Foodservice (US English) or catering industry (British English) defines those businesses, institutions, and companies responsible for any meal prepared outside the home. This industry includes restaurants, school and hospital cafeterias, catering operations, and many other formats.
The companies that supply foodservice operators are called foodservice distributors. Foodservice distributors sell goods like small wares (kitchen utensils) and foods. Some companies manufacture products in both consumer and foodservice versions. The consumer version usually comes in individual-sized packages with elaborate label design for retail sale. The foodservice version is packaged in a much larger industrial size and often lacks the colorful label designs of the consumer version.
Foodservice sales to restaurants and institutions are estimated to be approximately $400 billion, about equal with consumer sales of foods through grocery outlets. The foodservice industry is one of the largest employers in the United States.
Table service is food service served to the customer's table by waiters and waitressess, also known as "servers". Table service is common in most restaurants, while for some fast food restaurants counter service is the common form. For pubs and bars, counter service is the norm in the United Kingdom. With table service, the customer generally pays at the end of meal. Various methods of table service can be provided. See, for instance, silver service.
Gueridon service is a form of food service provided by restaurants to their customers. This type of service encompasses preparing food (primarily salads, main dishes such as beef stroganoff, or desserts) in direct view of the guests, using a "gueridon". A gueridon typically consists of a trolley that is equipped to prepare, cook and serve food. There is a gas hob, chopping board, cutlery drawer, cold store (depending on the trolley type) and general working area.