I haven’t done a scientific survey, but it seems as if more restaurants are using a pay-before-you-eat format.
Three restaurants that recently opened in downtown Victoria operate this way.
At Fish Hook and Tacofino, both on Fort Street, you order at a counter, pay, give your name, and then either have the food brought to you, or go and fetch it when your name is called. At Meat and Bread, you order, go along a counter where the components of your meal are assembled, pay, and then find a seat.
I can see why this format has become popular. With no or fewer servers, there’s less complexity and less cost. For customers, the wait for food tends to be a little shorter.
It's not just burgers and fries being served, but braised squid, smoked salmon belly, pork terrine, seafood curry, and beef tongue.
Many other downtown places use this approach, including: Uchida in Nootka Court, Foo Ramen Bar on Broughton, La Taquisa on Blanshard, Hernande’z in St. Andrew’s Square, Pig on Blanshard, Red Fish, Blue Fish on the Inner Harbour.
[A reader points out that Part and Parcel in Quadra Village, which opened in the summer, is also among this group.]
I’ve found that the food is decent, sometimes excellent, at these places, but the prices are not necessarily lower than at a restaurant that has table service. For example, you can buy a very nice lunch for as little as $10 or $11 and receive excellent service from a server at Zambri’s on Yates.
I do find myself feeling a little tension when I’m at a busy pay-before-you-eat place. What if I buy the food and can’t find a place to sit? So far, that hasn’t happened to me. If it does, I might introduce myself to a stranger and sit down at his/her table without waiting to be rejected.