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Formal Dining Service Every Server and Restaurant Manager Should Know

As a guest of a dining establishment, this is good to know to gauge the quality of service that is being provided. There are few restaurants that carry this level of attention. I find that quite a handful of places that consider themselves to be upscale in the market value of restaurants are something to boast about, then am deeply disappointed with the service. Not to mention how they are gouging your pockets on top of it all. 

This post was sponsored by Dixon Etiquette. Subscribe for The Glow Up weekly newsletter and never miss a single post!

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To have a shining experience, and memory that will be shared by you and your company, here are points to note when visiting a restaurant or serving if you work in the service industry:

Before serving a meal, ensure you read menu descriptions, attend a menu briefing and speak to the chef. Familiarise yourself with ingredients of every item on the menu, and practise explaining them to guests.

In particular, ensure you are aware of any allergens or common causes of food intolerances such as gluten or dairy. 90% of allergic reactions are caused by the following foods:

  • Milk
  • Eggs
  • Peanuts
  • Fish/Shellfish
  • Soya
  • Wheat 
  • Nuts from trees (including brazil nuts, hazelnuts, almonds, and walnuts)
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Traditionally, the principle female guest should be servied first, followed by the rest of the table, in a clockwise direction.

If food is delivered already plated as in a restaurant, it is served from the left. Wine and water are poured from the right. Any communal serving dishes should be passed anti-clockwise around the table so that guests still receive food from the left.

Drinks should be served as soon as guests sit down, and top-ups offered throughout the meal.

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Silver Service

Silver Service is a formal style of service whereby a member of waiting staff serves the diner food from platters while he or she is seated.

Serving

  • Silver service food is served from the left, and drinks and plated meals are served from the right.
  • Meals are served to the diner from platters, not plated in the kitchen.
  • The guest to the host’s right – usually female – is served first.
  • Service continues to the right.
  • Plates and glasses are cleared from the right, again, by starting with the guest to the host’s right. 
  • Glasses are stacked in a diagonal to the right and away, with wine (by course) in order and then water glass in front.
  • If you see a colleague with a guest, do not walk in front of them. Wait for them to pass, greet the guests – this could be a nod with a warm smile or a simple ‘hello’ – and then make your way.
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Butler Service

Butler service is a variation of Silver Service. In France it is known as service à la Francaise (‘French service’). Traditionally, it was used on Sunday evenings, when the Service staff had the evening off and the butler alone served dinner. The diner helps himself from a serving plate held by the server (butler).

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Offering Bread

  • As usual, start with a female guest.
  • Go around the table.
  • Ensure you know what breads you have.
  • Use tongs to serve.

Pouring Water

  • Pour from right side and use tray or under liner if available.
  • Offer a choice of still or sparkling mineral water.

Pouring Wine

  • Pour from the right side.
  • Start with a female guest to the right of the host.
  • Serve women first if there are four or fewer.
  • Pour equal amounts for all and do not over/under-pour. Pour to the apex.
  • You can pour roughly five glasses from one bottle.
  • End with the host.
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Serving Food

  • Ensure you know who ordered each dish.
  • Serve women first, if practical.
  • Serve from the left, with the left hand.
  • Handle plates with minimal touch.
  • Announce the dish you are serving. 
  • Place plates elegantly onto the table. Do not be abrupt or make noise.
  • If there is a crest on the plate, make sure it is at 12:00 position. 
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Clearing for the next course

  • Check that all have finished before clearing. Never remove a plate when others at the same table are still eating. 
  • If necessary, ask guests if they have finished.
  • Clear from female guests, if practical.
  • Clear any unwanted/unnecessary cutlery, glasses or other items.
  • Remove salt and pepper (if serving pudding next).
  • Crum-down if necessary.
  • Place cutlery/glassware/other items needed for the next course.
  • Serve the next course.

This post is sponsored byDixon Etiquette. JoinThe Finishing School for the ultimate guide to all things etiquette and social graces you can access anywhere and everywhere.

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Gia G. Dixon
Gia G. Dixon

I’m Gia G. Dixon, an ILM certified etiquette consultant. Here is my guide to elegant style, high quality living, and little things that make your daily life glamorous.

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