Monday, July 09, 2007

What does the phrase “smluvní ceny” at the bottom of my restaurant menu mean?

Translated literally, it means “agreed” or “contracted” price. Does that imply that you can bargain or haggle over the price of your meal? Not really. In fact, it simply refers to the fact that the prices indicated in the menu are not regulated by the state. Since almost no prices are regulated by the state, why do businesses use the phrase? It is probably in remembrance of the long years of communism when virtually all prices – from those of beer and bread on up to cars and refrigerators – were regulated and usually at very low levels.

The same goes for the phrase “cenová skupina” (or price category). The reference here is to a law passed in 1956 that designated restaurants, hotels, and bars into one of four categories of quality – first was the highest and fourth the lowest or dustbin category. The idea here was to provide a sort of good housekeeping seal of approval. Establishments in each of the categories (except for the lowest) were expected to meet certain minimal norms on such matters as tablecloths, variety of meal selections, sanitary facilities, and room service. The law establishing these categories was actually rescinded in 1982, but even today many restaurants and hotels still carry designations like 1. cenová skupina even though they are no longer legally meaningful. Many in the country’s artistic and bohemian crowd still, however, seek out the fourth category for its louché charm.


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