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For some years now I've heard fast-food locations referred to as "stores" and that strikes me as odd. A burger joint might not be everyone's idea of a restaurant but why call it a store?

When I was a child in the US, a sign attached to the golden arches (and regularly updated) boasted of the millions "served" - not sold. The food is mostly prepared to order, not stocked on shelves. Industry sources place outlets like McDonalds in the restaurant category.

LinkedIn currently lists

3,000+ Mcdonalds Store Manager Jobs in United States

The Wikipedia article for Starbucks states:

As of November 2021, the company had 33,833 stores in 80 countries, 15,444 of which were located in the United States. Out of Starbucks' U.S.-based stores, over 8,900 are company-operated, while the remainder are licensed.

There is merchandise for sale at Starbucks but most people come in to drink or take away coffee. Why not call it a coffeehouse or café?

"Store" for a food outlet may be specific to the US but what's wrong with restaurant or café? Does the label "restaurant" intimidate average folks? Three syllables versus one? Is it that US keyboards lack "é"?

Can companies pay store workers less than restaurant workers?

What's the background or rationale for this usage?

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3 Answers 3

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A similar question was asked on Quora and the best answer there came from a hospitality industry specialist named Jeffrey Summers who, in answer to the question, "Why are restaurants sometimes referred to as stores?" said,

Because the people who run them think transactionally. Restaurants are not retail businesses.

As simple as that.

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    I'd say publicans think transactionally too, but pubs are never called stores. Feb 2, 2022 at 19:03
  • If they are not retail businesses, why are they called stores?
    – Steve
    Feb 2, 2022 at 19:05
  • @Steve, I think Mr Summers' point is that they aren't simply retail, and shouldn't be called stores. You may disagree, but I think his answer is the best explanation. It's a misunderstanding of the function of dining out.
    – Ken
    Feb 2, 2022 at 19:11
  • @Ken You clarified it well. I was confused.
    – Steve
    Feb 2, 2022 at 19:28
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    The question is not whether they should be so called, but why are they sometimes so called, even if, arguably, they shouldn't be. 'Because the people who run them think transactionally' may be the answer, but it needs considerable elaboration. What exactly does the 'transactional' thinking consist in here? How exactly does it explain this choice of words?
    – jsw29
    Feb 2, 2022 at 22:13
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In the cases of chain restaurants, the restaurant is what you see as a consumer, but it is backed up by an integrated supply chain, and there is an organization (a headquarters or a franchise operation) behind the restaurant that you see that puts some effort into defining the products sold in the restaurant that you see, and establishing the chain that places those products in the restaurant that you see. This headquarters organization is not a restaurant, though it conceptualizes a menu and probably has chefs on staff; and it plans for how the retail restaurant will operate including the tasks to convert produce and raw meat into hamburgers, or milk and prepared distributed syrup into a frappuccino, including the equipment used, the floor layout, and other instrumental decisions.

The headquarters organization probably draws on supply chain management professionals where the knowledge domain uses the terms "retailer" and "store" as the point in the supply chain from raw material producer, manufacturer, distributor, retailer to consumer.

In comparison a standalone restaurant of course also engages with a supply chain that puts the products in the restaurant to be sold. However the executive chef or restaurant owner can make decisions about the menu more or less at will; they can change the menu daily, and choose to change the distributor from US Foods to Sysco or even to going to a local producer. The method of preparation can also change at this level (introducing "culinary arts" as a knowledge domain present in this type of retail establishment) and they can make decisions about equipment, floor plan, and so on, on site.

Note in the case of sourcing raw material from a local producer, the stand-alone restaurant is doing the manufacturing that transforms the raw material into the finished consumer product and they or the producer may directly be serving as the distributor , so the supply chain between a chain restaurant and a "farm to table" restaurant are significantly different, such that the generalized corporate SCM terms linked above become even less of a fit.

Can companies pay store workers less than restaurant workers?

In the United States, no. The federal minimum wage for tipped employees (typical in a restaurant front of house) is $2.13 per hour versus $7.25 for non-tipped employees (some states have eliminated this differential).

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  • The sentence of this answer that most directly responds to the question is 'the headquarters organization probably draws on supply chain management professionals where the knowledge domain uses the terms "retailer" and "store" as the point in the supply chain'. Isn't this just an elaborate way of saying that using the term store in this way is a part of the management jargon?
    – jsw29
    Feb 3, 2022 at 16:30
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Yes, a McDonald's location may be called a "restaurant" or it may be called a "store".

store (U.S.) = shop (U.K.)

Oxford English Dictionary:

store noun
12 A place where merchandise is kept for sale.
a. Chiefly North American and elsewhere outside the U.K. In early use, a shop on a large scale, and dealing in a great variety of articles... Now, equivalent to the British use of shop n. 3.

shop n. 3 has this note:

In British English, shop usually refers to any building or part of a building where goods are sold, whereas in North America this kind of building is usually called a store (store n. 12), while shop more commonly refers to a place where things are done or made, or to a smaller retail establishment offering a limited range of goods. In British English store is usually a large retail complex, such as a department store.

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    I guess that's what I find odd - fresh food prepared to order is not "merchandise kept for sale". I find this usage to diminish the meaning of food in human culture.
    – Ken
    Jan 30, 2022 at 15:02
  • @Ken what likely happened is that people abstracted from "store" the idea of "place you go to get things" rather than the details of how those things are stored or prepared. You go to a store to get groceries, you go to a store to get office supplies, you go to a store to get food. Whether the food is on shelves or made to order I guess was just considered less important.
    – siride
    Jan 30, 2022 at 15:06
  • @siride all right, but when I hear, "I'm going to the store" I don't understand the store to be Starbucks..
    – Ken
    Jan 30, 2022 at 15:07
  • and @siride, I doubt that "people" did this, it feels more like PR/corporate influence. I believe that 'store' is used by staff more than the public. Why is a fast-food place not really a restaurant?
    – Ken
    Jan 30, 2022 at 15:19
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    This doesn't explain the usage for restaurants. Prior to the supermarket, CWS outlets in the UK were called 'stores', but restaurants never have been. Jan 30, 2022 at 15:20

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