As in every other country, the types of pubs and restaurants that are found in Prague differ enormously, with each of them having different expected standards of behaviour attached to them. Restaurants are generally more genteel and akin to restaurants anywhere else in the world, but pubs are rougher and it is important that you don’t upset any of the other drinkers, otherwise problems could materialize.
Generally you will be expected to seat yourself in both pubs and restaurants, although some restaurants will seat you. It is generally the case that the tables are long and accommodate more than one party, unlike in other countries where you will get your own table and therefore more privacy. It is good manners to ask the people sitting at the table whether the seats are free before you sit down, however don’t start rearranging the furniture to create more space – the owner of the establishment will not be very happy if you do!
Customer service is not something that restaurants and pubs are well known for and the staff working in them are generally not very attentive, although this is changing over time. The main reason for the waiters and servers being inattentive is that they are incredibly underpaid and therefore don’t really care about their job. Patience is the by word for Czech restaurants – don’t rush and they will come to you.
When in pubs, the standard of service that you get will be a lot different to restaurants. In many ways it will be a lot friendlier, but at the same time it will also be a lot less formal. Most of the time you won’t even need to order, as a beer will automatically be poured for you. If you are sitting down to eat, the amount of beers that you have consumed will be written on a tab at your table – don’t try adjusting it as the owners will not be best pleased with you!
Most restaurants and pubs will have a very casual attitude towards your attire, and jeans and t-shirts are acceptable to wear. You jacket can be hung over the back of a seat in a pub, or possibly on a coat rack. In nicer establishments there is often a cloakroom, which will cost a small amount of money to use. It is very important to respect the place that you are visiting, as pubs are an entrenched part of the Czech culture.
As with all other countries there are certain traditions that are observed when drinking, with the main one of these being the toast. Nearly all Czechs will toast their friends before they drink and it is also important to never pour one glass of drink into the other, which is seen as a really bad piece of manners. Paying the bill nearly always comes with a question from the waiter of “together” – basically they are looking to get away with doing less work by only having to process one order! It is often the case that you have to go up to the bar or server to pay and they don’t come to you. Paying usually involves cash, as most smaller establishments do not accept credit cards.
When eating or drinking it is advisable to keep one eye on your tab, as there are still scams that occur whereby extra things are added to the bill. This is not as prevalent as it was in the 1990s but it does still happen, although if a mistake is made don’t automatically accuse them of dishonesty – it could simply be a genuine mistake!
Tipping is prevalent throughout restaurants and, to a lesser extent, pubs, although the common rule of adding 10% to the bill does not apply. Instead, it is better to round up the amount – for example, if your bill is 91 CZK, then round it up to 100 CZK, therefore leaving a tip of 9 CZK. When going to a better restaurant, a higher tip will be required, although still not as high as Western countries. Always make sure that you leave your tip in the hand of the waiter, as leaving it on the table means that it is liable to be stolen.
It is considered good to drink alcohol after a heavy or fatty meal. Alcoholic beverages, especially beer and spirits, are believed to aid the body break down these foods. Other big custom in Czech cuisine is that people must always have a warm meal once a day. As documented in folk wisdom, it is healthy. Folk wisdom also maintains that meat is essential to a healthy life.