Knowledge Hub

Advice and answers from the Restaurantology Team

While modern variations often seek to push the boundaries, common restaurant service types can be grouped rather neatly into the following 4 categories:

  • Full-Service Restaurants (FSR)
  • Quick-Service Restaurants or Limited-Services Restaurants (QSR / LSR)
  • Cafeterias and Buffets
  • Food Carts and Trucks

When defining the service type of any given restaurant, try using the following “gates of truth” questions:

  1. When was the food prepared?
  2. When was payment tendered?

Here’s a quick chart that helps you hypothesize the service type based on these very simple questions:

Food prepared before you orderFood prepared after you order
Payment tendered before you consumeLimited Service Restaurant (LSR)Limited Service Restaurant (LSR)*
Payment tendered after you consumeLimited Service Restaurant (LSR)Full Service Restaurant (FSR)

Many organizations often try to further distinguish the Limited Service category, introducing a Fast Casual* Service Type where patrons order and pay at a counter — at which point their food is prepared fresh — before seating themselves with a number or buzzer used to identify them when their food is ready.

While this can be an important distinction, it’s worth noting that the North American Industry Classification System (NAICS), which is the standard used by Federal statistical agencies in classifying business establishments for the purpose of collecting, analyzing, and publishing statistical data related to the U.S. business economy, only recognizes Full and Limited Service restaurants.

Lastly, you may often hear people make reference to markets that seemingly overlap into foodservice and hospitality identified as adjacent or tangent markets; these could be industry cross-overs like movie theaters, arcades, or any “eatertainment” establishments that offer food and beverage to their customers. Such establishments will be included in Restaurantology’s database wherever possible and if deemed relevant.