The 10 Most Profitable Types of Restaurants



most profitable types of restaurants

The restaurant business is a dynamic and ever-changing environment. With so many types of restaurants to choose from, determining which ones are the most profitable can be challenging. Certain kinds of eateries, however, constantly rank first in terms of profitability.

From bars and grills to quick food chains and upscale casual eating places, these restaurants have discovered the optimal cost-revenue mix to optimize their earnings. In this article, we will look at the ten most profitable restaurant types and what makes them so profitable.

The U.S. Restaurant Industry in 2023

According to the National Restaurant Association, the US food service industry is forecast to reach $997 billion in sales in 2023, driven in part by higher menu prices. The industry workforce is projected to grow by 500,000 jobs. The restaurant and food service industry added 2.8 million jobs over the past 24 months, bringing the industry total to 15 million at the end of 2022.



The industry has been through a lot in recent years, with the COVID-19 pandemic causing widespread closures and job losses. However, the industry has shown resilience and is now poised for growth in 2023.

Here are some of the key trends that are shaping the U.S. restaurant industry in 2023:

  • The rise of delivery and takeout: The COVID-19 pandemic accelerated the shift towards delivery and takeout, and this trend is expected to continue in 2023. According to a recent report by the National Restaurant Association, 60% of consumers now order delivery or takeout at least once a week.
  • The growth of fast casual: Fast casual restaurants are a hybrid of fast food and casual dining, offering higher quality food at a more affordable price. This segment is expected to grow by 10% in 2023, faster than any other segment of the restaurant industry.
  • The increasing popularity of ethnic cuisine: Ethnic cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the United States, as consumers are looking for more variety and excitement in their dining options. This trend is expected to continue in 2023, with restaurants offering everything from Korean barbecue to Peruvian ceviche.
  • The focus on sustainability: Consumers are increasingly demanding that restaurants be more sustainable, both in terms of their food sourcing and their operations. This trend is expected to continue in 2023, as restaurants look for ways to reduce their environmental impact.

In addition to these trends, the U.S. restaurant industry is also facing some challenges in 2023. These include:

  • The labor shortage: The restaurant industry is facing a major labor shortage, as many workers have left the industry during the pandemic. This is making it difficult for restaurants to find and retain staff.
  • The rising cost of food: The cost of food is rising, which is putting pressure on restaurant margins. This is especially challenging for restaurants that rely on low-margin items, such as fast food.
  • The increasing competition: The restaurant industry is becoming increasingly competitive, as new restaurants open and existing restaurants expand. This is making it more difficult for restaurants to stand out from the crowd.

Here are some tips for restaurants that want to succeed in 2023:


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  • Focus on delivery and takeout: Delivery and takeout are here to stay, so restaurants need to make sure they offer these services if they want to stay competitive.
  • Invest in technology: Technology can help restaurants streamline operations, improve customer service, and reach new customers.
  • Focus on quality: In a crowded marketplace, restaurants need to focus on offering high-quality food and service.
  • Be creative: Restaurants need to be creative in order to stand out from the competition. This could mean offering unique menu items, creating a fun and inviting atmosphere, or using social media to connect with customers.

Restaurants that are able to adapt to the changing landscape and focus on quality and innovation will be well-positioned for success. The industry is well-positioned for growth as consumers continue to demand more variety, convenience, and sustainability in their dining options.

What is the most profitable type of restaurant?

There are several factors that can contribute to the profitability of a restaurant business and including its location, food costs, marketing strategies, and customer satisfaction. For example, fine dining, because of its higher menu prices and the upscale atmosphere, generally has higher profit margins.

However, quick-service eateries, such as fast-food franchises and casual dining restaurants, have a larger customer base and reduce overall overhead expenses. Because of their relaxed ambiance and low costs, casual eating places typically have moderate profit margins and a large customer base.



Our Methodology: The Most Profitable Types of Restaurants

The restaurant industry is notoriously competitive, with unique challenges but also exciting opportunities for substantial profitability.

To assist entrepreneurs and restaurateurs in selecting the most financially viable types of restaurants, we’ve considered a range of factors. These criteria are rated on a scale from 10 (most important) to 1 (least important), ensuring that our recommendations cater to market demand, operational efficiency, and profitability.

  1. Market Demand and Consumer Trends: Importance 10/10
    • Popularity and demand for the restaurant’s cuisine or concept.
    • Alignment with current dining trends and consumer preferences.
    • Ability to attract a wide range of customers.
  2. Profit Margins and Revenue Streams: Importance 9/10
    • Potential for high-profit margins based on cuisine and pricing.
    • Diverse revenue streams (dine-in, takeout, delivery, catering).
    • Opportunities for upselling and high-margin items.
  3. Operational Costs and Efficiency: Importance 8/10
    • Startup and ongoing operational costs (rent, ingredients, labor).
    • Efficiency in kitchen operations and staffing.
    • Cost-effectiveness of menu items and food waste management.
  4. Location and Accessibility: Importance 7/10
    • Importance of location for the specific restaurant type.
    • Accessibility to target demographics and foot traffic.
    • Competition and market saturation in the area.
  5. Brand Differentiation and Concept Uniqueness: Importance 6/10
    • Uniqueness of the restaurant concept and brand appeal.
    • Ability to stand out in a competitive market.
    • Potential for brand loyalty and repeat customers.
  6. Scalability and Growth Potential: Importance 5/10
    • Ability to replicate the concept in multiple locations.
    • Potential for franchising or expansion.
    • Adaptability to changing market conditions.
  7. Menu Flexibility and Innovation: Importance 5/10
    • Ability to adapt and innovate the menu based on trends and feedback.
    • Range and variety of offerings to cater to diverse preferences.
    • Seasonal updates and special promotions.
  8. Sustainability and Ethical Practices: Importance 4/10
    • Incorporation of sustainable and ethical practices in sourcing and operations.
    • Appeal to eco-conscious and health-conscious consumers.
    • Long-term viability considering environmental and social impact.

These criteria take into account not only the type of restaurant but also the management and operational strategies that are crucial in dictating a restaurant’s success. By understanding and prioritizing these factors, you can carve out a profitable space in the competitive culinary world.

Most Profitable Types of Restaurants

Restaurant TypeDescription
Quick Service RestaurantsQuick service restaurants (QSRs), also referred to as Fast food restaurants, are a form of eatery that provides quick and inexpensive meals. These restaurants typically have limited seating, with most customers choosing to order their food to go or for drive-thru service.
Fine Dining RestaurantsFine dining establishments are renowned for their elegant decor, first-rate service, and superior food. These eateries frequently offer menus that let patrons select from a variety of dishes that have been skillfully created by a skilled cook.
Food Truck BusinessIn recent years, food trucks have grown in popularity and revolutionized the restaurant industry business. These mobile kitchens are a popular option for those looking for a fast and inexpensive meal because they offer a variety of dishes and allow customers to eat on the go.
Buffet RestaurantsBuffet restaurants are popular with customers who are looking for a variety of options at an affordable price. Due to the variety of cuisine available at these establishments, patrons can try a variety of entrees without making a commitment.
Seafood RestaurantsSeafood restaurants are a type of restaurant that specializes in seafood cuisine, including fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals. Seafood restaurants can be found in coastal towns, cities, and tourist destinations.
Steakhouse restaurantsSteakhouse restaurants are known for their high-quality cuts of beef, cooked to perfection and served with a variety of sides and sauces. These establishments frequently offer a selection of types, ranging from sirloin to filet mignon, and give customers the option to choose how they would like their steak cooked.
Ethnic RestaurantsEthnic restaurants are a type of restaurant that specializes in cuisine from a specific country or region. These restaurants offer a unique dining experience, featuring authentic dishes and flavors that are often difficult to find elsewhere.
Farm-to-table RestaurantsFarm-to-table restaurants are a type of restaurant that emphasizes locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. These restaurants prioritize using fresh and high-quality produce, meats, and dairy from nearby farms and food producers.
DinersDiners are a type of restaurant that has been an iconic part of American culture for over a century. These casual, often 24-hour eateries are known for their affordable and hearty comfort food, such as burgers, fries, and milkshakes.
Bar restaurantsBar restaurants, also known as gastropubs, are a type of establishment that combines the atmosphere of a bar with the cuisine of a restaurant. These businesses typically offer a full bar with an extensive beer, wine, and cocktail selection, as well as a menu of high-quality, often upscale pub-style food.

In the food industry, running a restaurant business can be a profitable business. While there are many different types of restaurants, some are more profitable than others. Here are the ten most profitable types of restaurants:



Quick Service Restaurants

Quick service restaurants (QSRs), also referred to as Fast food restaurants, are a form of eatery that provides quick and inexpensive meals. These restaurants typically have limited seating, with most customers choosing to order their food to go or for drive-thru service. So their locations are small and cost effective. Operations are also generally streamlined to keep ongoing costs low and improve output and profitability.

Quick-service restaurants are made to accommodate people who are on the go and need a fast and easy meal. They have a small selection that is frequently centered on one specific food item, like tacos, pizza, sandwich franchises, or hamburgers. These menus are created to be straightforward and simple to make, enabling quicker service and more affordable rates.

To make their dinners even more reasonable, the majority of Quick service restaurants also provide value meals and combo packages. Due to their frequent association with fast food, casual dining restaurants may have a poor image in terms of diet and health. Salads, grilled poultry, and veggie choices are just a few of the healthy options that many QSRs are attempting to give on their offerings to meet with consumer demand and trends.

Fine Dining Restaurants



Fine dining establishments are renowned for their elegant decor, first-rate service, and superior food. These eateries frequently offer menus that let patrons select from a variety of dishes that have been skillfully created by a skilled cook. The dishes are displayed in a creative and eye-catching way, and the menu frequently includes upscale components like foie gras, truffles, and caviar.

The quality of the cuisine at fancy dining establishments is one of their benefits. These eateries employ highly skilled cooks who use the best materials to make elaborate, flavorful, and aesthetically pleasing dishes. Additionally, the service at these establishments is frequently first-rate, with waiters attending to the requirements of every single patron.

The price of the meals often reflects the high-quality ingredients and service. This can also lead to high profit margins. They also often have strict dress codes and reservation policies, which can limit accessibility for some customers.

Food Truck Business

In recent years, food trucks have grown in popularity and revolutionized the restaurant industry business. These mobile kitchens are an in-demand option for those looking for a fast and inexpensive meal because they offer a variety of dishes and allow customers to eat on the go. Food lovers who are searching for unique and inventive dishes that they can’t find at conventional eateries have started to favor food trucks.



The mobility of a food truck is one of their benefits. They can move to various places, unlike conventional restaurants, making them more available to customers. They can also function in places where conventional brick-and-mortar eateries find it challenging to do business because of neighborhood regulations or expensive rent.

Food trucks offer affordable pricing and unique menu items, appealing to budget-conscious customers. Despite their popularity, they face challenges such as complying with local regulations and logistics. There are many food truck ideas to consider, so you can find the niche that works best for your goals.

Buffet Restaurants

Buffet restaurants are popular with customers who are looking for a variety of options at an affordable price. Due to the variety of cuisine available at these establishments, patrons can try a variety of entrees without making a commitment. Another advantage of buffet restaurants is the value for money they provide.



Customers can eat as much as they want for a fixed price, which can be more affordable than ordering several dishes at a traditional restaurant. Buffet restaurants can also help to reduce food waste for businesses, leading to decreased operating costs and higher profits. Overall, buffet restaurants offer a unique dining experience that appeals to a wide range of customers.

They provide a casual, affordable, and varied dining experience that is perfect for families, groups, or those who want to try different dishes without committing to a full meal.

Seafood Restaurants

Seafood restaurants are a type of restaurant that specializes in seafood cuisine, including fish, shellfish, and other aquatic animals. Seafood restaurants can be found in coastal towns, cities, and tourist destinations. These restaurants offer a wide variety of seafood dishes, ranging from classics like fish and chips to more exotic options like sushi and sashimi.

Many seafood eateries take pleasure in using local, fresh seafood and frequently offer daily specials that contribute to a unique and memorable menu. The decor of these restaurants often reflects their coastal location, with nautical themes and ocean-inspired artwork. It is anticipated that the appeal of seafood restaurants will increase in the years to come as people become more conscious of the health advantages of seafood and the market demand rises.



Steakhouse restaurants

Steakhouse restaurants are known for their high-quality cuts of beef, cooked to perfection and served with a variety of sides and sauces. These establishments frequently offer a selection of types, ranging from sirloin to filet mignon, and give customers the option to choose how they would like their steak cooked.

Steakhouse restaurants are popular choices for special events, work meals, and date nights because they frequently have an expensive atmosphere. The high grade of beef served at steakhouse eateries is one of their benefits.

These eateries frequently purchase their meat from top-notch farms and ranchers, guaranteeing that their patrons will receive the best portions. Additionally, they provide a range of cuts so that clients can select the steak variation that best suits their palates. High quality sides using basic ingredients and cocktails can contribute to high profit margins for these restaurants.



Ethnic Restaurants

Ethnic restaurants are a type of restaurant that specializes in cuisine from a specific country or region. These restaurants offer a unique dining experience, featuring authentic dishes and flavors that are often difficult to find elsewhere.

From Italian to Mexican to Indian, ethnic restaurants showcase the diversity of global cuisine and allow customers to experience new flavors and cultural traditions. Many ethnic restaurants are family-owned and operated, passed down through generations, and pride themselves on using traditional cooking techniques and ingredients. The decor of these restaurants often reflects the culture of the cuisine they serve, creating a vibrant and immersive dining experience.

These unique options are in-demand across the country, both with customers from that region looking for a taste of home and with customers wanting to try bold new flavors.

Farm-to-table Restaurants

Farm-to-table restaurants are a type of restaurant that emphasizes locally sourced and seasonal ingredients. These restaurants prioritize using fresh and high-quality produce, meats, and dairy from nearby farms and food producers. The goal of farm-to-table restaurants is to support local agriculture, reduce the environmental impact of food transportation, and provide customers with a unique and healthy dining experience.



Farm-to-table restaurants often have close relationships with farmers, often sourcing ingredients directly from them. The menus of these restaurants change frequently to reflect the seasonality of ingredients and showcase the diversity of local produce. Many farm-to-table restaurants also offer vegetarian and vegan options, making them a popular choice for health-conscious diners.

Since these experiences are so on-trend, prices can reflect the experience and lead to higher margins for restaurants.

Diners

Diners are a type of restaurant that has been an iconic part of American culture for over a century. These casual, often 24-hour eateries are known for their affordable and hearty comfort food, such as burgers, fries, and milkshakes. Diners typically have retro decor with vinyl booths, neon signs, and a counter with stools, giving them a nostalgic and homey feel.

Diners are a popular choice for a quick and satisfying meal at any time of day or night. They are often open 24/7 and serve breakfast all day, making them a favorite among night owls, truck drivers, and road trip enthusiasts. Diners are a staple of American culture, offering a nostalgic and comforting dining experience. While the menu may not be gourmet, diners provide a taste of classic American comfort food in a casual and laid-back environment.

Many of the popular foods at diners, like breakfast dishes and sandwiches, are made with inexpensive ingredients to keep profit margins high.

Bar restaurants

Bar restaurants, also known as gastropubs, are a type of establishment that combines the atmosphere of a bar with the cuisine of a restaurant. These businesses typically offer a full bar with an extensive beer, wine, and cocktail selection, as well as a menu of high-quality, often upscale pub-style food.

Bar restaurants often have a cozy and casual atmosphere, with a focus on creating a welcoming and inviting space for diners and drinkers alike. Many bar restaurants pride themselves on using fresh, locally sourced ingredients in their dishes, elevating traditional pub food to a higher culinary standard.

Bar restaurants are popular among a wide range of customers, from those looking for a casual night out with friends to those seeking a more refined dining experience. They offer a unique and versatile business model that combines the profitability of a bar with the culinary creativity of a restaurant, making them a popular choice for entrepreneurs in the food and beverage industry.

FAQs

Are restaurants profitable?

Restaurants can be profitable, but it depends on many factors such as location, concept, management, and market demand. The restaurant business is known for its tight profit margins, with the average profit margin for a restaurant business being between 2% to 6%. However, some types of restaurants have higher profit margins than others. It’s important for restaurant owners to have a strong business plan and to manage their food costs effectively in order to maximize their profits.

Which is more profitable, bars or restaurants?

Bars have one of the highest profit margins in the restaurant business due to the high markup on alcoholic beverages. However, there are a variety of profitable food business ideas to consider.

Can a small restaurant be profitable?

Yes, a small restaurant can be profitable. In fact, many small restaurants have found success by offering a unique dining experience and high-quality food. However, like any business, the profitability of a small restaurant depends on many factors such as location, concept, management, and market demand.

It’s important for small restaurant owners to have a strong business plan and to manage their costs effectively in order to maximize their profits. By focusing on providing excellent customer service and creating a loyal customer base, small restaurants can thrive and be profitable.

What restaurant food has the highest profit margin?

On average, some of the highest profit margin foods include meat-free vegan and vegetarian dishes which utilize vegetables, pulses, and legumes; sauce-based cuisines such as curries, chili, and soups; and other items that have low-cost base ingredients such as pizza and pasta. Additionally, alcohol sales often have high-profit margins for restaurants.

If you are looking for a business that does not follow a brick-and-mortar model, check out our article on offline business ideas.

What are the least profitable items on a restaurant menu?

The least profitable items on a restaurant menu can vary depending on several factors, including the type of restaurant, location, and menu offerings. Generally, items with a lower profit margin include appetizers, vegetarian or vegan dishes, specials, alcoholic beverages, and discounted items. These items may require more expensive or specialized ingredients, have smaller portions, or require the purchase of ingredients not typically used.

Restaurant owners must carefully analyze the cost of ingredients and labor when setting menu prices to ensure that each item is profitable and helps to maintain the overall financial health of the business.

How much money do restaurant owners make?

According to BizBuySell’s Quarterly Insight report, restaurant acquisitions jumped 20% in 2022, with restaurants showing stronger financials and selling at higher prices, suggesting pent-up demand for ownership. The average restaurant revenue for a business that is less than 12 months old is $111,860.701.

However, this figure can vary greatly depending on factors such as location, size, and type of restaurant. For example, a quick-service restaurant may have lower average revenue than a fine dining establishment.

If you’re looking for profitable business ideas, check out our article on the most profitable small businesses.

What is the success rate of restaurants in the United States?

The success rates of restaurants vary depending on factors such as location, cuisine, marketing strategy, food costs, and management. For example, both a quick-service restaurant and a fine-dining restaurant can be profitable, but they require different approaches to succeed. QSRs rely on high volume, low prices, and efficient service to generate revenue, while fine dining restaurants rely on quality, exclusivity, and exceptional service to attract customers and justify higher prices.

To improve their chances of success, restaurant owners need to have a solid business plan, choose a good location, hire and train well-qualified staff, offer high-quality food and service, and keep up with changing trends and customer preferences.

Image: Envato Elements


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Samson Haileyesus Samson Haileyesus is a staff writer for Small Business Trends and has several years of progressive experience in media, communication and PR working with government, NGOs and private sector. He is passionate about public outreach, branding, media relations and marketing.

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