A brief history of the restaurant

The Bastille Day, or French National Day, is the anniversary of the storming of the Bastille on 14 July 1789 which was a turning point in the French Revolution and assisted in the development of the modern restaurant.

By Jeremy Ryland 


The restaurant, as we know it, is a relatively recent development. Most cultures have a long tradition of hospitality, offering food and lodging to strangers, initially through monasteries and later through inns and taverns. However, not a lot of people travelled and most ate at home. Inns and taverns primarily served alcohol with a few snacks, whilst cafés, which appeared in the late sixteenth century, did not provide meals. The restaurant, as a place where the focus was on the provision of meals, was born in France in the late eighteenth century.


The development of the restaurant was assisted by the French Revolution in 1789 when many chefs found themselves without employment, so set up their own restaurants. So this Bastille Day – go out and celebrate the birth of modern eating some 229 years ago!


The birth of the restaurant is a significant part of social history. For the first time, people were able to eat whatever and whenever they wanted, knowing in advance how much the meal would cost. Prior to this, dining was the privilege of the wealthy who employed their own cooks and what people ate was based on their status in society. The new restaurants contributed towards social equality, bringing the opportunity to eat well within everyone’s reach and permitting everyone to choose what they ate.


In 1965, two French gourmets – Henri Gault and Christian Millau – who loved to dine out and tell others of their experiences, founded the Gault&Millau Guide. Today, Gault&Millau, (pronounced “go-mee-yo”) is the “l’expert gourmand” – the experts in eating and drinking. The guide is a respected restaurant review organisation that benchmarks over 14 000 restaurants in 22 countries around the world. We from Gault&Millau are passionate about quality dining and our goal is to assist restaurants to succeed and prosper.


Vive la révolution! Celebrate the restaurant!