I want to describe that there are different "dining format" in different cultures.

What is the correct terminology instead?

  • @Jake dining options? – Elian Apr 12 '14 at 14:23
  • hmmm.. It's not really an option, sometimes it's the only way to have your meal in that culture. – Jake Apr 12 '14 at 14:55
  • Dining style? Meal arrangements? – bib Apr 12 '14 at 15:04
  • @bib I think meal arrangement sounds right... but I am not sure. – Jake Apr 12 '14 at 15:34

In catering and the restaurant industry, these are referred to as types of "meal service."
"meal service"

In a broader cultural context, they are referred to as types of "meal structure."
"meal structure"

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Speaking from a restaurant manager's point-of-view, I would use service to depict different ways of serving a meal.

For example, the traditional fine dining experience of being served one course at a time was called Russian Service, and contrasted with French Service, which involved all the dishes being served at once. Family Service is used to describe the method of serving bowls of vegetables and potatoes for the diners to serve their side orders themselves onto their plates, as opposed to Silver Service, in which the waiter will serve vegetables etc onto the diner's plate, where the meat is often already present.

So, for your examples, I would use Buffet Service, A la Carte Service, Table d'Hôte service.

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I think you are making this too hard. I dine at several restaraunts that offer prix fixe or a la carte. On the menu we usually see [meal|dining] format.

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Traditionally, and in up-market establishments, the limited-options, fixed-price menu is known as the table d'hôte menu. What is confusing here is that the French masculine noun hôte, means both 'host' and 'guest'. So , I for one am never sure if table d'hôte means 'the host's table', or 'the guest's table'.

For customers wishing to avail themselves of other dishes, not on the table d'hôte menu, there is usually an à la carte menu, meaning literally 'from the card' menu. Here the dishes are usually priced individually.

With more popular restaurants and pubs the menus are called all kinds of different things. Often the fixed-price menu is called the 'set menu'.

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    I don’t think this is what is being asked—the asker seems to be looking for an umbrella term for different ways to present a meal. So table d’hôte, à la carte, buffet, all-you-can-eat, preset three-course meal, etc.—all those would be subtypes of ‘dining formats’, where an existing term for ‘dining formats’ is what he is looking for. – Janus Bahs Jacquet Apr 12 '14 at 15:34
  • @JanusBahsJacquet In that case I can't think of anything better than menu format or dining format. But I've never heard either of them used. – WS2 Jul 3 at 8:10

Extending @WS2 answer, I think the word you may be looking for is, disappointingly, menu.

At some restaurants you may be asked 'Which menu will be dining from ?' and you can choose between A la carte, de jour, table d'hote, degustation etc. Each menu may have a different number of courses and different dishes.

Most restaurants dispense with this and have a single menu with everything on it and you can mix and match which reduces the meaning of 'menu' to a list of food items rather than defining how it is chosen and served.

This does to some degree cover the situation in cultures where a group my sit round communal plates as these are often written on a separate sheet (the communal menu) in the menu, so Tom Yam Goong (Thai Prawn Soup) for four is not quite the same dish (presentation and price) as four bowls of Tom Yam Goong.

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    There is a partial overlap of concepts. The (type of) menu lists what courses, combinations ... are on offer. There would be little difference between anything but actual dishes on offer and price if one person chose from say the table d'hôte menu and another from the à la carte menu. In fact, I've ordered a Chinese starter from one menu and an English roast entree from another when eating dinner at one particular restaurant in Norfolk. But if one section of a restaurant was devoted to buffet meals, the customers using this would get more exercise. And if take-aways were also on offer ... – Edwin Ashworth Apr 12 '14 at 16:01
  • @EdwinAshworth I hope you tipped the sommelier well after that choice. – Frank Apr 12 '14 at 16:56
  • I only had sterling, so just the normal. I'm not made of fortune cookies. – Edwin Ashworth Apr 12 '14 at 18:27

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