[Tagging] Distinction between amenity=restaurant and fast_food

Greg Troxel gdt at ir.bbn.com
Thu Dec 11 00:32:13 UTC 2014

Richard Welty <rwelty at averillpark.net> writes:

> the common rule of thumb is counter service vs. table service. even
> so, there are occasional grey areas (e.g., at Hardees you order at
> the counter but they deliver to your table, still fast food in my book.)
> and it produces slightly quirky results, for example the most excellent
> deli Gershon's in Schenectady has table service but the most excellent
> deli Maurice's in Albany has counter service. they are otherwise very
> similar restaurants. it kind of makes you wish we didn't have fast_food
> and instead had detailed tags, as another suggested.

(am way behind on my mail, and picked a semi-random note to reply to)

As I see it, there are a few issues brought out by this discussion. My

  what people think "restaurant" means in English is not really relevant
  to fast_food vs restaurant.  Just because McDonald's meets wikipedia's
  definition of restaurant does not make amenity=restaurant appropriate
  - OSM has specific guidelines to split places that sell food into
  multiple tags.

  Fundamentally, fast_food is a quality/value judgement.  It implies a
  degree of industrialization in the process.  Ordering at a counter and
  having it handed to you **more quickly than it should have taken to
  prepare it** is a huge clue.

  amenity=restaurant implies that you sit at a table, order from
  waitstaff, and have food delivered, always.  This is fairly easy.

  amenity=cafe is a place where it isn't as formal as restaurant, but it
  has actual food, and typically one will order at a counter and either
  you get called to pick it up later, or it will be delivered, often to
  your table identified by some number that you were handed when you
  ordered.  "actual food" is key here, and yes that's a value judgement
  at the boundary.

In Richard's example, I would put a nice deli with counter service as
cafe.  That's not a dig, it's saying that it doesn't have seated
service.  I expect high-quality food from something tagged amenity=cafe.

Note that amenity=restaurant does not imply high-end food.  It only
implies more or less that there is seated service and almost but not
quite implies that food is prepared (final steps anyway) to order, not
ahead of time on speculation that someone will appear.

The really hard line is cafe vs fast_food.  The true test is whether
people who appreciate food quality are willing to go (cafe) other than
under circumstances when they feel they really have to save time
(fast_food).  There is no exact objective test for this difference.  But
if it's a chain, or if foodie types look down on it, it's likely
fast_food.  If it's a one-off and people think the food is good, it's
cafe.  I realize that doesn't fit the OSM objectively-verifiable notion,
but that's how the world really is.

The real issue is that what people who use maps want to know is whether
a place has decent food or factory food.  That's IMHO why the cafe vs
fast_food distinction exists.

Another way to look at the issue is that local mappers should decide.
I've been tagging places as fast_food, cafe and restaurant.  I'm not
aware of anyone changing my tags or messaging me about the choice.  So I
don't see much actual dispute.


For me, the only difficult call has been Starbucks, which I couldn't
remember but I looked and I did call it cafe, vs an indie coffeeshop,
which I definitely would put as cafe.  Dunkin Donuts is fast_food, as is
Chipotle, Qdoba and Subway.  A one-off breakfast place that isn't super
nice (typical 0530 opening omelette shop) I still put as restaurant
because you are seated and have waitstaff.

Aside from Starbucks this has been easy.  If someone challenged me that
Starbuck's should be fast food because it's really hard to objectively
tell from Dunkin Donuts I would probably concede quickly.  Maybe I'll
change the one I tagged after this note anyway :-) Other things I would
need to hear a persuasive argument why I was wrong.

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