Any and all comments and ideas regarding Table d'Hote needed - Help!

Hello all,

would love to have input (any and all comments and advice) on my Table d'Hote question.

I am revamping my website and rethinking the cooking & menus I currently offer and would like to know how you all do it. What kind of menus (French, English, whatever) do you offer, are they limited to certain days of the week or season, is it at the family table ( do you eat with them or not), what kind of pricing and how many courses, is wine included and if so, is it table wine (vrac) or top notch bottles? And finally, what is working for you and what has not?

thanks so much for any and all guidance you can offer. I am trying to decide whether or not to continue and if so in what style or truly going away from what I do!

thanks loads, Natalie

I don't think that people are suffering from the trait of "empire". I do, however, think that non-french people find it very difficult to follow the french way of compartmentalizing every type of business. Indeed, I think this is to the detriment of the french hospitality industry, their clients and the french economy.

Also, I don't think that those who fail to operate correctly under the table d'hote regime, realize that they are giving ammunition to the already creaking french hotel sector, who continually fail to update and realize that their clients are becoming more discerning.

As things stand at present, one has to be sure of just what hospitality you are able, or willing to offer and abide by that.

After reading Jane Williamson's input and adding my own, I am horrified that most of the other contributors to this discussion, are ignoring the the most important points of table d'hote. Just to make sure that I wasn't missing something, I consulted with my french friends and also my french colleagues at Radio Liberté (Dordogne). My co presenter at Radio Liberté, a former journalist at Figaro, and publishing house editor, was appalled: "what do these people think they are doing. This is France....". People offering choice menus, not eating with their guests etc, are totally out of order when they advertize their supposed table d'hote, and frankly, I cannot understand why the site admin hasn't intervened and pointed out the rules of table d'hote.

It is hardly surprizing that some sections of french society are not well disposed to some expats, who seem suffer from the well known trait of "empire": to ride roughshod over other cultures. That attitude is clearly shown, in the total lack of response to the points raised by Jane and I.

If you come to France and want to take part in aspects of its culture, you have to abide by any rules that go with it.

As I said before, I intend to air this topic on my program, Culturegap, this Mercredi at 13hrs. The program has a world wide audience on internet and podcast.

Ahh, still have to work though and the house we have is not big enough for guests! I have two jobs at the moment, I sell wine in a wine cellar 3 days a week and I am also self employed as a tour guide doing guided tours of the region. In my spare time I keep the books for my husband who is also self employed, then for fun I cook, clean, etc for my husband and two kids aged 5 & 7. And no, I don't have a nanny/au pair/ parents in the same country, we just rely a lot on state childcare.

To be fair, I am one of those mum's who couldn't wait to get back to work after having my kids though and would have done even if I could have afforded to stay home.

If only I had that is my only income and, as I am an American, the French DO NOT take care of my financially either - would love to just do it casually and spend all the free time with my daughter, whom I adore, however I must pay the bills and keep food in my baby's belly...I am not going back stateside!

Kudos to you, enjoy!

I don't have a gite but have worked in overseas tourism for more than 20 years now. Recently worked as a consultant for Tots to Travel advising gite owners how to get more bookings so still keep an eye on the industry.

Having been involved for so many years, wouldn't dream of doing it in my own home - be on call 24 hours a day, you must be joking - I've got kids now instead, that's enough :-)

Tracy, Great advice! really appreciated - good info and insight there - do you still do meals?

thanks loads, Natalie

From my experience as a chalet girl, when you start out you have such ambitious plans to do the best ever food. As time goes on, you realise that it takes such a long time so you start to plan simpler stuff, in terms of less prep time. For example, I used to do mash with Beef Bourgignon, too many potatoes to peel, so changed to tagliatelle. Roast potatoes that also needed peeling changed to potato wedges and so on.

Menu planning is also important in terms of how everything is cooked, make sure one course is cold, one cooked in the oven and one on the stove top, that kind of thing. It may come naturally to professional cooks but to home cooks, used to cooking for a family of 2 or 4 it takes a bit of time.

Don't be afraid to 'cheat' a little (unless you are offering gourmet, home made, bio etc) for example one of my popular desserts was halved peaches, with brown sugar and rum, peach schnapps etc, lightly grilled with a home made fudge sauce and cream. Absolutely no effort required but always a winner!

The other thing to watch out for is how much washing up is created, another time consuming issue.

From a guest point of view, I'd be more than happy to eat out on the last night of my holiday but if I've driven a long way then I would appreciate a meal on arrival. Wouldn't have to be a full meal but maybe a plate of cold meats, some local cheese, bread and wine, available buffet style so that even late arrivals could be catered for.


what do you mean by 'simple' (regional cuisine?) and how does that change from what you did last year? do you think not cooking weekends will cause any grumblings, as I've considered not doing weekends too? are your guests mostly French or Anglos?

thanks tons for your input, all very helpful!

Thanks Christine, more good input...seems that limiting the number of evenings may be the best plan, as yes, doing it daily is very exhausting..thanks again and here's to a full 2012! Natalie

I IMAGINE that you are a offering a service

b ....trying to make a living

c....avoiding a drink and drive situation...going to restaurants means no wine?

HI Natalie - I started a B&B with a table d'hote last year - mainly because i love to cook - it's a nice way to meet people - my irish husband gets his fix of talking, and it's a 'free' social life!

i don't think we make much money if any - but we DO get to eat the food and drink the drink for free. i do an apero (sparkling) and nibbles... then four SIMPLE courses - starter, main, cheese, desert... with bread, coffee if they want and unlimited wine - we serve our local cave wine that we drink - red, white or rose depending on what they want... we start at 8 and usually it's over by 10 - no-one has got 'drunk' yet but some do drink more than others... we charge 25 pp. our kitchen, dining, living is all open plan - so it's quite a relaxed affair - we had some lovely australians last year who wanted to watch the late rugby on tv - so once i'd finished the washing up i left them to it...

i'm not doing food on fridays or saturdays this year though - there are tons of local restaurants to try and it means we get the 'weekend' to ourselves... and as i capitalised above i'll be cooking much more simple food this coming year!

x teresa

Hi Natalie

We do Tables d`hotes..but on a very small scale as it was never our intention to cook every night.We limit our meals to max 3 per week in summer..this means that the local restaurants also get business which we consider to be important. Also if you do this every day it gets to be exhausting.We always eat with the Jan says thats part of the fun & you should always eat with guests if you advertise table d`hotes. We are not qualified cooks so we offer good "family" style food ( nothing too fancy as that gets to be stressful for all concerned) trying to use local ingredients (Puy lentils, Auvergne cheeses,locally produced wine,veg & fruit from the garden etc) as much as we can. We start with an apero at 7.30 & because we limit the wine we offer ( we put out a carafe) the meals are always over by 10pm...& the guests seem to like that. Most of our clients are French I hasten to add & so far the meals have been very sucessful from both our aspect & the guests too.


from what i can see and have read here most are pretty much ofering the same style/type of about something a little diferent,like offering a more bespoke personal service offer packed lunches and picnics found out prior to the visit what customers want and provide that style of service.yes it may cost more to provide but this can be covered by a fair little extra charge,i am sure many other will or can add to this idea,so good luck

Thanks John - insight is always welcome, in rural France and Sundays, Monday and winter all is closed...and not much nearby (nor much good), but I am not sure which direction still about table d'hote, due to accounting and time...

Greetings a tous. Think I might have mentioned this in a another post ( in a galaxy, far,far away ...) but table d'hote - to me, can be a nightmare.

We live in a town some two hours south of Paris and mid way twixt the Calais/Med run.

The place - Bourges - has many OK to excellent restaurants as you might expect from one of the best preserved medieval places in France.

We have a b&b here at and - if this gets past James et Co's eagle eye - you will notice that we offer table d'hote.

This was mainly intended for people with v. young kids, those that might have ' mobility issues', the fact that Sunday/Monday nights don't realy rock around here etc.

Those who are not in the above group and have no interest in exploring are, by default, not interesting.

If you are in deep country - fine. But in an active town?

We have t d'hoted ( is that legal?) some great people - but not that many.

(Oh, and do not offer great cheese or fine wine.When you do your retrospective accounting - not our speciality but we are learning - you might discover you have subsidised some real supper time bores)

Bonne chance....


The essence of table d'hote is simplicity, and Frenchness and wanting to share your table with others. Anything outside that is pretentious. That is reserved for restaurants, where the caterers are not involved with their guests, other than to offer a commercial service. There are grades of table d'hote, depending on the host. In a simple household, one could expect boudin noir with apples, whereas, in a château, one would expect something more sophisticated. Incidentally, table d'hote doesn't have to be associated with chambre d'hote.

By not eating with the guests, is contrary to the whole ethos, and that attitude, sadly is too often associated with so-called table d'hote offered by epats. For a true user of this service, such behavior is downright bad manners and insulting, and should not be advertized as table d'hote.

I will make a point of raising this issue in the "culturegap program" ( on mercredi 14 Mars 13 hrs

regards, Vincent Flannery, editor culture gap, radio liberté, Riberac, Dordogne.

no surprises there ;-)

We don't have any limits set on the amount of wine, and find that generally speaking, it's swings and roundabouts but by and large people don't drink enormous quantities. I hate to say it, but it's almost always British guests who go over the top with the wine.


Thank you, Natalie, and with regards to drinking, so far, no problems!