The opening of the first restaurant is credited to a certain Monsieur Boulanger, a Parisian soup-seller, who in 1765 opened an establishment offering customers a selection of wholesome soups and meals. This was something of a novelty. Eighteenth-century diners were not accustomed to being offered a choice when forced to eat out, and simply took what the innkeeper had decided to serve up that day. Nevertheless, it was another seventeen years before the illustrious Grande Taverne de Londres was opened in Paris to cater for more sophisticated and expensive tastes.
Back to Monsieur Boulanger; he called his wholesome soups restaurants, ‘restoratives’, broths to revive flagging energy levels, and the word was painted on a board hanging above the door of his establishment to attract passing trade. Restaurant was the present participle of the verb restaurer, ‘to restore’, which Monsieur Boulanger used as a noun. Restaurer, in turn, came from Old French restorer, a borrowing of Latin restaurare, ‘to restore, to repair’.
After the French Revolution (1789—99) many excellent chefs, who had previously been employed by the aristocracy, set up their own businesses and restaurants proliferated. By 1804 Paris alone had more than 500 such establishments. During the first half of the nineteenth century the word restaurant was borrowed into the many languages of Europe and Scandinavia to denote ‘eating place’, arriving in English in the 1820s.