What are the hours for drinks, lunch and dinner?
In most cases, lunch is from 12 noon – 2:30pm and the last order will have to be sent to the kitchen by 2pm. Cafe terraces are teeming with people sharing conversation and drinks between 5:30 pm – 7pm and after 10:30 pm. Dinner hours are typically 8pm-10:30pm, and the last order sent to the kitchen by 10pm. In the rare exception that a restaurant is open early for dinner at 7pm, that is considered the first seating and they’ll need to seat the next guests by 9pm.
How far in advance should I make reservations?
Each wine bar, bistro and restaurant have their own rules – some will take reservations months in advance, while others won’t. 2 – 4 weeks minimum are the norm and as soon as possible, especially of popular restaurants. Your French-speaking hotel or apartment concierge will be extremely helpful to help get you the reservations you need in time. A good rule of thumb is to make dinner reservations as soon as your plane ticket and hotel have been booked.
Is it really necessary to make advance reservations?
Everyone is vying for a table in Paris’ most popular restaurants – most rarely have more than 24 seats and receive several hundred phone calls a day. Reserve early to be on the safe side. Walking around looking for a decent place to eat when you are a foodie in Paris, is a gamble.
Why are we waiting so long for the servers to remove our plates after we’ve finished eating?
Unlike other countries where they ask you if you are finished, a French server would not dream of interrupting your conversation or meal to ask you this question. You have to give them the secret signal that you are finished which is your silverware placed side-by-side at an angle of 10 & 4 o’clock on top of your plate. Now that I am used to this, it makes me crazy to have a server in NYC ask me ten times if I am finished or worse yet, start to take my plate away when I am in fact still eating but just taking a pause. If only they knew the secret signal:)
What credit cards are accepted in Paris restaurants?
Visa and Mastercard are widely accepted but American Express is not always (rarely) accepted.
What is the etiquette of tipping?
Tips cannot be left on credit cards and must be left in cash.
Servers are paid a wage, but tips are still appreciated. How much to leave is not an easy rule since a cup of coffee at a café and a 200€ meal are different experiences.
For a light bite at a morning café, leave the extra coin given as change or round up the change and leave a euro bill.
For bistros and restaurants, leave 10% and/or a bit more when the experience has been exceptional
Paying the Bill:
In a cafe, the server will automatically bring a white ticket receipt and leave it under your coffee cup. Just leave euros on the table. When they pass by and see it, they’ll make change. You can also leave the money on the table and leave the cafe if you don’t need change.
In a bistro or restaurant, they will bring the bill only when you ask for it so that you can enjoy your after dinner drink or coffee at your leisure.
When you are ready to pay, no need to wave your card or cash in the air because you are ready to go.
It is customary to leave your card or cash on top of the bill and not hand it to the server. When they pass by, they’ll either bring a credit card machine to the table or make change for you.
If I have food allergies, now what?
The time to communicate any and all food allergies is when you make your reservation. Restaurants will do their best with advance notice, but smaller bistros, cafes and wine bars are too small for last minute custom orders.