Restaurants have evolved from purely fine establishments that were considered a treat solely for the wealthy, to something that is for everyone, no matter the pay grade, to enjoy! The trends in the food instrusty are fascinating to trace back through history. Let’s take a look at some of the popular trends in dining out over the past couple of centuries!

Early 19th Century

Originally, restaurants were designed to feed workers and were born into existence out of that necessity to feed them. Diners would eat what was prepared for them and rarely had a choice (it can sometimes be hard to choose which food items we prefer off of the vast menus provided to us now!). At the end of the 19th century, restaurants introduced fine dining and became a privileged experience including china, wait staff in tuxedos, and white tablecloths.

Early 20th Century

At this point in time, you could probably find women working behind the counter, not just men, because most men were off to fight in the war. Italian immigrants surged into the country and brought with them their fabulous cuisine and recipes to share with Americans.

Mid-20th Century

In the mid-20th century, restaurants introduced fast food into the life of Americans. This ignited a shift in the way people dined and helped make it easier for restaurant owners to hire staff. During the 1950’s, fast food culture emerged and everyone wanted to be involved in a business where you could make fast, cheap food. Fast food has become especially popular since then and more than one third of Americans dine out on fast food alone.


Americans in the workforce were working longer hours and found it easier to go out for a “casual” dinner than to go through the process of making an entire dinner for the family. Chains, including Applebee’s and Olive Garden popped up around this time. Casual restaurants were considered a step above fast food, but not too expensive for a family with two working parents.

Nowadays, people love the wide variety of restaurant options and the fact that they can choose a restaurant based on the type of food they want. People prefer having options to choose from and like picking a restaurant based on personal preference: type of food, wait time, price, etc.