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What is a Family Style Dining Restaurant?


Unsure what a family-style restaurant is? Learn the concept, discover its benefits, and get a thorough walkthrough of what you should keep in mind.

A family style diner is a restaurant that serve meals family style that are usually large portions to share.

A family-style restaurant differs from regular restaurants in a number of different aspects, such as serving bigger and large platters, having flexible seating, and encouraging the concept of sharing a meal. This style of dining is great for both customers and restaurant owners because it makes the place inviting for groups and families while also reducing costs and food waste. 

However, getting this concept correct from the get-go requires careful planning as it’s a unique concept. This article will explain what a family-style restaurant is and what makes it different from other eateries. We will also explore aspects that can go wrong when you run a restaurant like this. So, let's dive in. 

Defining a Family-Style Restaurant

Family-style eateries provide a special occasions dining experience based on shared meals. This idea is great for families and large groups, fostering a restaurant dining environment that promotes connection and discussion.

For restaurant owners, this dining style increases turnover, decreases the amount of food going to waste, and improves customer satisfaction with an interactive dining element. Unlike standard restaurants, where individual plates are common, family-style dining service focuses on the pleasure of sharing and promoting group decisions. 

What Sets a Family-Style Restaurant Apart?

Family-style diners differ from traditional eateries in several respects.

Layout & Seating Arrangements

Regular eateries tend to have a mix of table sizes with a fixed layout, focusing more on accommodating couples or small groups. Restaurants that serve family style meals have flexible seating with movable tables to accommodate different group sizes. This allows them to easily adjust the layout based on the number of guests dining together. Food and drinks are placed at the middle of the table with serving utensils for guests to enjoy a relaxed atmosphere and share a meal.

Menu Structure

In terms of the menu structure offered, family-style restaurants usually have bundle offers, with a variety of dishes having larger portions. Or they can even have smaller portions, with an emphasis on ordering multiple dishes for the table for everyone to dig into. Much like that of Spanish Tapas. 

Regular eateries mainly feature single-serving dishes that are consumed separately and are offered as a la carte (by the bill of fare) options, with a variety of individual plated options available.

Ambience & Atmosphere

The spirit of family-style restaurants is more open and warm, encouraging families to interact, laugh, share the joy of being together, and enjoy a casual dining experience. In contrast, the ambience in regular dining rooms varies widely, from the quiet and sophistication of fine dining to the relaxed informality of casual dining.

Both family-style and traditional restaurants are strictly regulated and are obliged to abide by health and safety guidelines. However, family-style restaurants might need additional staff training when it comes to portion control and preparing food for individuals with allergies at a shared table.

Navigation & Restrooms

Family-style facilities should also have larger restrooms to accommodate families with children. Bigger table sizes and flexible seating arrangements might also require extra space for manoeuvring wheelchairs and guaranteeing mobility for all customers and staff.

Benefits of Family-Style Dining

There are numerous advantages of a family-style dining restaurant, both for restaurant owners and customers.

Cost-Effectiveness for Customers

For customers, family-style dining can be more cost-effective, especially for larger groups. Sharing large platers allows diners to sample a wider variety of menu items without the need to order individual plates for each person. This can make dining out more affordable, especially for low-income families.

Unique Dining Experience

Family-style dining is a unique restaurant dining experience. It makes the eating experience better by creating a sense of community and encouraging conversation. When people share meals, they are more likely to interact and build closer relationships, making the whole experience more wholesome. Families and friends value spending time together this way.

Reduced Waste

When people share food, less goes to waste. In a group of people, there are usually people who eat a lot and people who eat little. The big eaters will make up the difference when groups overorder, so less food is ultimately wasted at the end of each service. 

The Challenges of Family-Style Dining

Even though family-style dining offers a number of benefits for both customers and restaurant owners, there are also a few challenges to consider.

Catering to Diverse Needs

Catering to diverse needs presents a significant obstacle. Balancing portion sizes and spices to suit both adults and children can be tricky. Offering a menu featuring a long list of options to satisfy taste requirements of all ages can complicate the whole operation, from acquiring ingredients to inventory management and preparing food. 

Additionally, meeting individual dietary requirements might require a broad selection of dishes with varying ingredients along with specialised staff training personnel to respond to allergies and dietary needs.

Operational Considerations

Operational considerations involve managing portion size to prevent waste while ensuring proper portions for each individual on a table. Acquiring ingredients for a diverse menu and managing inventory can also be challenging.

Using an inventory management system can help simplify the process of managing portion size. For efficient ordering and billing, the POS system combined with Menu Management System will keep things easy to manage.

Space & Logistics

Another challenge is space and logistics and creating an optimal floorplan. Ensuring tables are large enough to accommodate large groups of customers can limit the number of families being accommodated at the same time. Larger tables mean having less space to move around and serving a limited number of customers. 

Flexible and adjustable furniture can help you mitigate this issue to some extent, but it can present additional challenges. The best way to mitigate this challenge is to make sure the restaurant is designed with an open space in mind. Giving you room to move tables freely, while also having enough space for people to move around the restaurant. 

What Does a Family Style Restaurant Menu Look Like?

A family-style menu is all about sharing and has different categories with lots of options for everyone. Here's a sample family-style menu:


  • Jumbo pretzel basket with cheese sauce and honey mustard
  • Bread basket with balsamic and olive oil dip
  • Crispy chicken tenders with dipping sauces
  • Calamari with dipping sauces

Main Courses

  • Slow-cooked BBQ pulled pork with smoky BBQ sauce with a gluten-free option available
  • Herb-roasted salmon with roasted vegetables and lemon dill sauce
  • Baked cheesy mac and cheese
  • Chicken parmesan with spaghetti and marinara sauce - kid-friendly

Side Dishes

  • Creamy coleslaw 
  • Honey glazed carrots 
  • Garlic mashed potatoes
  • Tenderstem broccoli


  • Warm chocolate chip cookies with a scoop of ice cream
  • Homemade apple pie with vanilla ice cream - a timeless favourite
  • Fresh fruit cup with whipped cream - perfect for lighter appetites

For almost 20 years, 3S POS has offered one of the most flexible EPOS systems to international brands such as Caffe Concerto, Maroush, Comptoir Libanais, Pepe’s Piri Piri, GDK and thousands more delighted customers.

If you are looking for an Restaurant POS System that will not just help you accept payments but includes inventory management, loyalty programs, and much more, speak to our sales for a free demo.

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