Traiteur (culinary profession)

This article is about the French Chef/caterer. For other uses, see Traiteur (disambiguation).

The traiteur (French pronunciation: [tʁɛ.tœʁ]) in French history represents the origins of today's restaurant. Prior to the late 18th century, diners who wished to "dine out" would visit their local guild member's kitchen and have their meal prepared for them. However, guild members were limited to producing whatever their guild registry delegated them to.[1] These guild members offered food in their own homes to steady clientele that appeared day-to-day but at set times. Patrons called their guild member their traiteur. The guest would be offered the meal table d'hôte, which is a meal offered at a set price with very little choice of dishes, sometimes none at all.[2]

As for the etymology of the word, traiteur is an agent noun formed from the verb traiter ("treat"), which literally refers to the action of "treating" someone to something (for instance, a meal). The root of the verb is Latin tractare ("manage, handle"), a frequentative of trahere ("pull, draw"):[3] in ancient times, for example, Latins used the expression littera tractoria (roughly rendered as "treatment letter") to indicate a document the envoys of a prince would be given to receive food, accommodation and means of transport in the lands they would pass by, so to get a full treatment along their way.[4] This Latin root originated both French traiteur and Italian trattoria.

Present-day traiteurs

Today in France, a traiteur is a catering business devoted to takeaway food and service of banquets. Many traiteurs also undertake home delivery. Generally there is no seating on the business premises; a few traiteurs may have very limited seating. Especially in market towns where there is competition, traiteurs take great pride in the beauty of their window displays. Traiteur 'departments' are now common in supermarchés, the equivalent of the US/UK delicatessen. The staple of this type of business is an array of salads, cold meat and seafood dishes. In France today, it is a 900 million-euro business involving 1,250 companies.[5]


  1. Spang, 8-10.
  2. Spang, 30-31.
  3. The verb "treat" in the Online Etymology Dictionary
  4. Pianigiani, origin and meaning of the noun "trattore".
  5. Fedèle, P. et Bravo, E.


Spang, Rebecca L. (2001). The Invention of the Restaurant. (2nd ed.). Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press. ISBN 978-0-674-00685-0. 

Fedèle, P.; Bravo, E. (September 2006). "Traiteurs Organisateurs Réceptions: La mutation s'acceélère (Traiteurs and Caterers: The pace of change quickens)". Neo Restauration (434). 

Pianigiani, Ottorino (1907). Vocabolario Etimologico della Lingua Italiana (in Italian). Rome, Italy: Albrighi & Segati. 

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