Restaurant: How It All Began

08.25.2020 - By Science Diction

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In the 1760s, a new kind of establishment started popping up in Paris, catering to the French and fancy. These places had tables, menus, and servers. They even called themselves “restaurants,” and you might have too, were it not for one key difference: these restaurants were places you went not to eat. Well, not to chew anyway. Because they weren’t in the business of feeding their genteel clientele, but of soothing their frayed nerves —with premium medicinal soups. Soups which were also called “restaurants”!
In this episode: How restaurants evolved from a soup to a chic Parisian soup spa to the diverse, loved—and sorely missed—solid food eateries of today.
Rebecca Spang is a professor of history at Indiana University.
Stephani Robson is senior lecturer at the Cornell School of Hotel Administration.
Footnotes & Further Reading: 
For more on early bouillon-sipping establishments and the rise of restaurants, take a peek at Rebecca Spang’s book, The Invention of the Restaurant: Paris and Modern Gastronomic Culture. 
Still can’t get enough restaurant history? Check out Dining Out: A Global History of Restaurants.
If you, like Stephani Robson, are passionate about optimal chair spacing, check out one of her studies on the subject. 
To see some of Stephani’s work in action, listen to this collaborative episode from Planet Money and The Sporkful, on “The Great Data-Driven Restaurant Makeover.”
Science Diction is hosted and produced by Johanna Mayer. Elah Feder is our editor and producer. We had story editing from Nathan Tobey. Daniel Peterschmidt contributed sound design and wrote all our music, except the accordion piece which was by Dana Boulé and the final piece by Jazz at the Mladost Club. We had research help from Cosmo Bjorkenheim. Chris Wood mastered the episode, and we had fact checking by Michelle Harris. Special thanks to Gregg Rapp for talking to us about menu engineering. Nadja Oertelt is our Chief Content Officer.

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