Pub etiquette

A few pointers on pub etiquette

Pubs are usually pretty relaxed and informal places, so there aren’t too many rules, but visitors do sometimes get caught out, so here are a few pointers.

Ordering drinks

Generally, you order your drink from the bar and take it to where your friends are sitting or standing. You often order food from the bar, too, although food will usually be brought to you after you’ve ordered. Ask the person behind the bar about ordering food. One common exception is when you’re sitting down and eating – you may be able to ask the waiter or waitress for more drink while you eat.

Queuing is normal at the bar... (thanks to the BBC for the photo)When you go to the bar to order a drink and there’s a group of you, don’t all go together, since there won’t be room. One or two of you should go and order the drinks and bring them back.

Don’t order drinks one by one, the person behind the bar can usually handle more than one at a time. And an important word of advice: when you order a round of drinks that includes Guinness, order the Guinness first!

If there are lots of other people standing at the bar drinking and not waiting to order a drink, ask someone to let you get to the bar in order to get a drink – don’t push in. When you’ve got your drinks, leave the bar. Don’t stay where you are, because it will annoy the people who let you in. If people are queuing to order drinks, wait your turn. A good way to start a fight in a pub is to try to push to the head of a queue two minutes before closing time. If the bar staff have seen you waiting, they’ll serve you.

There are a growing number of pubs in London and the UK that are offering Continental table service: you don’t have to go the bar because someone comes and takes your order! While not traditional pub behaviour, it is convenient, and we find that the atmosphere in these pubs is often more convivial than in pubs that still make you join a scrum at the bar.

Paying for drinks

You usually pay for the drink when you order. If you’re using a debit/credit card, then you can probably run a tab. Often there’s a minimum order amount of £5 or £10 – not difficult to achieve, frankly, in this day of £3-£4 pints – but you’ll have to leave your card behind the bar for security. Some places add a surcharge to your drinks bill to cover bank charges.

With technology the way it is, some even offer cashback if you use your card! Others have cash machines in the pub, but these usually charge a fee for withdrawing your money! These are both dangerous developments, because they often lead to staying in the pub, headaches, memory loss and empty bank accounts. Be careful.

Tipping

In pubs, you rarely tip at the bar, even when the bar staff give you your change on a platter – this is a cheap ploy to extract more money from customers, who are usually already paying exorbitant prices for the drink.

However, if you feel someone in the pub has provided exceptional service you can offer to buy him or her a drink. Sometimes, he or she will actually take the drink (and drink it with you), but more often than not will take money equivalent to the price of a drink – usually a half. This is acceptable.

A few pubs provide table service for drinks, especially if they do food, and, where you get this, it’s OK to tip for good service (around 10–12.5 per cent).