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First of all, let me clarify that I am not talking about inns which were located on the roads between major cities; I am talking about real restaurants inside the cities. I gave this some thought and I think that restaurants couldn't be more than a few hundred years old. This is because restaurants had to have come after the rise of the middle class. Before then, the poor wouldn't have enough money, and the rich probably had their own chefs.

I know that now it is different, but a few hundred years ago the primary reason why people would go to restaurants would have probably been if they just came from work and they had no food in the house (even if there was a middle class, they probably wouldn't go just to have fun, since they were still poorer (on average) than the middle class today). This would imply that they are single, since the wife would usually stay at home and cook. Since virtually all the people in the past were either married or lived with their family, I believe that the "invention" of restaurants was also synchronized with a rise in the amount of single people, which is fairly recent history. Am I right, and if not what is the correct timeline here? Thanks.

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Don't underestimate the role of restaurants/taverns as meeting places. People want and need to get together and places where you can eat and drink while at it are, and seemingly almost always were, preferred places to do so. Also, Wikipedia! – aenariel Jun 28 '13 at 9:03
1) The FAQ discourages questions that can be found on wikipedia (hat tip to @Aenariel) 2) Questions are supposed to be based on research; there is a bit too much "I think" and I believe" here. – Mark C. Wallace Jun 28 '13 at 10:55
According to one source I've read the modern type of restaurant that I guess you're asking about appeared after the French revolution when now unemployed cooks and servants opened up their own places. – S Vilcans Jan 29 '15 at 11:39
Ovi you're being naive here. All cities have supplied food and drink for immediate consumption since time immemorial. – TheMathemagician Feb 3 '15 at 17:19

Of course, taverns existed in Ancient Rome and possibly in Ancient Greece as well. The very word "tavern" comes from Latin taberna.

And you of course mistaken about middle class: it always existed in European cities at least starting from prehistoric age.

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There was a middle class even in the middle ages? – Ovi Jun 28 '13 at 0:35
There was a middle class in ancient Rome, and yes, there were restaurants. – jwenting Jun 28 '13 at 5:36
AIUI it was often the poor in Rome that "ate out", or bought "takeaway", because the poorer classes of housing lacked much in the way of cooking facilities. – Nigel Harper Jun 28 '13 at 20:07
A tavern and restaurant are actually two different things. Drinking is crucial to a tavern, not so in a restaurant. – Felix Goldberg Jun 29 '13 at 21:12
@jwenting Of course not. But a middle class is about much more than "people of middling fortune [...] but a class characterised by distinct patterns of economic behaviour [...] and, as importantly, cultural values that set it apart from the aristocratic elite". (quoted from bmcr.brynmawr.edu/2012/2012-09-40.html) And the latter proposition for Rome is very debatable; in fact, afaik, the orthodox view is that while Rome contained many people of middling income, it had no distinct middle class in the sense explained above. There are scholars who posit the existence of the middle class – Felix Goldberg Jul 4 '13 at 12:31

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