In today’s world, it is hard to imagine there not being restaurants, or even hotels. But for centuries people rarely went beyond the small town where they lived, and they usually ate at home. There were exceptions of course, and even in the ancient world, you could buy food when you traveled. Restaurants were essentially bars that served snacks. Restaurant dinnerware might have been the bar itself.
As history developed, a middle class developed, and that meant disposable income developed as well. This allowed people to travel more. Also as cities got bigger, people had further to go to work. For a long time, people went home for lunch, for instance, but eventually, cities were too large and work was too busy to allow this luxury to last.
Restaurants, as we know them today, are said to have developed in France in the early 18th century.
Originally these were small establishments that sold meat snacks which were designed to restore energy to someone not feeling well. Later on, the idea of preparing food for hungry people caught on and the development of restaurant dinnerware was not far behind.
The first coffeehouses, which sold drinks and snacks, is said to have been started in Constantinople in the 1550s. Even so, that is not exactly a restaurant.
After the French Revolution, much of the controls on people were gone, and a middle class emerged. Soon after the revolution, full meals that were prepared for sale were offered to the public in France.
This was the development of the restaurant as we know it today. In Europe, you could eat at a hotel, which had all the trappings of home, including restaurant dinnerware. But you could still not just go out and eat at one if you were not a hotel guest.
There are three people who are said to have started the first restaurant.
A man named Boulanger opened a business in 1765 that offered restoratives.
Mathurin Rose de Chantoiseau, is credited with selling meals from his business in 1766 in Paris. He was an inventor who came up with many ideas and this was one.
An establishment called Beauvilliers, opened in 1782, was the first one to list dishes available on a sign. This was the first establishment to have a place for people to sit and eat those meals during fixed hours.
In Colonial America inns and taverns sold food, but not formal meals. The first restaurant in America where people could eat at individual tables with restaurant dinnerware was the Tremont House in Boston, which opened in 1828. Before that time there were plenty of street vendors and coffeehouses where you could grab a snack. Many hotels had meals included with the price of the room whether you ate them or not.