Restaurant vs. (fine) Restaurant

Have you ever asked yourself the question: “Did I really eat what I am charged for?”


The better than a hundred dollars charge, the guestcheck’s total for two meals in a so-so-restaurant in the city of nowhere, raises some questions.

Restaurants are what they are, namely a place to eat and to relax while trudging around the potholes in the back roads through life on this planet. The opportunities to hunt or fish for food are very limited. Only few people grow their own vegetables. Many people do not even cook at home. The restaurant business is therefore thriving.
Some eateries are preferred as a stop by the hungry traveler. Often fast service or low prices make the difference. Other restaurants are in demand as a place where one takes friends and business acquaintances, to treat them to good food, drinks and service. Those are the typical dinner houses.
At an average restaurant the diner eats and soon the name of the restaurant is forgotten. The meal is not worth remembering, wouldn’t it be for the monthly credit card statement. Then the better than a hundred dollars, charged for two meals in a so-so-restaurant in the city of nowhere, are raising a question. That is the time when the customer rests on the bottom of his pants, scratches his head and asks himself: “Did I really eat all what I’m charged for?”
What sets the (fine) restaurant apart from all the other eating places are the fond memories. May it be that the waiter sold the guest their first escargot salad, or frog legs, or Abalone dinner? Or that the waiter sold the guest some excellent wine which the customer had never seen before or heard of. Maybe it is for the waiter offered Starboard instead of Port as the after dinner drink?

It doesn’t take much extra work to impress a customer and it’s worth it. The (fine) restaurant creates a fond memory, easy remembered by the customer as unusual and definitely worth another visit. The mentioning of the (fine) restaurant’s name puts a smile on the customer’s face. Yet the regular restaurant will be forgotten once the credit card bill is paid.

Both types of restaurants have in common that their existence is relatively new. Larouse Gastronomique Encyclopedia of Food Wine and Cookery says: In 1765 a man named Boulanger, a vendor of soup in the Rue Bailleul, gave to his soups the name of r e s t a u r a n t s, i.e. restoratives, and inscribed on his sign: ‘Boulanger sells magical restoratives’, a notice which he embellished with a joke in culinary Latin: Venite ad me; vos qui stomacho laboratis et ego restaurabo vos.

However there had been public places where one could eat and drink long before but not with the name Restaurant. The Faehrhaus in Blankenese, where I had my apprenticeships, had received their permission to operate a Gasthaus (guest house) from the Danish Crown in the year 978. Such permission had been part of a ferry service across the two mile wide and at times impassable Elbe river. It was a place where people could wait for the ferry. It was a place to buy or barter. Food and drinks were available, so was anything else the travelers or the innkeeper had to sell or trade.

In some parts of the world the same type of place offering shelter and food was and still is called an Inn. Places which provided food and shelter along the traveled raods came in many styles; fortresses and castles served such purpose along the salt route through Europe, missions along the camino real in California were built a day trip away from each other for the same reason.

Over the centuries there was little competition for Inns, Gasthauses or Restaurants. There were few of them. All catered to an existing demand. Today it is much different. Most restaurants are opened without the need for such and the clientele is lured by advertisement. Here the demand is created after the fact.

by helmut schonwalder