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The invention of the restaurant was no big deal

Did restaurants radically transform how people ate in public, offering them choice and privacy in public dining for the first time? 
No. This claim will, at the least, surprise anyone familiar with the question. In her excellent Invention of the Restaurant, historian Rebecca Spang upended the established idea that Boulanger founded the first restaurant in 1765. Yet even she implies, by her very title, that the restaurant was an important, even disruptive, innovation. The first restaurant had a clear and simple purpose:  to serve restorative bouillons called restaurants. But that purpose is now an historical curiosity, not a defining aspect of today’s restaurants. Nor did Diderot, the only writer to leave a personal account of the first restaurant, mention bouillons in his accounts.What then made the restaurant significant? The details vary, but most often it is said that the restaurant was the first public eatery where one could dine at individual tables and choose individual dishes. So…

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