As in every other country, the types of pubs and restaurants 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. Generally, 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 pleased 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 byword 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 number of beers 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. Your jacket can be hung over the back of a seat in a pub or possibly on a coat rack. There is often a cloakroom in nicer establishments, which will cost a small amount of money to use. It is essential to respect the place you are visiting, as pubs are an entrenched part of the Czech culture.
As with all other countries, certain traditions 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. A higher tip will be required when going to a better restaurant, although still not as high as in Western countries. Always make sure that you leave your tip in the waiter’s hand, 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. Another 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.