What is a Diner?
A classic definition of a "diner" is a prefabricated structure built at an assembly site and transported to a permanent location for installation to serve prepared food. If you were to look up the word diner, you'd find Webster's Dictionary defines a diner as "a restaurant in the shape of a railroad car." They would have a counter, stools and a food preparation or service area along the back wall.
The newer modern diners refer to diner-restaurants, businesses that called themselves diners but which were built onsite and not prefabricated yet still having the feel of traditional diners. They would also have a casual atmosphere, a long counter, and late operating hours.
There was a third type of diner known as a valetine diner. Valentine diners ussually had small eight to twelve seat diners with a limited menu, making them ideal for a one-person operation.
It is believed that the origin of the diner can be traced back to Walter Scott, a part-time pressman and type compositor in Providence, Rhode Island. He supplemented his income by selling sandwiches and coffee from a basket to newspaper night workers and patrons of men's club rooms. When his business selling sandwiches began to take off he quit his other jobs began to sell food at night from a horse-drawn covered express wagon parked outside the Providence Journal newspaper office. He is credited with inspiring the creation of the American diner.