In restaurant terminology a table d’hôte menu is a menu where multi-course meals with only a few choices are charged at a fixed total price. Such a menu may also be called prix fixe (“fixed price”). The terms set meal and set menu are also used. The cutlery on the table may also already be set for all of the courses.
Table d’hôte contrasts with “à la carte“, where customers may order any of the separately priced menu items available.
Table d’hôte is a French loan phrase that literally means “the host’s table”. The term is used to denote a table set aside for residents of a guesthouse, who presumably sit at the same table as their host.
The meaning shifted to include any meal featuring a set menu at a fixed price. In the original sense, its use in English is attributed as early as 1617, while the later extended use, now more common, dates from the early nineteenth century. This meaning is not used in France.
- Many restaurants in the United States convert their menus to prix fixe only for certain holidays such as Thanksgiving. Generally, this practice is limited to holidays where entire families dine together, such as Easter and Thanksgiving, or on couple-centric holidays like Valentine’s Day and Sweetest Day.
- In France, table d’hôte refers to the shared dining (sometimes breakfast and lunch) offered in a vacation named chambre d’hôte (similar to “bed and breakfast”). Every guest of a chambre d’hôte can join this meal, cooked by the hosting family. It is not a restaurant, there is only one service, the price is fixed and usually included in the vacation. Everyone sits around a large table and makes small-talk about the house, the country, and so on.
- What is closer in French to the meaning of table d’hôte in English is a menu (“lunch special” or “fixed menu”). It usually includes several dishes to pick in a fixed list: an entrée (introductory course), a main course (a choice between up to four dishes), a cheese and/or a dessert, bread, and sometimes beverage (wine) and coffee, all for a set price fixed for the year between €15 to €55. The menu du jour, a cheaper version with less choice, an only side dish and with a set main course, the plat du jour (“dish of the day”) changed every day, is usually between €9 to €15.
- In Belgium, restaurants in the medium to high price range tend to serve menus where the customer can compose a menu from a list of entrees, main courses and desserts. These dishes can be ordered separately and all have a different pricing depending on the ingredients used. However combined in a three-, five-, or seven-course menu they will be served at a fixed pricing that is usually €10–15 cheaper than when ordered separately. Also in many cases if a menu is chosen it will be accompanied by so-called “amuses” (little side dishes between the courses). Wine and other beverages are almost always excluded.
- In Sweden almost all restaurants – from the simplest diner to the finest luxury restaurant – serves Dagens rätt – ‘the daily dish’ during lunch hours (on week days) at a much lower price than the same dish would cost at other hours. Most commonly there is a choice of two or three dishes: a meat/fish/poultry dish, a vegetarian alternative, and a pasta. Sallad buffet, bread and butter and beverage are included, and sometimes also a simple starter, like a soup.
- In India, the thali (meaning “plate”) is very common in restaurants. The main course consisting of rice or roti (flat bread) and assorted side dishes and vegetables is arranged on a large plate. This may be followed by dessert. There may be more than one kind of thali – vegetarian, tandoori, deluxe – the name signifying the prefixed items as well as the price.
- In Spain, there is the menú or menú del día, which usually includes a starter, a main dish, bread, drink and choice of coffee or dessert. It may range in price from €8 to €30, with €10 being the average price.
- In Russia, the most typical fix-price menu is called business lunch (бизнес ланч), taken in the daytime, on weekdays only.
- In Japan, a similar practice is referred to as teishoku (定食). This has a fixed menu and often comes with side dishes such as pickled vegetables and miso soup. Typical prices can range from ¥800 to ¥1,500.
- In Italy, this is the typical practice in small rural restaurants called osterie (singular osteria, from oste meaning “host” as in the French hôte mentioned above). Osterie vary widely in what they offer, but most serve simple foods and wine sourced locally, and prepared according to the local practices. Other Italian restaurants offer a selection of antipasti at a fixed price; often enough to fare una tavola completa (fill the table). Diners enjoy an informal meal as they serve themselves various small portions family style.