On the Line / Casual Dining / What is a Greasy Spoon?

What is a Greasy Spoon?

Learn more about what a greasy spoon is, what you can find on the menu, how to start one, and where the term comes from.

Opening a Restaurant Checklist
icon RESOURCE

Opening a Restaurant Checklist

So many things go into opening a restaurant. Use this free PDF checklist to set your new restaurant up for success.

Get free download
You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002
First and last name* is required
Phone number* is required
Restaurant Name is required
What best describes your restaurant type? is required
What is your estimated opening date? is required
loadingspinner

We’ll handle your info according to our privacy statement.

Built for Restaurants
Adobe Stock 107358141 1925x1020 453813d

A greasy spoon is a small restaurant that mostly serves fried, greasy foods. Learn more about what a greasy spoon is, what you can find on the menu, how to start one, and where the term comes from.

What is a Greasy Spoon?

The term “greasy spoon” refers to a small restaurant that is usually affordable and primarily serves foods that are considered to be greasy, such as fried foods. It’s similar to a diner in America, or a café in Britain or Ireland.

What is the history of Greasy Spoons?

The term “greasy spoon,” was first used in 1902 and is a common term in America and the United Kingdom. It was originally used as a more derogatory term to describe a cheap, dirty, or unclean restaurant. In fact, the term “greasy spoon” can date back to the 1800s for the idea of referring to a restaurant or place, as being dirty, “like an unwashed, greasy spoon.” 

The term became more nostalgic during the 1970s and is now often used in a more endearing way to describe the charm of a diner or café where simple, affordable comfort foods are served.

What is typically on the menu at a Greasy Spoon?

A restaurant considered a greasy spoon serves heavier, comfort foods that are usually fried. Think diner food: fried or scrambled eggs, bacon, omelets, fried chicken, grilled cheese, pancakes, fish and chips, or spam and sausages.

How do you start a Greasy Spoon?

A greasy spoon would usually be considered a small restaurant concept, and to start one, you will first need to write a business plan. Other steps include finding a location, securing financing, and designing your food menu. You will also need to obtain a health department permit, a food handler’s license, and a food sales permit, among other steps.

How much does it cost to start a Greasy Spoon?

Since a greasy spoon would be considered a smaller restaurant, the start-up costs could range from as little as $175,000 to well over $700,000. But, keep in mind that the average price per square foot is between $100 and $800, with the median at $450. 

If you want to open a small restaurant greasy spoon, you should also consider your budget for commercial equipment. A greasy spoon will require you to invest in equipment such as an oven with a hood, frying equipment, grease traps, a commercial dishwasher, and other cooking equipment. You could reduce the costs if you buy old or used equipment, but experts say a restaurant’s kitchen equipment can cost anywhere between $40,000 and $200,000.

Is this article helpful?

DISCLAIMER: This information is provided for general informational purposes only, and publication does not constitute an endorsement. Toast does not warrant the accuracy or completeness of any information, text, graphics, links, or other items contained within this content. Toast does not guarantee you will achieve any specific results if you follow any advice herein. It may be advisable for you to consult with a professional such as a lawyer, accountant, or business advisor for advice specific to your situation.