Just back from the UK and have a few questions to make sure my perceptions are accurate or if I'm overgeneralizing.
1.) How common is charging for bread and butter or olive oil? Saw it very frequently at mid- and upper-price restaurants.
2.) What's the story on cover carges? We found a 2 pound one at The Gilbert Scott and were surprised; we see it at clubs, sometimes called a "music charge", but I haven't seen at US restaurants in a generation or more.
3.) And why would a restaurant add an "optional service charge" to all checks? Are people tipping poorly in this economy? Does this go to servers or the management? We got both answers when we asked. I can see it on large groups where the check can reach enough to surprise folks who usually dine in 2s or 4s and they hesitate to really put down another (insert your appropriate tipping percentage here, depending on where you live and your personal habit) percent. But it's hard to imagine that people who go to restaurants where the main courses are around 20 pounds don't tip at a reasonable level.
4.) And finally, do servers there get the same minimum wage as the rest of the employed?
Ate well, didn't get to many of the places we'd hoped to because of logistics and an unexpected death of an old friend, but mostly good stuff.