Dining Out in Europe? It’s Different.

One of the things I forget about here at home, but remember when I’m back in Europe, is how good, how professional, the service is in most of the restaurants. From the high end restaurants to the typical cafes and bistro that spill out onto the public sidewalks, what you will experience is service that is professional and fast—no, brisk is a better word.

I remember a waiter in a restaurant in Austria. He took our orders—appetizers, salads, main course and dessert— without writing anything down. After the meal was over, he came to the table, recited our entire order from memory while jotting it all down on a small notepad. When finished, he totaled it up quite rapidly, tore the sheet out of the little pad, and presented it as our dinner check.

As we left the restaurant, my daughter asked why, if he was going to write down every item we ordered anyway, why wait until after the meal to do it? Why not write down as he took our orders? Personally, I think we were getting a demonstration of his professional skill as a waiter.

It’s different in France (Of course, what isn’t?). For one thing, people eat out a lot in France, particularly in the cities. A Parisian once told me that the French eat out so much because the typical apartment is quite small and they can afford dining out because most city dwellers do not own a car. The money saved—car payments, pricey gasoline, insurance and especially off-street parking—makes dining out much more affordable. 

Finally—trust me on this—you will never, ever experience a French waiter approaching your table and saying, “Good evening. My name is Jacques and I’ll be your server tonight.”