It’s one of the most common and charming types of menu ever. And it got its start well before restaurants were even a thing.
Today in the U.S., table d’hote menus are less common than in their European birthplace. For many restaurants, they’re rolled out for special occasions and holidays. Though they do remain popular in some high-end, white-tablecloth restaurants.
So here’s what a table d’hote menu is, along with how to pronounce it. And we’ve even got a table d’hote sample menu PDF in case there are any lingering questions.
What Is a Table d’Hote Menu?
The meaning of table d’hote is a menu that offers a multi-course meal—with multiple options for each course—at a fixed total price.
Table d’hote translates as “table of the host.” The host, the chef or restaurant, is offering a specific meal. You can take it or leave it, but you can’t really change it that much. It’s as if you’re sitting at the host’s table and politely accepting what they’ve prepared.
Where Did Table d’Hote Come From?
It began hundreds and hundreds of years ago in France’s inns, cabarets, theaters, and taverns. A group of guests would find themselves sitting together at a common table. That table was often called the host’s table. Not because the host sat there, but because it was one of the few tables in the space. So it was a special place.
There, the fellow travelers, drinkers, or performance-goers would enjoy one set meal together. There weren’t commercial kitchens back then. Not much restaurant technology to speak of at all, really. It was much easier to make one large meal and have everyone eat the same thing.
Sitting at the host’s table, or the table d’hote, because the most common way of dining in France before restaurants were ubiquitous. And once restaurants came on the scene, the table d’hote menu followed.
The first documented use of the word in English was 1617. While the common usage table d’hote definition in English, as a type of menu, dates to the early 1800s. That’s about when restaurants started to take over the world.
Table d’Hote Pronunciation in English
Table d’hote is pronounced tabluh doht.
Table d’hote is pronounced in English much the same way it’s pronounced in French. So, good news, you learned two languages for the price of one.
Difference Between A La Carte and Table d'Hote
An a la carte menu stands in opposition to the table d’hote menu, and all fixed menus. A la carte items are ordered individually and served separately. They may exist elsewhere on the full menu. But when ordered from the a la carte menu, they are not a part of a coursed meal and they often come with no side dishes. This allows guests cobble together individual dishes to create a meal of their own.
That is opposed to the table d’hote menu. Quite opposed to it. There, you are committing to a multi-course meal. And, when choosing your courses, you’re offered a small, curated selection of choices. For an even more curated experience, consider a prix fixe menu. The idea is that you’re enjoying the meal as the chef intends. She’s the professional, after all.
A La Carte And Table d'Hote Menu Sample
Here’s an a la carte sample menu. Each item is individually priced and served on their lonesome.
But here is a table d’hote sample menu PDF:
The table d’hote menu card shows a set menu, though there is a little wiggle room. Each guest gets a choice of an appetizer, entree, and a dessert. And it’s all for a set price. In our example, we also included a glass of house wine with each table d’hote order. What wines are eligible is typically stated by the server during menu presentation. Wines change often, so most businesses don’t print them on physical table d’hote or prix fixe menus.
Table d’Hote, Digital Style
That above point is actually one of the reasons why digital menus and digital wine lists are becoming so popular. If you use a digital menu solution, you can change up the wines on your table d’hote menu every night if you want. And you’ll incur exactly no paper or printing costs.
All your menu information—whether that be a wine list or a table d’hote or a la carte menu—can be changed at the click of a button. That means 100% of your menus are accurate 100% of the time. You can even visually emphasize whatever items are currently popular to boost profitability with a little menu engineering.
And, lastly, the entire industry is moving away from paper menus because of hygiene issues. They get surprisingly dirty (they’re actually the 2nd dirtiest thing in restaurants … behind highchairs) and they’re too hard to clean. A digital menu solves that problem. It’s easier to clean, if you even have to. Often a digital menu leverages QR codes in restaurants. A customer scans a QR code to bring up the menu on their smart device. It’s so easy, so safe, and so convenient, we couldn’t not bring it up.