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    Operator's Edge®

    Find the top tips to successfully run your business through consumer insights, restaurant trends and management advice.

    Fine Dining Etiquette for Servers

    May 1, 2018

    From customer service and sommeliers, to place settings and posture, there are many rules and standards that are expected to be followed when working in a formal dining environment. Though some of these etiquette practices may seem like common sense to some servers, such as smiling and being polite, others may be unfamiliar to new employees who aren’t used to working at formal restaurants or banquets. Though the rules may differentiate from place to place, these fine dining etiquette tips should serve as a basic guideline when providing patrons with the best meal, service, and atmosphere possible. Whether you’re serving dinner at a fine dining restaurant, wedding reception, or upscale event, these etiquette tips will help ensure you act professionally in any formal foodservice setting.

    Types of Table Service

    Depending on the event or meal being served, the type of table service will vary. Formal dining at restaurants will be different than at a buffet or catered wedding reception, but all service types aim to serve patrons quickly, efficiently, and with great care.

    American - The most common style of restaurant service; Customers first choose options from a menu, and entrees are then cooked and plated in the kitchen before being served. Servers should use descriptive adjectives when explaining menu items to patrons, and have extensive knowledge of different flavors found on the menu. Successful servers are able to anticipate when to bring items to the table before they are requested. When serving a la carte, guests are given a menu and can choose pre-selected items, which works best in settings where there may be budget constraints, or when planning is required beforehand such as weddings.Family-Style - Guests serve themselves from large platters presented on the dinner table. Dishes and trays are then passed from the left to the right. Servers will generally be present for the beginning and end of the meal to set up and then clean up the table.French - This type of service requires adequate space since food is prepared tableside for guests on a cart called a gueridon. Cooked foods such as steak, beef wellington, or bananas foster are prepared on a hot plate, or rechaud on the tableside cart.Russian - This style of service is the most personalized since food is carved or garnished on a cart beside a guest. Unlike the French style, all food is first prepared in the kitchen, and then carried into the dining room on decorative platters. Make sure to warn guests of hot plates or beverages.Butler - Also known as “flying serving”; Food is presented on a tray by wait staff, and the guests helps themselves. Butler service is often associated with appetizers and hors d’ouerves at cocktail parties or events where there is no sit-down dinner. Servers at these types of events should continue to refill trays in the kitchen as soon as they are empty.English - Commonly found in private dining rooms, English style service features a waiter or waitress individually serving each guest from a large platter, starting with the host. This style stems from English manor houses where the head of the house would do the carving, and then servants would distribute the portions.Table EtiquetteSetting the Table - Fine dining restaurants require a lot more attention to detail than just taking an order and delivering food. Common side work procedures will often include arranging table settings for the next set of patrons, polishing flatware, and folding napkins into suitable designs. Formal dinner settings can include up to 20 pieces of dinnerware for just one guest, and with so many plates, utensils, and glasses, it can seem confusing as to what to place where. As a general rule of thumb, flatware is set from the outside of the dinner plate to the inside, since this follows the progression of a formal meal.

    Table settings are always arranged for right handed people. In a clockwise direction you’ll find the following: Wine and water glasses, spoons, knives, charger and dinner plates with the napkin placed on top, dinner forks, bread plate and butter knife, and ending with the dessert spoon and dessert fork. There may be additional pieces such as cups and saucers, or specialty utensils like seafood forks depending upon the menu. Don’t be alarmed it you see up to 4 glasses for one person’s place setting. Glasses should be arranged in a diagonal or square pattern to the right of the dinner plate, and are comprised of glasses for water, white wine, red wine, and a champagne flute for occasions that require a toast.

    It’s important to make sure the tabletop is symmetrical to create an aesthetically pleasing backdrop for your customers to enjoy. Until employees learn where to place plates, napkins, and cutlery, rulers can be used to measure the distance between the edge of the table and the dinnerware, to make sure all tables in a restaurant stay consistent.

    TIP- Always make sure tablecloths are free of wrinkles and stains, and seams should be faced down. Allow the same amount of overhang on each side of the table.TIP- When setting the table, hold glasses by the stem and cutlery from the middle to minimize the appearance of finger prints.Serving the Table - Most upscale dinners will include 5 courses, encompassing an appetizer, soup, salad, entree, and dessert. Many formal restaurants practice the open hand service method, which means that a server’s arms are never to be crossed in front of a guest, and food is always served from the guest’s left side. Plates should be rotated when being served so the protein of a dish is facing the guest, as opposed to a vegetable.

    Source : www.operators-edge.com

    Fine Dining Etiquette: Server Tips for Fine Dining Restaurants

    Serving in a fine dining atmosphere requires proper etiquette. Follow these tips so you can adhere to professional standards, know your table settings, and much more!

    Fine Dining Etiquette for Servers

    Last updated on 1/12/2021

    Fine dining restaurants are known for delivering the highest level of customer service. Guests expect elegant ambiance, upscale table settings, and a menu with higher price points. They also expect servers to uphold fine dining etiquette. We’ve made a guide of fine dining etiquette tips to help new servers provide their guests with the most professional service possible.

    Click any of the server etiquette tips below to learn more about fine dining rules:

    Preparing for Service

    Formal Table Settings

    Service Etiquette Cutlery Etiquette How to Serve Wine Clearing the Table

    Grooming and Behavior

    Tableside Service Etiquette FAQs

    Server Etiquette Tips

    Fine dining can be intimidating and mysterious to the uninitiated. Other styles of serving customers are usually picked up intuitively, but many aspects of fine dining are dictated by rules and traditions that must be learned. Whether you're new to the restaurant industry or you've been serving for many years, our list of fine dining server tips is an excellent introduction to the world of fine dining service and etiquette.

    1. Preparing for Service

    Before dinner service begins, the dining room must be put in order. Mise en place is a kitchen term that translates to "put into place", but it's also used in fine dining to describe the act of preparing dining tables, flatware, and tableware for service. With every detail accounted for, dinner service can be performed smoothly and without interruption. Fine dining servers should begin their shift by attending to the following tasks:

    Tableware - Each piece of tableware used for service should be inspected for chips, irregularities, and cleanliness. Flatware, glassware, and any silver pieces should be polished to remove water spots. While polishing, cotton gloves can be worn to eliminate fingerprints.Mise en Place Stations - A mise en place station is a server station set up with all items needed for service. Additional flatware, drinkware, or servingware needed for meal courses is stored at the station where it can be quickly retrieved. It's the server's responsibility to prepare the mise en place station before guests arrive.Dining Tables - Dining tables should be wiped down, inspected for wobbly legs, and arranged according to guest reservations. A special cloth called a molleton cloth is placed on the table prior to laying the tablecloth to muffle the sound of dishes and glassware being placed on the table.Lighting - Light all candles and mood lighting before dinner service begins.

    2. Formal Table Settings

    The type of table setting you use helps set the tone for service. As soon as guests are seated, they know the service will be excellent if they see an impeccable table setting. As a fine dining server, you should be very familiar with formal table settings so you can set the table yourself or add finishing touches before your guests arrive.

    Number of Pieces - Only set the table with the dinnerware pieces and utensils that will be used during the dinner. This may be up to twenty pieces for a full course meal.Linens - All linens should be freshly laundered and wrinkle free. Place a cloth napkin to the left of the salad fork or directly on the dinner plate. Drape the tablecloth over the table so the overhang length is equal on all sides.Flatware - Forks always go to the left, while knives and spoons are on the right. Follow this simple rule to place the cutlery in the correct order: the utensils are always placed in order of use, beginning from the outside in. Place the dessert spoon and dessert knife above the dinner plate.Glassware - Glasses are placed to the upper right of the dinner plate. The water glass is first, followed by a white wine glass, a red wine glass, champagne flute, and sherry glass. If tea or coffee is being served, place a teacup and saucer to the right of the spoons and knives.Use Symmetry - Use symmetry to make sure the table setting is balanced. If needed, a ruler comes in handy to measure distances between the pieces so that every setting at the table is identical.Avoid Fingerprints - Hold glassware and flatware by the stem to minimize the appearance of fingerprints. Better yet, wear white server gloves when handling all dinnerware.

    3. Proper Etiquette for Service

    The style of serving used in formal dining represents the highest level of hospitality. It elevates the guest experience and makes fine dining a memorable event. A great fine dining server will be detail-oriented, observant, and intuitive. Anticipating the needs of guests while remaining unobtrusive is the key to providing the best service possible.

    Source : www.webstaurantstore.com

    Instawork Basics of Serving & Clearing Plated Service

    Roy Porter's guide on the basics of serving and clearing plated service. A must-read or refresher for any fine dining server.

    Instawork Basics of Serving & Clearing Plated Service

    Roy Porter Feb 3, 2020

    As a guest enters the dining room, one of them asks you, “Where’s the buffet?” You reply, “Today there is a special plated service. We’ll bring the courses to you at your table.”

    A plated service means the food is carefully prepared in the kitchen and then delivered by a server to the guests seated at a table. Sometimes people call it “sit down service,” However, “plated” is the proper term.

    Plated service requires that all servers follow specific rules of etiquette to create an atmosphere of fine dining. These rules were introduced to France by Catherine de Mediciin the 1500’s and still govern how tables are set, how courses are served, and how courses are eaten. By implementing these rules of etiquette, servers set the tone for plated service.

    Hospitality is always about the experience. Plated service is a key element in a fine dining experience!

    Summary

    This informative document covers the basics of serving and clearing a plated meal. For new staff, it includes a review to introduce what works best. For veteran servers, this document provides a quick refresher on proper protocol.

    Seven key takeaways:

    Rely on the pre-event meeting and one-sheet to get important details

    Confirm or get meal orders for your table

    To serve: Left, Lower, & Leave!

    To clear: Right, Remove, & Raise!

    Always be clearing throughout service to keep tables clean

    Clear glassware one type at a time, as directed by the Zone Captain

    Help others when your tables are done

    Pre-event Meeting: What Servers Need to Know

    The pre-event meeting covers all of the most vital information servers need to know to make an event successful. Below are the most important points that must be noted when plated service is in play:

    One Sheet: This is a summary of the event’s main details. One sheet includes the following information:

    Menu Method of service Assignments Schedule Special notes

    Zone Assignment & Captain: This is the zone-section of the dining area where you will be assigned to work. Each section will have a Zone Captain, who you’ll report to for directions.Partners or Team: This is a list of the other servers you’ll be working with if there are other servers who have been hired for this event.Table Assignment(s): This information includes the tables you’ll be serving as well as your other responsibilities for the event such as food service, beverage service, and table clearing.Table Cover Positions: The table cover positions are defined differently for circular, square, and differently shaped tables. Servers must know where position #1 is located. Position #1 is usually facing North, the head table, or a stage. Later when a special request needs to be handled, the direction of “Table 3, Cover 4” is easy to follow.Place or Escort Cards: Servers must know if the place-escort cards are set-out and whether or not the cards indicate the guests’ preselected meal. Place cards are put on the dining tables indicating where a guest is to be seated. Escort cards are placed on a table near the entrance for the guest to collect and indicate which table they are assigned to.Service Methods: Follow different service models, which can include: solo, A & B waiters, zone or area sweep, serving team, or restaurant switch out. We’ll discuss these methods and processes in another post.TCO (Table Cover Order): Organizes and confirms the meal that has been selected at the table(s). This information is relayed to the Expeditor at the pass.TSO (Table Service Order): Unless a Captain directed sweep, this document also summarizes what guests ordered by cover position as well as the server and the order in which the tables are served.Menu: What is being served, the course order, and potential allergens and alternative options.Schedule: Know the order and location of activities during the event and when you’re expected to be on and off the floor.Pass Location: The pass is where prepared dishes transfer from the BOH (Back of House) to the FOH (Front of House).Oval Banquet Trays: Servers must know if oval trays with tray stands are used to serve and or clear tables.Scullery Location: This is the space allocated for dirty plates, flatware and glassware.Service Station Location(s): This is where extra, flatware, glasses, water, wine, condiments, etc. are stored for service.Clearing Pace: This is the pace at which the tables are to be cleared for the next course. Pacing may be casual, 60-80-100%, assertive, or aggressive.

    Getting and Confirming Orders

    Generally the entrée is preselected by the host-planner, as a single or double entrée. Often, guests will pre-select a protein and their order is indicated on the place/escort card. For example:

    Source : blog.instawork.com

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