‘Fast Food Restaurant' vs 'Sit Down Restaurant’: What's the Difference?

By Amy Gilmore, updated on June 8, 2023

Are you wondering the difference between a 'fast food restaurant' vs 'sit down restaurant?' If so, this guide will help.

Here is a quick answer: 

  • A 'fast food restaurant' is a food vendor that prepares dishes quickly, usually while the customer waits to take them to a table or togo.
  • 'Sit-down restaurants' are establishments where you sit down at a table, and a server comes to take your order and delivers your food when it is ready.

There is more to learn about these terms, though. This guide explains the part of speech, definition, and usage of both words and gives examples. It will teach you the difference between the phrases, where they originated, and when and how to use them.

What is the Difference Between 'Fast Food Restaurant' and 'Sit Down Restaurant'

A 'fast food restaurant' is where the food is made while you wait in line for your food. A 'sit down restaurant.' is where you sit at a table, and a server brings your food. You can order to-go or delivery from a 'sit-down restaurant.' But you do not act as your server placing your order at a counter and then waiting for it before you seat yourself.

  • The first fast-food restaurants in the United States were KFC and McDonald's in the 1930s and 1940s. Before that, all restaurants were sit-down establishments.
  • Another significant difference is that you prepay for fast food. You pay after you eat at a 'sit-down restaurant.'

When to Use 'Fast Food Restaurant' and 'Sit Down Restaurant'

You know the difference between a fast food spot and a 'sit-down restaurant.' So, let's look at when to use each.

  • Use 'fast food restaurant' when referring to a major fast food chain like McDonald's, Burger King, Chick-Fil-A, etc.

For example, you might say:

Chick-Fil-A is my favorite fast-food restaurant. 

  • Use 'fast food restaurant' when discussing a restaurant where you wait in line for your food and serve yourself.

For example, you could say:

I don't mind going to a fast food restaurant. I don't need anyone to serve me, but I would like to go somewhere where we can sit outside. 

  • Use 'sit-down restaurant' to describe a restaurant where you sit and the waiter takes your order.

As an example, you might tell someone:

Please meet us at the Tex-Mex spot at Shepherd Dr and Kirby Ave. It is a sit-down restaurant with delicious food and the best jalapeno margaritas ever. 

  • Use 'sit-down restaurant' when discussing a restaurant where the food is cooked after you place your order.

For example, I might tell someone:

I will leave in about 30 minutes, but I won't be there for an hour and a half to two hours. I have to pick up food on the way home, but they will need a bit to get the order together. It is a sit-down restaurant, so they won't prepare the food until I place the order. 

  • Use 'sit-down restaurant' to describe a place that serves you, then presents you with a bill.

For example, you might say:

This 'sit-down restaurant' does things differently. They bring your check with your food, and you go to the cashier at the front to pay your bill after you finish your meal. 

Definition of 'Fast Food Restaurant': What Does 'Fast Food Restaurant' Mean?

According to the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, a 'fast food restaurant' is:

  • One that serves food that is partially or entirely made so it is ready within minutes of the customer placing their order

It is also:

  • A restaurant or food kiosk where you order at a counter and wait for your food
  • A place specializing in food that it serves quickly

Synonyms of 'Fast Food Restaurant'

  • Junk food
  • Convenience food

Definition of 'Sit Down Restaurant': What Does 'Sit Down Restaurant' Mean?

The Merriam-Webster Dictionary does not have a definition for 'sit-down restaurant' because the term is relatively new. Before, there were takeout restaurants and 'fast food restaurants,' there wasn't a distinction.

However, the Cambridge Dictionary does provide a definition, and it is:

  • A place where meals are prepared and served to people who are sitting in the establishment

Synonyms of 'Sit Down Restaurant'

  • Cafe
  • Eatery
  • Diner
  • Inn
  • Bar
  • Grille
  • Deli
  • Taqueria
  • Pizzeria
  • Pastaria
  • Chophouse
  • Lunchroom

Pronunciation: How to Pronounce 'Fast Food Restaurant' and 'Sit Down Restaurant'

You know the difference between these terms, so let's examine how you pronounce them.

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'fast food restaurant':

fas-t füd

  • Use this phonetic spelling to pronounce 'sit-down restaurant':

sit-daun re-sta-rant

Sample Sentences Using 'Fast Food Restaurant' and 'Sit Down Restaurant'

Now, read these example sentences to ensure you know how to use these phrases.

Fast Food Restaurant

  • KFC was the first fast food restaurant. The founder, Harland Sanders, opened his first restaurant in a gas station where he worked in the early-1930s.
  • Chick-Fil-A was another pioneer in the fast food restaurant business. It opened in 1946.
  • The story of the McDonald's brothers who founded the McDonald's fast food restaurants is sad.
  • Some fast food restaurants have a patio you can eat on.

Sit Down Restaurant

  • It is nice to go to a sit-down restaurant with family or friends.
  • We last went to a sit-down restaurant with our whole family two years ago.
  • If I am going out, I want to go to a nice sit-down restaurant with a good vibe.
  • You are two peas in a pod. You both enjoy a fine-dining experience at a nice sit-down restaurant.

Recap of the Difference Between 'Fast Food Restaurant' vs. 'Sit Down Restaurant'

We covered a lot of information, so here is a quick recap: 

  • 'Fast food restaurant' sells food that is ready to order or quickly made, does not have waitstaff, and charges before you receive your food. 
  • 'Sit-down restaurant' prepares food and has servers who bring the food to customers in a dining room.

If you want to learn about other confusing words and terms, check out the other guides here. Each contains correct spellings, definitions, grammar rules, and other valuable information to help you expand your vocabulary and learn grammar rules.

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Written By:
Amy Gilmore
Amy Gilmore is one of the lead freelance writers for WritingTips.org. She has been a professional writer and editor for the past eight years. She developed a love of language arts and literature in school and decided to become a professional freelance writer after a demanding career in real estate. Amy is constantly learning to become a better writer and loves sharing tips with other writers who want to do the same.

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