10 Interesting Facts About Restaurants

Do You Know Where the World's Oldest Eatery Is, or Priciest Burger?

Restaurant interior with set tables
aldonahawthorne via Pixabay

Restaurants have been around in some form for ages, and they come in many different sizes, styles, and cuisines. Do you know where the largest restaurant in the world is located? Or how about the oldest?

Here are 10 little-known facts about restaurants, from street vendors in Ancient Rome to modern-day fast-food chains.

1. Ancient Civilizations Had Restaurants

The concept of selling food for profit goes back to ancient civilizations, including ancient Rome and China, where street vendors sold bread and wine to people in cities. Fast-forward several centuries to the Middle Ages and the roadside inn is the earliest form of our modern-day sit-down restaurant. Of course, the menu options were strictly chef’s choice, and patrons had no alternative but to dine family style.

2. The French Revolution Invented Fine Dining

After Louis XVI and Marie Antoinette lost their heads during the French Revolution, the French aristocracy crumbled. Chefs, who were once employed by noble households, found themselves jobless. So, many of these displaced workers decided to open up their own establishments and offer prix fixe meals to the masses. Eventually, the French style of dining out spread to Great Britain and across the Atlantic to the United States.

3. The World’s Largest Restaurant Is in Syria

Bawabet Dimashq Restaurant, which translates to Damascus Gate Restaurant, is located in Damascus, Syria, and has 6,014 seats and a 580,000 square-foot dining area.

4. The Oldest Restaurant in the United States Is in Boston

The Union Oyster House has been serving up fresh oysters and more since 1826, or a little more than a decade after the War of 1812 ended and more than three decades before the Civil War broke out.

5. 'Restaurant' Is a French Term

"Restaurant" was once used to describe the rich bouillons served at taverns and public houses in France, which were meant to restore the spirits and relieve ailments. Ever since then, it has become a catch-all term to refer to any establishment that prepares food and serves it to customers.

6. The World’s Oldest Restaurant Is in Spain

According to the Guinness Book of World Records, Botin Restaurant in Madrid, Spain, is the world’s oldest operating restaurant, having been in business since 1725. However, other restaurants claim to be older than Botin, including Stiftskeller St. Peter in Salzburg, Austria, which claims origins in 803, and Zum Franziskaner in Stockholm, Sweden, which professes to date back to 1421.

7. McDonald's Once Featured a Grilled Pineapple Sandwich

Even McDonald's, the franchise after which many other franchises are modeled, has had its fair share of menu flops. In the 1960s, McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc ran a pineapple “hula burger” during lent, in select areas with a high Catholic population. The sandwich featured a sesame seed bun and grilled pineapple ring topped with a slice of American cheese. Understandably, the hula burger didn’t last long, never making it nationally.

8. Starbucks Is a Chain but Not a Franchise

All franchises are chain restaurants, but not all chains are franchises. Case in point: Starbucks. The coffee giant is one of the biggest chains in the entire world. But, unlike McDonald's, which is the largest chain in the world, Starbucks is owned by the same company, not a group of franchisees.

9. The World’s Most Expensive Burger Costs $5,000

There are plenty of pricey burgers out there. Burger Brasserie in Paris, Las Vegas, offers a $777 Kobe beef burger, which contains Maine lobster, caramelized onions, imported Brie cheese, crispy prosciutto, and 100-year aged balsamic vinegar. But the most expensive burger? It goes to Fleur at Mandalay Bay, Las Vegas, which offers an astounding $5,000 burger.

10. American Households Spend $3,154 Eating Out Annually

According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average American household spends just over $3,100 eating away from home each year. That's $258 per month, which keeps the American restaurant industry humming along.