Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Thu Apr 30 17:08:34 UTC 2009

On Apr 30, 2009, at 6:32 AM, Larry Horn wrote:

> For me, Panera is a restaurant (as well as a take-out shop) and
> McDonald's is a (fast-food) restaurant.  Starbucks is a coffee shop,
> sort of.  I admit I'd hesitate there.  Domino's isn't a restaurant
> because you don't sit down and eat there.  At the first two you do,
> at Starbucks you mostly sit and drink (I guess "coffee shop" is like
> "bar" in that respect), and at Domino's you order.

NOAD2 has a carefully crafted definition of "restaurant":

"a place where people pay to sit and eat meals that are cooked and
served on the premises"

which is in line with what Larry says above, though it's much more
specific.  it seems to make McDonald's a restaurant, though i wouldn't
use "restaurant", unmodified, to refer to a McDonald's; "fast-food
restaurant", yes, but plain "restaurant", no, and i think many people
are reluctant to refer to a McDonald's (or a Jack in the Box, or an In-
N-Out Burger, etc.) as a "restaurant" (unmodified).  suppose the place
closest to where you live where you can buy prepared food and eat it
on the premises is a McDonald's, would you say that that's the
restaurant closest to you?

but wait!  there's the "served on the premises" clause.  McDonald's
doesn't actually have servers, so maybe it doesn't count as a
restaurant after all.

depending on what "served" means in this context, the "served on the
premises" clause might exclude all sorts of places where you pick up
food at a counter and can then eat it at tables provided by the
establishment (or take it away): in many grocery stores, in many
sandwich shops, in many cafes and coffee shops, in some delicatessens
and cheese shops, in some bagel houses and bakeries, etc.  and Panera,
which describes itself as a "bakery-cafe" and serves sandwiches,
soups, and salads as well as baked goods -- but you order at a counter.

further complexity comes from the fact that at some of these places
you order at a counter (and pay ahead of time), but then a human being
brings your order to your table.  do these people count as servers?
and is paying ahead of time points against a place counting as a

"on the premises" can be tricky.  there are places that sell food and
have tables, but the tables are all outside (though on property
belonging to the establishment).

Starbucks and Peet's and the like don't count as restaurants on
NOAD2's definition because they don't serve *meals*, even on a
generous definition of "meal" (similarly, many bars that offer food).
some places (some sandwich shops, for example) are out because what's
served isn't *cooked*, but merely assembled.

clearly, there are some gray areas here (as in almost all matters of
ordinary language, especially in cultural domains).

i'm not at all sure about my own usage in the case of some diners,
coffee shops, and lunch counters, where meals are cooked and served on
the premises and you sit to eat (and you pay after the fact), but
these particular eating places don't somehow seem "serious" enough.

now the kicker.  there are restaurant listings on the net, which
supply information about eating places and other sources of prepared
food, reviews, and so on.  in my experience, these listings cover
*every* place where you can buy prepared food, including McDonald's,
Starbucks, Subway, Domino's, sports bars, and lots of grocery stores.
this is a vastly expanded sense of "restaurant", though a useful one
for directory purposes (and one that doesn't require someone to draw
fine distinctions between restaurants in a narrow sense and everything


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