I'm reading Swiss Watching by British author Diccon Bewes, and in it he mentions eating at the cafeterias at the Swiss grocery stores Coop and Migros. Has anyone tried them? From some on-line reviews I've read prices sound very good, for Switzerland anyway.
I have not tried them, but they're definitely among Rick's budget dining recommendations in cities like Bern.
I go to Switzerland annually and eat at Migros and Coop restaurants as well as Manora (in most Manor department stores) and save a ton of money.
The food is wholesome, although the cheapest items are fried, has plenty of veggies, a lot of it is sold by the gram so you can control your own portion size and price, and the surroundings are plain but pleasant.
With Migros, the number of "M"s in the name generally indicates a larger store with more features. The go up to 3 Ms, as in Migros, MMigros, MMMigros.
There is a good Coop restaurant at Interlaken Ost, just across the bus station from the station. There is a MMMigros with a good restaurant opposite and just down the road from the Interlaken West station. None of the Coops up in the Lauterbrunnen Valley have restaurants.
MMigros in Meiringen has a small restaurant.
Manora in Luzern is excellent and in the Altstadt, Manora in Thun is across from the station and most excellent.
The Manora in Geneve (near the main station) and in Basel (across the river in Kleinbasel) are both very good, as is the Manora in Lausanne (half way up the hill near the funicular and near the bus station.
These are all from personal experience.
For some reason the Manora in Montreux was forgettable.
If I have a choice, I generally will go to a Manora or a Titbits in a big town or city and if I am in a smaller one which hasn't I will go to a 3 M Migros or a Coop. I often find that the facilities in a single M Migros don't have a big enough restaurant.
Bern SBB station has both a take away Migros counter serving hot and cold food and a small Migros supermarket, as well as a Coop take away counter serving similar food; all in the tunnels under the tracks, and there is a Titbits upstairs.
There are major food halls at all big Swiss train stations, and that applies throughout Europe in most larger stations.
I have tried Migros, Coop and Manora restaurants. Generally Manor is a bit more upscale than Migros and Coop as a shopping centre, but the restaurants are fairly comparable. Their main advantages are that you see what you will be getting as you order and the price is much cheaper than traditional restaurants. Most of these restaurants are open only at lunch time as they have the same opening times as ordinary shops. If you want a full lunch try to arrive before 2pm, as after that time they will sell mainly light fares.
Just to give you an example, the daily midday menu and prices for the Manor restaurant Basel are here: https://www.lunchgate.ch/restaurant/manora-basel_4005/
The menu for Migros is here: http://www.migros.ch/de/ueber-die-migros/basel/gastronomie/menuplan-migros-restaurant.html (click on "Menüplan vom xx. bis yy. Month (PDF, ....)" about 1/3 down the page).
It's all in German, but you can see the prices and guess the foods The Co-op and Migros restaurants are slightly down-market from Manor, and cheaper. As Nigel said, Migros has a hot buffet and a salad buffet both priced by weight, so if you can size your own meal.
And yes, I have tried them. Both are 5 minutes walk from where I work and I frequent one or the other whenever I fancy a cooked lunch.
I see they had Pferdefilet in Manor today, pity I didn't go, I like that!
We had good luck buying all kinds of stuff at Coop, which was like a 7-11 or similar. Actually more like the convenience stores in Japan which are super-7-11s. The croissants and coffee were quite tasty, buy them the night before so you can do cheap and easy breakfast in the room.
We also bought some sandwiches and drinks for cheap lunches and that worked well. As noted you will have many dining options in train stations, which are also open later and on Sundays unlike much of the country. You are wise to consider all kinds of dining options, the costs in that country can take your breath away. But so will the scenery, so that's your tradeoff.
We both ate in and carried out food from several Micros and Coop cafeteria on our 2013 trip. All positive experiences, with good quality food and reasonable prices (for Switzerland.) But I also wanted to comment on the book Swiss Watching, for others who haven't seen it. It's great! Very insightful, and also laugh out loud funny in spots. I highly recommend it for a good read about Switzerland beyond the gold and blue books we all read.
Yes, Swiss Watching is a fun book, by someone who has respect for the unique aspects of Switzerland and its history. Thanks to everyone for the input on these places. I'm trying to scout out the possibilities of spending a fair amount of time in Switzerland on future trips, and I am a rather thrifty person, so I'm caught between my appreciation for Switzerland and its beauty and my budget mindedness.
The Manora restaurants in Luzern and Lausanne were my favorite eating experiences in Switzerland - half the price of a standard restaurant, and the food is prepared fresh for you (for instance, if you get fish, a piece is taken off the ice and fried for you - it's not sitting on a steam table). They have deals where for a few extra Franks, you get to add vegetables (as much as you can fit on the plate) to the main dish.
The only drawbacks are that they are VERY popular and always mobbed (the Swiss know it's a good deal), and they keep department store hours, which means early dinner Monday through Friday, no dinner on Saturday, and no meals at all on Sunday.
The cafeterias in the Coop and Migros stores that I saw (and not all have them) were less impressive, but perfectly adequate. But these stores also have lots of prepared foods for take out (sandwiches and the like), which I used to save money.
I liked the Tibits in the Luzern train station (it's hidden on the tip floor, while most of the other food places are in the basement). It's open for lunch and dinner every day, and is a vegetarian buffet (you pay by weight).
I have seen the Coop ones but only eaten at the Migros ones. There is one in Appenzell, as you approach Wassauren, that is nice with indoor and outdoor seating and a singles night. ;) I also ate at a Migros one in a small enclosed mall outside of Zurich. They charged by weight and gave my daughter (I have celiac so only she actually ATE here) a token to come back and get her desert (one of several types of prepackaged ice cream treats).
Think Morrisons (if you are old enough). A Swiss Morrisons attached to a grocery store. Truthfully more Morrisons than Swiss...