饭店 and 餐馆 can both mean restaurant. My Chinese friend here in Dongguan tells me 饭店 is not commonly used to mean hotel. I want to understand in what contexts both of these words are used. 谢谢.
The difference between 餐馆 and 饭店 is:
- 餐馆 is only meant for a place where you consume certain cuisine, i.e. a restaurant
- 饭店 can mean either a restaurant or a hotel, depending on whether the place offer accommodation as part of its business or not.
if you say, "I'm going to xxx 餐馆", people understand that you are going there for a meal only, if no other specific purpose is mentioned.
if you say, "I'm going to xxx 饭店", people may think you're going to eat there (if there's a restaurant at that place) or you're going to stay there for a night (if it's a hotel).
Last but not least, it's more common nowadays in China to say "酒店" instead of "饭店" to name a decent hotel.
餐馆 and 饭店 differ in terms of formality, with 餐馆 being the more formal. 饭 and 店 are less formal words for "meal," and "store."
饭店 has the connotations of being an (informal) "coffee shop" type eatery. Ironically, it is the one that likely to be connected to a hotel, to which the 饭店 is an "adjunct." A 餐馆 is a "standalone" operation that would NOT be "adjunctive" to a hotel.
餐馆 is a restaurant. It is usually a small one on the street where you can have an inexpensive lunch or something like that.
饭店, on the other hand, could be either a restaurant or a hotel. And it could be as small as a 餐馆, or it could be as good as a five-star hotel.
I don't think they differ in formality; they refer to different types of restaurants.