I am looking for a hypernym for all places that provide food, beverages, or both, of any quality or price — such as restaurant, cafe, fast-food and so on.

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    Some common informal and slangy terms are "eatery", "beanery", and just a few from M-W.com online: cafeteria, lunch counter, luncheonette, lunchroom, snack bar; greasy spoon, hash house; chophouse, steak house; pizzeria; coffeehouse, coffee shop, estaminet, teahouse, tearoom, tea shop [chiefly British]; bar, barroom, inn, tavern. But you can look these up yourself at Dictionary.com. They have a wonderful thesaurus.
    – user21497
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 14:08

3 Answers 3


The name of the industry in the US is “food service” (or “foodservice”); according to Wikipedia the corresponding term in BE is “catering industry”. Within the industry, individual outlets are “food service operations”.

In ordinary speech the most ‘generic’ term is “restaurant”, which embraces both ‘sit-down’ (table service) establishments and fast-food outlets, but tends to exclude institutional operations such as hospital or corporate cafeterias. “Eatery” is sometimes used, but it’s old-fashioned and implies a down-scale establishment; referring to a Michelin-starred restaurant as an “eatery” would be distinctly jocular.

Travel guides, newspapers and the like will often use verbal headings: “Eating”, “Eating Out”, “Dining Out”, and so forth.

tchrist asks for a term embracing hot-dog stands and the like. Within the industry they're still “food service operations”; they may be grouped with outlets like Burger King as “quickservice operations”. In ordinary conversation—well, they’re not “restaurants”. They are “eateries”, but as I said that’s not a term used much any more. I don’t think there’s any generic term embracing everything from the hot-dog stand to Maxim’s. If I had to find an X to plug into “What sort of X do you want to have lunch at?” I’d have to resort to ‘place’ or something equally vague.

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    What would you call a hot-dog stand, or a roving falafel cart?
    – tchrist
    Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 14:28
  • 1
    @tchrist see my edit Commented Nov 10, 2012 at 15:10
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    Outside the US I think a restaurant implies sit-down, table service. When McDonalds call themselves a restaurant it sounds like they're having a laugh.
    – Eric
    Commented Apr 14, 2016 at 2:21

In law the category is often referred to as a "retail food establishment", as opposed to a wholesaler or caterer. Hot dog stands and Michelin-rated restaurants are both included.


The most suitable hypernym for all places that provide food, beverages, or both, regardless of quality or price, is "foodservice establishment." It is a general term that encompasses all types of foodservice businesses, including restaurants, cafes, fast-food chains, food trucks, bars, pubs, and other similar establishments that serve food and drinks.

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