The PIJNTIY “guide” to tickets restaurant
Have you ever been beseeched for money in the metro by a homeless person who mentions that they also accept “ticket restos”? Maybe you’ve seen a Parisian paying for their dinner with a form of currency that resembles a food voucher. Did you ever wonder what the hell this obscure method of payment is? Allow me to introduce you to Tickets Restaurant - affectionately dubbed tickets resto - a system that is perhaps even more obscure than the Google algorithm.
N’ayez pas peur - never one to be daunted by cultural conundrums, I have put together the following guide to demystify tickets restaurant (or at least make them a little less confusing).
What is a ticket restaurant?
A ticket restaurant is a form of payment provided by French employers to partially fund the lunchtime meals of their employees. The system was originally introduced as a tax rebate for small French companies without the critical mass to offer a canteen with subsidised food. Because cheap lunch is a basic human right, people!
How do they work?
In essence, a ticket restaurant is an optional voucher system, funded 50% by the employer and 50% by the employee. But as with most systems designed by the French, it is so, so much more complicated than that. Sometimes the card works contactless, sometimes it doesn’t, sometimes it works on the second try, sometimes you need to use your PIN. Sometimes it works after 8pm and sometimes it isn’t even accepted at all.
And just when you think you have the whole thing figured out, a new and enigmatic rule is introduced...
But hey, I promised a guide to demystify tickets restos, so let’s hang in there and try to make sense of this together…!
How much do you get?
This is up to your employer to decide, and it often depends on how expensive it is to buy food in the area where you work. I work in the Marais which is expensive AF so I am entitled to 8€ a day. I get the 8€ for every day I work, which in my case is 5 days a week.
I am paid monthly, so my ticket resto account is topped up at the beginning of each month. 50% of this is provided by my company and 50% is debited from my pay.
Wait, what? Ticket resto ACCOUNT?
Previously, tickets restaurant were only available as paper vouchers, but this was pretty impractical when it came to giving change on items that were less than the value of the voucher. For example, if I wanted to buy a burger and fries for 6€ and only had a 8€ voucher I wouldn't get any change. This sucked major balls and led many people to unnecessary over-consumption, which is basically the last thing that you want to do as a French person.
Luckily, the French are experts in applying high technology to archaic systems (case in point: the cheque machine) and some genius decided to offer an electronic, card-based system. You just swipe the card (contactless, or with a PIN according to the terminal) as you would with a normal debit card. Pro tip: I have no idea why, but often contactless doesn’t work with tickets resto. If you try contactless and your card is declined, it is worth trying again with your PIN.
What if you want to buy something more or less than 8€?
Although you have 8€ allocated for each day, you can go above or below this amount. If you go below, the difference will still remain on your card. You have up until the end of February the following year from when your ticket resto funds were uploaded. (Did I mention that the French tend to overcomplicate things?)
Otherwise you can spend up to 19€ each day, so long as there are funds remaining on your account. Do not ask me why this ceiling exists, nor who chose the number 19€. There are some things we are never going to understand, people.
Where can you use your tickets resto?
Here is where it gets interesting. You can use tickets restaurant wherever food is sold. (And wherever tickets resto are accepted. Sometimes retailers do not “accept” tickets resto and I haven’t been able to figure out yet if this is 100% legal - if you have any idea, please chime in in the comments!).
The most awesome news is that you can use your tickets restaurant at the supermarket, so long as you buy at least one edible item. I shamelessly use my tickets resto to buy everyday items at the grocery shop (plus a banana). You can also use it to buy alcoholic drinks, because France. Gotta love a good complicated system with loopholes.
When can you use your tickets resto?
According to the Ticket Restaurant website, the service is available from Monday to Saturday. However, I have noticed that there is a bit of a pattern in terms of ticket Resto “dysfunctionality”, which I will outline below.
Monday - Friday
During the week, tickets resto seem to work up until 20h at a cafe or restaurant, but a little later at supermarkets.
On Saturdays, I try to use the card as early as possible, as I have noticed a couple of times where it hasn't worked after 17h.
On a Sunday, you can pretty much forget it.
Are tickets resto worth it?
It can be tempting to ridicule the French for their complicated systems, and food-based rights. But tickets resto are actually pretty cool. Sure, it isn't compulsory, but who would say no to receiving a 50% subsidy? Unless you are able to sustain yourself in Paris for less than 80€ (in which case I demand a detailed explanation of how you manage to do so) you can only win.