The unwritten rules of behaviour in pubs
Bar staff in pubs expect politeness from customers and customers should expect the same. If you have a complaint, ask to see the manager. Stay calm. If your complaint is not dealt with successfully, contact the owners, probably a brewery or pub chain. Additionally you can post your comments on our site, you’ll feel better and it will warn others. Equally if you have good service then mention that too, nobody objects to praise.
Tipping bar staff is neither compulsory nor expected, but if you want to reward a barperson for good service then do so. The customary way of tipping was to offer them a drink when buying a round, but for most staff this is not now an option because many pubs ban staff from drinking while on duty; instead leave a tip or tell them to keep the change. Many bar staff are on the minimum wage so tips are welcome. How much tip to give is the customers decision, but would normally be around £1 to £3, roughly the equivalent of the cost of a drink.
If when eating in a pub you receive full restaurant service then the usual 10% gratuity would be polite, however if you order at the bar and the food is simply delivered to the table then only a token tip is necessary. Check the bill to see if a service charge has already been added, all bills will be inclusive of VAT.
I always leave a cash tip and ensure the person serving takes it, that way staff benefit directly even when paying by credit card.
Always check your change when you get it. Once you have left the bar it will be difficult to prove errors.
You will be expected to pay for food and drinks as you order them. Check before you order if you wish to pay by credit card, not all pubs accept them. Some pubs allow customers to run a ‘tab’, you will usually be asked for a credit card as surety.
If you are bothered by loud music, ask politely if it could be turned down, or off. Usually the only people actually listening to the music are the staff, but you are the customer, and therefore, king.
Alcoholic drink measurements are strictly controlled. A single shot of spirits is usually 25ml and dispensed from an optic or a stainless steel measure. Draught beers are sold in pint (568ml) or half pint glasses. Bottles usually contain 330ml. An Imperial (UK) pint is 20 fl.oz. not 16 fl. oz as in the U.S.
A Big Head
The amount of head (froth) on the top of beer has caused much controversy. Generally brewers regard it as part of the pint although organisations such as CAMRA (Campaign for Real Ale) argue that a pint should be just that, a full pint of beer. Occasionally you may get an oversized glass with a pint line on the side, which allows for the head, but these are rare. Most beers will have a small head, but if it looks excessive to you, don’t touch the glass, let it settle then ask for a ‘top-up’. Most bar staff will oblige.
More information about CAMRA’s Full Pint Campaign
Soft Drinks (non-alcoholic)
Soft drinks from dispensers are sold in half or pint glasses. You’ll probably be asked if you want ice but remember the more ice you have the less drink you get. Most soft drinks are bottled, including mixers.
There are no controls on prices of food or drinks served. It is not possible to state how much you should pay, as there are many factors which may affect prices, such as location, surroundings and quality of service. Hotels for example, usually charge far more than pubs for drinks and food. Prices tend to be higher in London and the South East, although competition is keener.
It is a legal requirement for prices of alcoholic drinks to be displayed near the bar, but they are often difficult to see. Typically a pint of beer costs around £3 to £3.50, but in london many pubs now charge around £4. Lagers are usually more expensive than ales. A spirit and mixer upwards of £3.50.
Duty (tax) on beers is calculated according to alcoholic content; therefore in theory, stronger beers should be dearer. Value Added Tax is charged in addition to duty. Wetherspoon’s
and Samuel Smith’s pubs
often have the cheapest beer prices, but look for promotions at other establishments. ‘Happy Hours’ have been criticised for promoting ‘binge drinking’ and in some places they have been voluntarily withdrawn.
Soft (non-alcoholic) drinks can be disproportionately expensive. For example a pint of cola from a fountain dispenser may cost as much as a pint of beer, but is much cheaper to produce and does not attract alcohol duty.
Food prices vary widely but pubs tend to be more reasonably priced than restaurants. Many starters cost around £4 to £6 and main courses from £8 to £10. Perhaps what is most important is the quality of the food and its value for money. In some ‘gastro-pubs’ expect to pay restaurant prices. Prices should be clearly displayed on a priced menu and must include VAT. A service charge is usually not included unless eaten in a designated area where waiter service is provided.
A complete ban on smoking in public places came into effect on 1st July 2007, smoking is not permitted in any pubs, bars or restaurants. Some pubs have smoking shelters outside. Please don’t drop cigarette litter outside pub fronts as they can be prosecuted and smoking banned outside in the street.
You will often see signs stating ‘toilets for customers use only’. Once there were public toilets galore on London’s streets but they are all but gone. So where do you go? Pubs always have toilets. Tricky when you’re desperate. As a matter of courtesy ask if you can use their toilets or buy something and then use them. Pubs pay hefty local taxes and water rates so deserve something in return.
It has to be said that hygiene standards in London’s pub toilets are inconsistent, to put it mildly. Consider this; if the toilets are dirty and they can be seen by the public, what are the cellar and kitchens like......?
Let common sense be your guide.
London is generally a very safe city, day or night. However, keep belongings close to hand, particularly handbags. Keep wallets in difficult to get at places and don’t show everyone that bundle of banknotes you’ve just drawn from the ATM. Drunks make easy victims, so stay in control.
Please don’t leave bags unattended. Security alerts are a nuisance.
Travel in London
During the rush hours, London’s transport system is overcrowded and not a pleasant experience. Off peak it’s a different story, so avoid busy times.
London’s transport system is divided into zones, radiating out into the suburbs. You can buy a Travelcard, which gives unlimited travel for the whole day (after 9.30am) on most trains and all tubes and buses operated by Transport for London. The most expensive Travelcard is £8.50 (adult) and covers all the 6 zones, which is virtually the whole of Greater London. There are generous discounts for families travelling together.
For travel in London, Oyster
cards are a pre-paid card which will always charge the minimum fare possible on your chosen route. Oyster cards can be bought and topped-up at tube and rail stations and at Oyster Ticket Stops. There are restrictions and conditions so please see www.tfl.gov.uk
Of course the best way to see London and its pubs is by Shank’s Pony (walk). If you’re happy walking, central London is deceptively small and full of surprises around every corner. There are plenty of books and guided tours available. See ‘Bookshop’
Don’t forget the River Thames, London’s natural highway.