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In Europe I'm a big fan of Vapiano restaurants. If you haven't heard of them, their concept is to combine the high(er) quality food of a regular restaurant with the self-service model of a buffet. This gets you your food faster and you don't have to tip anyone, which is especially important for North America where tips are around 15-20%.

But how do I search for such upper scale self-service places? A search for "fast food" usually returns McDonalds and Burger King, while a search for "self service restaurant" usually returns buffets which are a different concept. Or perhaps there's a website listing down chains like Vapiano, so that you could at least search for those chains while traveling?

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You may be looking for 'fast casual' restaurants whose Wikipedia entry even includes Vapiano. An alternative term is casual dining but that would usually refer to a place with table service.

If there's any table service in a fast casual place, it'll be limited to bringing the food you ordered to the table or removing dishes. I (US native) might tip 10% or a few dollars in that case but it's not standard. The restaurant may have a tip jar at the counter so you can tip (or not) when you order.

Here's Wikipedia's list of fast casual restaurants.

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    Don't leave money at the table, unless you intend to leave it for me. They may not come round ot bus the tables for an hour. There is indeed a tip jar at the cashier. Also unfortunately "fast casual" is not that useful a google word, because the search result list is being vandalized by McDonalds, Taco Bell, Wendys, Arbys and other "cheap food in a sack" tier restaurants, who want to believe they too are part of the "fast casual" market, often with a few upscale items grafted onto their menu. – Harper Jan 13 at 9:03
  • @Harper all true but leaving a tip on a table and having it stolen by another customer could happen anywhere. Stick it under a plate if you're worried. – mkennedy Jan 13 at 12:28
  • I'm saying at a fast casual restaurant, that wouldn't even be stealing. Because there is no table service at all; when staff comes out and buses abandoned tables, that is not table service, that is tidying up the restaurant because people are pigs. – Harper Jan 13 at 17:07
  • I understand. I'm thinking of Panera where you can order from a table, or if you order hot food, someone brings it to your table. It's still casual and fast but it's a step up from hang around the counter waiting for your food. I said the tipping wasn't usual. I'm so happy to have never had to work food service that I tend to be generous tipping. I tip when I get take out food from a regular restaurant too. – mkennedy Jan 13 at 18:13
  • Yeah, that thing where you can order food on your iPad off their website from a Panera table is kind of an anomaly. Actually they "run" at my McDonalds too, when you order at the kiosk you take a "table card" that is electronic that geolocates you within the restaurant so a runner knows where to find you. That doesn't mean you tip at McDonalds and you still have to bus your tray. – Harper Jan 13 at 18:39

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