diner vs caffeteria [cafeteria]

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  • albertovidal

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Argentina
    We went for dinner to a diner/cafeteria.
    That would be the phrase.
    What I'm asking is if there is any difference between diner and cafeteria. Are both like restaurants?
    Thanks for your replies
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    We would need a bit more context. They are two different things, really. What kind of food are you eating? What time of the day? Are you a student? A regular adult?

    These things determine our answer. :)
     

    albertovidal

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Argentina
    We would need a bit more context. They are two different things, really. What kind of food are you eating? What time of the day? Are you a student? A regular adult?

    These things determine our answer. :)
    Let's say it's an adult, he/she is ordering crabs/lobster he/she is a regular single employee having dinner at 7 p.m.
    Is this enough to get an answer?
    Thanks
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You will never, ever buy lobster or crabs at either a diner or a cafeteria. You will assuredly get food poisoning. :D

    Both diners and cafeterias sell low cost food that would not be of such a nature. :)

    I really think you need to investigate what both of them are first. This will give you a good basis of which to choose in your wording. :D

    The only time you will hear 'cafeteria' used in AmE is in schools for children or even college campuses perhaps.
    Diners are a cheap, usually grease filled dining place that people go to eat fast and cheap. :)

    Not many 'diners' really exist anymore for the most part. They are a bit more rare than say in the 1950s-1970s.
     

    albertovidal

    Senior Member
    Spanish, Argentina
    You will never, ever buy lobster or crabs at either a diner or a cafeteria. You will assuredly get food poisoning. :D

    Both diners and cafeterias sell low cost food that would not be of such a nature. :)

    I really think you need to investigate what both of them are first. This will give you a good basis of which to choose in your wording. :D

    The only time you will hear 'cafeteria' used in AmE is in schools for children or even college campuses perhaps.
    Diners are a cheap, usually grease filled dining place that people go to eat fast and cheap. :)

    Not many 'diners' really exist anymore for the most part. They are a bit more rare than say in the 1950s-1970s.
    Understood.
    How would you call a place where one just want to drink an espresso coffee?
     
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    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    A coffee shop. :)
    :thumbsup:


    Once again, (as with the lobster and crab) you would not really find an espresso or even the appropriate equipment to make such a delicious beverage in either a diner or a cafeteria. :)

    Picture an old 1950's movie, Humphrey Bogart sitting down at a bar-style counter with bar stools permanently mounted into the floor. Bogart is smoking a cigarette orders a cup of coffee (plenty of regular, plain coffee in a diner) and a sandwich. After he's done he asks "Flo" the waitress to get him a piece of pie that's sitting in a glass covered container. She scribbles out his check by hand on a piece of paper and he hands her the money.

    That's pretty much what a diner 'feels' and looks like. :)

    Cafeterias, these days, are pretty much just where students and employees of a company eat. :) Hospitals would also have what most would consider a 'cafeteria'. :)
     

    JustKate

    Senior Member
    Actually, there are still cafeterias in the U.S. - I mean, cafeterias for adults (in addition to the ones in schools, which I agree are more common). There are several within 20 miles of where I'm sitting right now in downtown Indianapolis. I don't care much for them but Hoosiers (natives of Indiana) seem to love them. But I definitely agree that a coffee shop or diner is a more likely place to just have a cup of coffee.
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    Actually, there are still cafeterias in the U.S. - I mean, cafeterias for adults (in addition to the ones in schools, which I agree are more common). There are several within 20 miles of where I'm sitting right now in downtown Indianapolis. I don't care much for them but Hoosiers (natives of Indiana) seem to love them. But I definitely agree that a coffee shop or diner is a more likely place to just have a cup of coffee.
    'True' enough, however, can you really recall the last time someone said, "Hey we just ate at the cafeteria last night.", etc.? You're a stone's throw away from me, and I don't doubt that Hoosiers is a great cafeteria. But you have to admit, that's a rarity. Throughout most of the U.S. you're not really going to find adults dining, in large part, at cafeterias. I mean, I'd consider Golden Corral to be a 'cafeteria'; I'd never call it one.


    Addition: I think I am often biased in how I reply to these questions. I view each of our foreign friends as potentially coming to the U.S. (or any other English speaking country) and trying to get around and fit in.
    If we tell him to go looking for a cafeteria, people will understand that he wants food. But he will sound completely foreign and misinformed. It's really just not used for common, everyday adult dining.
     
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    PaulQ

    Senior Member
    UK
    English - England
    In BE, cafeteria is either a minor restaurant (usually the self-service variety) you may find in a department store or the place, on the firm's premises, where the employees eat (the latter is also known as a canteen but canteen is more down-market and more likely to be of a spartan design and used by manual workers.)

    "Diner" is not used other than in connection with eating places that brand themselves as American.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    Actually, there are still cafeterias in the U.S. - I mean, cafeterias for adults (in addition to the ones in schools, which I agree are more common).
    "Cafeterias" still exist in America .... but as with many terms, it's undergone aggrandizing for marketing purposes.

    Now they might be called "buffets," for example, as in Hometown Buffet

    Or, as in the case of Chinese food, the wildly successful "Panda Express" is nothing more than a cafeteria serving Chinese food.

    Or maybe "Buster's Barbecue," a popular, small, Portland chain.

    These are all the same. The customer takes a tray and slides it along a rail, either picking up food or having it scooped up from a hot table and put on a plate, i.e. cafeteria style.

    As the bard of Avon wrote, "a rose by any other name...."
     
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    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    "Cafeterias" still exist in America .... but as with many terms, it's undergone aggrandizing for marketing purposes.

    Now they might be called "buffets," for example, as in Hometown Buffet

    Or, as in the case of Chinese food, the wildly successful "Panda Express" is nothing more than a cafeteria serving Chinese food.
    A very good point. If our friend Albert was to come to the U.S. and ask for the nearest cafeteria, he'd get puzzled looks. I'd honestly consider Golden Corral or any buffet to be a cafeteria; I'd just never call it one. And I don't know anyone else that would.
    I believe sdgraham is onto something here. We've just moved on past the term 'cafeteria' and given it grander name for marketing purposes; so much to the point that I would highly discourage Albert from asking anyone where the nearest 'cafeteria' is.


    If you'd like to see a very common 'diner' in the U.S., google "Waffle House" and then click on the images tab. That is about as 'diner-ish' as it gets in America. ;)
     

    Myridon

    Senior Member
    English - US
    But you have to admit, that's a rarity. Throughout most of the U.S. you're not really going to find adults dining, in large part, at cafeterias. I mean, I'd consider Golden Corral to be a 'cafeteria'; I'd never call it one.
    I'd consider Golden Corral to be a buffet, not a cafeteria. Furr's used to be a cafeteria but they changed to a buffet format in the last 10 years or so. Luby's still has over 60 cafeterias in Texas.
    Most hospitals and some senior citizen's homes have cafeterias. There are offices that have cafeterias for their employees (I've worked at three companies that had them, and one company in an office park that had one for all the businesses in the complex).
     
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    interwrit

    Senior Member
    Polish
    Two things.
    ---
    First
    [...]How would you call a place where one just want to drink an expresso coffee?
    [...]Once again, (as with the lobster and crab) you would not really find an espresso or even the appropriate equipment to make such a delicious beverage in either a diner or a cafeteria.[...]
    But you would maybe find, as albertovidal wrote, expresso. :D After thinking for a while about it, it can be a good neologism for poor-quality coffee!
    ---
    Second note that the term "diner" relates to - apart from "tavern", "dive" - to a person who eats, but who eats in a diner or in a resaturant, too, hm? In addition the noun "diner" relates to a "restaurant car", too. :)
     
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    JustKate

    Senior Member
    sdgraham said:
    "Cafeterias" still exist in America .... but as with many terms, it's undergone aggrandizing for marketing purposes.


    Now they might be called "buffets," for example, as in Hometown Buffet


    Or, as in the case of Chinese food, the wildly successful "Panda Express" is nothing more than a cafeteria serving Chinese food.
    Filsmith said:
    A very good point. If our friend Albert was to come to the U.S. and ask for the nearest cafeteria, he'd get puzzled looks. I'd honestly consider Golden Corral or any buffet to be a cafeteria; I'd just never call it one. And I don't know anyone else that would.
    I believe sdgraham is onto something here. We've just moved on past the term 'cafeteria' and given it grander name for marketing purposes; so much to the point that I would highly discourage Albert from asking anyone where the nearest 'cafeteria' is.

    Just to clarify, when I said there are still cafeterias here in Indiana, I meant there are still restaurants that call themselves a "cafeteria" (in addition to those that are now buffets, smorgasbords, etc.) There's a chain of MCL Cafeterias, for example, but there are independent cafeterias, too. I don't dispute that the word might not be in popular use everywhere, but trust me, cafeterias - both the concept and the word - are alive and well in Indiana.
     
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    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    I'd consider Golden Corral to be a buffet, not a cafeteria. Furr's used to be a cafeteria but they changed to a buffet format in the last 10 years or so. Luby's still has over 60 cafeterias in Texas.
    Most hospitals and some senior citizen's homes have cafeterias. There are offices that have cafeterias for their employees (I've worked at three companies that had them, and one company in an office park that had one for all the businesses in the complex).
    If you really think about it (just my opinion) most cafeterias are buffets. I agree with what I think sdgraham was saying. Buffets, as a name, didn't used to exist. They are just grand cafeterias.
     

    interwrit

    Senior Member
    Polish
    I'm quoting: "After thinking for a while about it, it(a note: expresso) can be a good neologism for poor-quality coffee!" :D
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    You're right. It already exploded!:eek:
    My opinion (and only my opinion):
    If you come to America, and you ask where the nearest 'cafeteria' is, you'll either get a puzzled look or be pointed to a school. If you are in a work place or a hospital, they may have one. If you are a regular person, out on the street, people will (for the most part) have no idea where to guide you.

    A diner, perhaps. There are some places like Denny's and Waffle House which are considered modern 'diners'. And occasional 'old-school' diner cars still exist in a few scattered places.

    Side note: I just asked my co-worker what his reply would be to "Where is the nearest cafeteria?" He replied, "what, a restaurant?" (He looked very puzzled when I asked him this question; he assumed I had lost my mind.) There you go.
     

    ewhite

    Senior Member
    USA/English
    And just to add a tiny bit more confusion, New York City is replete with diners and they are not at all the seedy greasy-spoons referenced above. Most NYC diners have rather extensive menus and usually offer both counter and table service. Most, it seems, are owned by Greeks, or at least that is the mythology.

    << Oops! No YouTube links. ;) >>
     
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    JustKate

    Senior Member
    I'm so sorry. I didn't mean to confuse anybody about cafeterias. I simply wanted to point out that rare as they may be in other parts of the country - and I'm not disputing this - there are still lots of them here. I don't know that anybody would ask specifically for a cafeteria, but if you asked a friendly stranger for a recommendation of a good place to eat for a low price, that stranger might very well say "There's an MCL Cafeteria about a mile away" or "Shapiro's Deli and Cafeteria has the best corned beef ever." The word is still in common use here, is what I'm trying to say.

    And the word is also still used, as somebody else noted, for the self-serve restaurants found in office buildings (I ate lunch in one, for example), hospitals and museums.
     

    Hau Ruck

    Senior Member
    English - U.S.
    And the word is also still used, as somebody else noted, for the self-serve restaurants found in office buildings (I ate lunch in one, for example), hospitals and museums.
    I've said a few times that'd I'd definitely use it for some workplaces and hospitals. :) They are indeed alive and well in those locals.
     

    pob14

    Senior Member
    American English
    MCL is definitely a cafeteria, not a buffet. In a buffet, you pay one price and eat all you want. At a cafeteria, you go through a line and choose your food, but each item is priced separately.
     
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    Packard

    Senior Member
    USA, English
    I distinguish them as follows:

    A diner provides table service or counter service.

    A cafeteria requires that you go up and select the food and take it to the table yourself.

    Commercial cafeterias are pretty rare in the USA.
     

    natkretep

    Moderato con anima (English Only)
    English (Singapore/UK), basic Chinese
    I've said a few times that'd I'd definitely use it [cafeteria] for some workplaces and hospitals. :) They are indeed alive and well in those locals.
    In BrE, these are usually called canteens (and in some schools, they might be tuck shops or refectories) - as noted by PaulQ. But I would also say that, where I am, places that call themselves cafeterias are uncommon - you're far more likely to see café​ if you just want simple food.
     

    theartichoke

    Senior Member
    English - Canada
    In BrE, these are usually called canteens (and in some schools, they might be tuck shops or refectories) - as noted by PaulQ. But I would also say that, where I am, places that call themselves cafeterias are uncommon - you're far more likely to see café​ if you just want simple food.
    Ah, the BE café. This can be confusing to AE speakers (or at least Canadian English speakers), for whom café is simply a less-used word for coffee shop, unless they're in France. In Canada, you can usually find a sandwich or sometimes even a bowl of soup in a café/coffee shop, but never a plate of bacon and eggs, which is what you'd expect in a British café. The "cafés" I've seen in London (UK) are what I'd call greasy spoons.
     

    sdgraham

    Senior Member
    USA English
    In BrE, these are usually called canteens (and in some schools, they might be tuck shops or refectories) - as noted by PaulQ. But I would also say that, where I am, places that call themselves cafeterias are uncommon - you're far more likely to see café​ if you just want simple food.
    Now that "canteen" has entered the conversation, note that we have a previous thread: cafeteria, canteen, dining hall
     

    Copyright

    Senior Member
    American English
    MCL is definitely a cafeteria, not a buffet. In a buffet, you pay one price and eat all you want. At a cafeteria, you go through a line and choose your food, but each item is priced separately.
    Also a difference I don't think I've read yet in this thread, unless I missed it, is that in a buffet you go up as often as you like and select the food yourself. In a cafeteria, you point at what you want and someone puts it on a plate or in a bowl and gives it to you -- and servers and customers are often separated by a glass panel of some sort.

    That's my recollection, anyway ... not to say things haven't changed.
     

    mplsray

    Senior Member
    Also a difference I don't think I've read yet in this thread, unless I missed it, is that in a buffet you go up as often as you like and select the food yourself. In a cafeteria, you point at what you want and someone puts it on a plate or in a bowl and gives it to you -- and servers and customers are often separated by a glass panel of some sort.

    That's my recollection, anyway ... not to say things haven't changed.
    To complicate things a bit further, at some buffets (I have in mind Old Country Buffet as an example I know from personal experience) you serve yourself most items, but in the case of some meats, such as roast beef or turkey, you take a plate to the carver and he carves it and puts it on your plate. (A search of Google images for "buffet carver" turns up some pictures of the carver on the job.)

    In some other buffets I have been to you are served the beverages at your table rather than being allowed to pour them yourself.
     
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