer table service. Customers can either order at the counter or the bistro may offer a limited menu with a limited team of waiters willing to take your order while they manage a host of other duties such as making/serving drinks and coffee at the bar.

Cafes and bistros are known for the quality of their beverages, their pastries and light snacks, and the relaxed atmosphere where patrons are encouraged to stay for longer periods of time than at fast food and fast casual style establishments.  

Casual/Family Style

At casual/family style restaurants customers normally order at their table from a waiter assigned to take the order and guide the diners through the experience. The meals are prepared to order and are another step up in quality and complexity from the fast casual restaurant or bistro.

Although many casual/family style restaurants are owned by big chains, more and more are increasingly owned by individuals or small companies. This style of restaurant is also known for having a much wider menu selection. Some casual/family style restaurants have an eclectic menu while others focus on one cuisine or concept.

Non-management employees at these types of restaurants can expect to earn more than at fast food or fast casual restaurants due to tips becoming a part of their income.

Fine Dining

The term “fine dining” has traditionally brought white tablecloths, evening gowns, suits, fancy cocktails, and white-gloved waiters to mind. Usually, these restaurants employed a team of highly trained chefs who put out gourmet menus seasonally to impress the A-list clientele.

But now, it doesn’t always mean that anymore. Those restaurants still exist, but the chefs and other skilled restaurant employees have begun bringing their talents over the casual/family style of service. The good news is, the quality of the menu and service ensures the wages paid at these establishments are very high. These restaurants will also normally offer benefits to their employees.

Many restaurants may fall into more than one of these types so we hope we’ve given you a general idea of what to expect when eating out or searching for a position. If you have any more questions on dining in the Denver area or are ready to get to work, visit us at now.

You might also like…

Experience Sirvo for yourself

Sign up now to find hospitality jobs and hire top industry talent.