Le Ticket Resto

Le Ticket Resto

And today, I thought I would share with you a small and mundane element from the everyday French office life. A food-related element, that goes without saying.

In France, the set of laws that governs the work environment, le code du travail, forbids you to eat in the rooms where you work (ahem — no, I don’t know how those crumbs got into my keyboard, did they maybe chip off from the ceiling?). But if enough employees wish to eat in their workplace, the employer must provide a way for them to do so under safe and healthy conditions. He can either furnish a room with chairs, tables, a fridge and a microwave, or he can give them access to a cafeteria (usually operated by large catering companies), or he can give them lunch vouchers to use in nearby restaurants.

Such vouchers are called chèques-repas, chèques-déjeuner or titres-restaurant, but are most often referred to as tickets resto. You get a little checkbook at the beginning of the month, with one voucher for each day that you will work. Their value is co-financed by you and your employer, usually on a 50/50 basis, which means that if your ticket resto has a 6€ face value, it costs you 3€ (deducted from your paycheck) while your boss pays for the other 3€. The incentive is that the whole thing is tax-deductible for the employer as for the employee. Of course, the higher the face value of your tickets restos, the bigger the perk, and it’s one of many ways to judge how well a company treats its employees.

Most restaurants in France will display a little sticker on their door to indicate that they accept those vouchers, provided they are open for lunch and are interested in catering to the office crowd. If you’re not sure you can just go ahead and ask — “Vous prenez les tickets resto?” — but be warned that some mid- or upscale restaurants will look at you with contempt and scoff: “On n’est pas chez Flunch“*, as I was once told at a restaurant where they thought good food could make up for obnoxious service.

* Flunch is a French chain of cafeterias, often found in malls.

The use of tickets resto is restricted by a thousand and one rules. They are only valid for the current year (the 2005 vouchers will expire in January of 2006). Restaurant owners are legally forbidden to give you any change on them, even if what you buy is less than the face value of your ticket resto — this to prevent said tickets resto from becoming a currency of their own — but they will sometimes give back up to one euro, or give you a credit for next time. Theoretically you should only use one voucher per meal, but that rule is hardly ever respected by restaurants and I have occasionally used eight or ten at a time: since I sometimes bring my own lunch into the office, my vouchers tend to pile up and when the expiration date draws near I find myself frantically trying to use them up — or trade them with my coworkers, who spend them more regulary.

A generous use for your tickets resto, if you’re so inclined, is to give one every once in a while to the homeless people who make their way from car to car on the metro, explaining the dire straits they find themselves in and asking for “une pièce de monnaie, une cigarette ou un ticket restaurant” — a bit of change, a cigarette or a restaurant voucher. A tax-deductible gesture that’s always much appreciated by the recipient.

  • Après près de 2 ans d’utilisation, je viens enfin d’apprendre les règles qui régissent l’usage des tickets resto ! comme tu le fais remarquer, peu de gens les respectent, et heureusement. bises.

  • Meg

    Clotilde, I also always end up frantically using them up at the end of the year…isn’t convenient that it’s also the season for giving? I’ve always got a small stack of credit slips from the places near my work, too, reserved especially for the homeless of the 8th!

  • It seems like a good idea but I bet you can hardly get a ghourmet lunch with them. For me its a curried chicken salad sandwich with chutney on dark German bread and a can of Mountain Dew.

    No extra charge for crumbs in the keyboard.

  • Wow – that is interesting about not allowing people to eat where they work. There are cafes and bistros on the campus of the company I work for (because it is the headquarters for the company), but when I get the food I usually eat in front of my computer. I’m trying to break the habit – especially in the summer, it would be nice to get a break from the monitor glare!

  • Lisa

    Just found your blog and I’m truly enjoying reading through it all.

    I’m not sure what I’d do if I couldn’t eat lunch at my desk — but I wouldn’t complain if the boss paid for half of my lunch out every day.

  • Marie-Elise

    Dear Clothilde –

    I’m delurking for a moment, firstly to tell you what a delight I find your blog and recommendations (I live in Paris). From the kitchen point of view I feel you are more of a kindred spirit than the exclusively-cheap-pasta-and-lardon-eating French students I live with (although I’ve been trying to introduce them to the delights of English cookery)!
    Secondly – can you think of anywhere around Paris where I could pick elderflowers? ‘Tis the season to make cordial, since alas sirop de fleurs de sureau doesn’t seem to exist over here, and I can’t spend the summer without it.

  • Erin

    Dear Clothilde-

    I am so pleased to have found your site! I am a French teacher in Texas and I have traveled extensively in France. I adore Paris and feel equally at home there as I do in my own city.

    Every time I take a group of students to France, we always have tickets-resto for one of our meals in Paris. The students always have such a fun time trying to find the ‘perfect’ restaurant in which to spend their cheque! Thanks for sharing all of this other insight on the tickets. They have a totally new meaning to me now.
    Merci! Erin

  • Magillicuddy

    Tax deductible? What do you mean by that? I thought it was just a tax-free perk — you don’t actually mean that you can “declare” the tickets restos on your tax form, do you?? !!

  • wow! i like the idea of tickets resto… unfortunately, i doubt it’ll be happening here anytime soon.

  • Randi

    so, Im curious, how much are yours worth?

    ps: since I moved to canada from California and I miss it terribly, Im wondering what is the biggest thing you miss about California( except the weather)

  • linda

    I love Flunch, especially their vegetables. It is a great place if you don’t have much money or time. Not gourmet, but I’ve had worse.

  • mvo

    What a fascinating tidbit of information into daily work life in France! Something probably so ordinary to you is totally new and fascinating to me! :) Thanks for sharing.

  • Lindsay Vecchio

    I have worked in the both the United States and France and find that the French seem to be better at seperating work and leisure than Americans. However trivial, I think that it is a great idea for it to be required that a work place provide its employees a place to eat. Work seems to sneak into every corner of life in the U.S., including meal time and the French have the right idea in protecting its citizens from this invastion.

  • ddj

    I rather enjoy eating in my office. I’ve got my own little stock of utensils, condiments, and beverages. Plus, not having to eat in our cafeteria means I don’t have to risk bumping into someone with whom I don’t have the time or desire to socialize.

    That said, I’m very much a fan of separating work and leisure. If I’m at home and haven’t brought my work laptop with me, I refuse to check my work e-mail on my own computer. I don’t even want my employer’s website in my browser history!

  • That’s an interesting bit of information you shared — an actual law forbidding people from eating where they work. After reading your post, I turned over my keyboard (its clear) to see what “goodies” have collected in there. Then I felt a little queasy… ewww! Time to get out the canned air.

  • gill

    Anyone know why we don’t have restuarant tickets in Canada like they do in France ???

  • Steve

    Re, eating at work:
    French laws forbids to eat your lunch at your desk:
    As the State provides the health care and pays for the most of it, one can understand that the state does not want to “promote” unhealthy habits. If you have an office job, it could be OK but what if you work in a workshop? or an hospital?
    Magillicuddy>> tax break for the company
    Ticket Restaurant are non only for Restaurants, but they also work for take away food, IE salad bar, deli, and also for “ready-to eat” items.
    Carrefour used to accept them for grocery shopping.

  • blue

    how can we purchase these meal tickets for travelers?

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