How things go in restaurants can vary greatly from country to country. Even between neighbouring countries there are sometimes very different customs and rules of conduct. In this article I explain what you can expect when visiting a restaurant in the Netherlands.
Different kind of restaurants
The etiquette and behavioral norms of course depend on the type of restaurant that you visit. The vast majority of restaurants in the Netherlands are à la carte restaurants. But there are also all-you-can-eatrestaurants, buffet restaurants and pubs.
If you know in advance at which restaurant you want to eat, it is advisable to make a reservation. Especially on popular evenings such as Friday, Saturday and Sunday. Reservations can be made by calling the restaurant, but some restaurants have an online reservation form. Often you can go without a reservation, but it would be unfortunate if it turns out to be fully booked.
Dinnertime in the Netherlands is quite early compared to other countries. That can be traced back to early times where dinner was immediately served by the wife when the husband finished working at 5pm. Dinnertime in restaurants is usually between 5 pm and 8 pm.
Entering the restaurant
When you enter a restaurant, it is common to ask staff if they have a table for you, even if half the restaurant is still empty. Sometimes they let you choose a table and sometimes a waiter leads you to a table.
How to order food is depending on the kind of restaurant you visit. In almost all restaurants the waiter first asks what kind of drink you want. In an à la carte restaurant the menu will be handed out, sometimes you have to ask for the menu. In ‘pub-style’ restaurants it is common to order at the bar and pay immediately. In a buffet-restaurant you can choose your food from a buffet, as often as you like. In the most all-you-can-eat-restaurants you can order a couple of tiny meals by checking dishes on a menu or on a tablet.
On the menu you can find starters and main courses. In most cases there are also desserts on it, but sometimes the restaurant has a dessert-menu that will be handed out when the main course is finished. It is common that you order the starter and main course at the same time, but of course you can always skip the starter and take only the main course.
Payment and tips
The waiter will never charge the bill on his own initiative, you have to ask for it. Debit or creditcards can be used in almost all restaurants in the Netherlands, and is preferred to paying with cash. Tips are not included in the bill. It is common to give a 10% tip, the staff will be very thankful.
Smoking is prohibited in all restaurants in the Netherlands. Smoking on a terrace is allowed.
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