Restaurants, in one form or another, have existed since the dawn of civilization. In Ancient Greece and Rome, thermopolia served ready-to-eat food to customers using terracotta containers that were sunk into masonry counters. The modern notion of a restaurant and the word itself stems from 18th century Paris, where some historians say a soup vendor named A. Boulanger opened an eating establishment near the Louvre to sell rich broths that people believed were good for their health. In the U.S., eateries that provided meals, without also providing lodging, began appearing in cities in the late 18th century, in the form of coffee houses and oyster houses. Fraunces Tavern is among the earliest restaurants in the U.S. It is there that George Washington said farewell to the officers of the Continental Army on December 4, 1783, nine days after the last British soldiers left American soil. Nestled in New York’s financial district, Fraunces Tavern is still popular among dealmakers today.

One reason the restaurant business has always offered opportunities for middle-market dealmakers is that it is ever-changing and adapting to the tastes and budgets of consumers. That’s been more necessary in recent years. Since the recession, consumers have been demanding more value and affordability from restaurants. They have also become much more keenly aware of the impact of food on their health and on the environment. And they have become aware of the opportunities to celebrate their roots in the restaurants they choose. And, like many other industries, the Internet is transforming how we order and receive meals. All of these developments add up to very fertile ground for M&A. Check out our cover story on the 7 new categories of restaurants dealmakers are investing in. Heads up: It’s going to make you hungry!