A Few Things To Remember:
Please remember to ask for their orders in the proper sequence. It’s polite
and, if they are accustomed to it, it’s what they expect. If there are
guests of honor and they are known to you, start with them. After that, or
if the host has not made the guests of honor known to you, the order is as
follows: eldest lady to youngest lady, eldest man to youngest man. It is
also considered proper to start with the guest of honor and move around the
table in an anti-clockwise fashion. This goes for everything done at the
table including; serving drinks, food and clearing plates.
Clearing plates, the dilemma: Proper etiquette and what’s proper to the
people you are serving can be two different things. Proper etiquette
dictates that you should clear the plates when everyone at the table is done
with the course. Many people feel their plate should be cleared when they
are no longer eating from their plate. To find out what they think is the
proper time you have to do a little sleuthing. When the first person is done
with their plate you can ask, “May I remove your plate?”. This will let you
know what is considered appropriate for the rest of the guests. From that
point on simply remove plates when appropriate. If you work in a high end
establishment always wait until the table is done eating before removing
plates, it’s proper.
Another point is, speaking of proper etiquette, the position of flatware
denotes whether or not they are finished eating. Finished position is: used
flatware grouped together and place on the right hand side crossing the
center of the plate.
Which side to serve and remove from?
Unless you are serving from a platter or are placing or removing side dishes
from the table (which should always be done from the left side) you should
serve and remove from the right side of the guest.
Appetizers are just that – appetizers. They whet the pallet and make them
hungry. An appetizer also gives them something in their stomach if they are
drinking alcohol. Drinking on an empty stomach is seldom a good thing for
the holder of the liquor license. Salty appetizers make them thirsty too -
hey - I’m just pointing things out here. Use the information however you
want (maybe another drink?!?).
Food Service is really Food Sales, don’t forget that! The more food and
drinks you sell, the more money you take home at the end of your shift!
Remember you make a percentage of the total sales at the table. Higher
percentages are one thing, higher sales are another and both increase your
To this end let’s talk about “sales speak”. When I say sales speak I mean
the words you use to describe things not how you go about getting your
guests to order more items. Descriptive phrases are important, adjectives
are important and specifics are required if you want to push your sales to a
I’m not suggesting you use the glowing, flowery terms you would hear or see
in an advertisement for, say, a funeral home. I do mean you should be using
words like: crispy, golden, smooth, tart, sweet etc. In addition to this you
should attempt to paint a picture in the mind of the guest. Question: What
is the shrimp dinner? Answer: You get eight shrimp and a potato. This answer
is dull, drab and unappealing. On the other hand, “Oh, let me tell you about
the shrimp, it’s one of my favorites. We start with large shrimp, peeled
fresh daily. They’re hand breaded with a light coating of bread crumbs. We
fry eight of those morsels to a golden brown and serve them with your choice
of accompaniment. I like mine with the white cheddar mashed potatoes but you
might prefer a baked potato, sweet potato or maybe some French fries.” Which
sounds better to you?
In addition if your restaurant serves another shrimp item which is higher in
price this is a great chance for an up sell… “If you like shrimp you might
want to consider the Shrimp Alfredo. It has the same shrimp; instead of
being fried they’re sautéed in garlic butter. The shrimp is served on a bed
of our fettuccini, which is made fresh daily and tossed in our signature
Alfredo sauce. It’s a truly fantastic entrée.
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Back To The Service
When you return with the drinks, if there was any interest in an appetizer
now is the time to check and see if they have found something they like. If
they have found something, of course take the order and get the kitchen
started on it. If they have decided against an appetizer ask if they have
any questions about the menu you could answer or if they would like a little
more time with the menu.
You notice the menus are closed, or they are talking more or you actually
asked if they were ready to order and it’s time for the entrée order. This
is where your menu knowledge will allow you to shine. You’ll be able to
answer questions easily and without thinking.
You will be able to suggest other menu items. They may want you to suggest a
wine which will complement their meal. Whatever it is, your preparation will
Just like with the drinks, don’t rush the choices. Allow them to hear what
it is you are saying instead of having to decipher what the items were in
the list you rattled out. You know exactly what the restaurant offers, they
do not. List salad dressings the restaurant offers and the choices of
Remember, when describing items use specifics and adjectives. Paint a
picture for the guest with your description. If you have favorites don’t be
afraid to tell them what they are. If you have alternate suggestions be open
with the guest about them. After all, you are their guide to a wonderful
experience and their host at the restaurant.
Order Has Been Taken
Now what you do all comes down to timing. Being familiar with the
preparation times is required at this point. You don’t want to rush your
guests but you don’t want them to take up your table forever either. In a
formal setting, multi-course meals can take hours. Your trainer will inform
you as to how to course your meals if this is the case.
If they have appetizers you need to allow for them to finish those, and
maybe have a slight break before the salad is served. Most dinner houses
have kitchen staff that knows the importance of fast salad preparation. Also
you can “hold” the salad for a couple minutes if required. It’s not a hot
item (usually) and can therefore withstand a short wait.
When to place the entrée order is most important. Often the correct time is
to place the entrée order and the salad order at the same time. If it’s not
a single entrée always base your timing on the entrée with the longest
preparation time in the order.
Serving The Table
You served the appetizer and removed the plates before the salads were
brought to the table. You served the salads and removed the salad plates.
Each time you passed the table you checked the drinks and refilled as
needed. You have made yourself available for requests, looking at your
guests as you pass by their table is often enough for this, it shows them
you are available to them.
You know it’s time for the entrées to be ready due to the fact you have a
sense of how long it takes to prepare the items. You have been watching the
“window” (where they are passed from the kitchen to the wait staff) and see
that they are starting to be given to you. Now is the time to step up to the
plate and be a great server. Always attempt to be at the window when they
are being given to you so you can serve hot food. While they are being given
to you is a great time to be sure they are actually as you ordered them. For
the most part, kitchen staff is great about plating food as you ordered it
however; even the best make a mistake once in a while. You are the final
check before the meal is served to the guest. The guest told you what they
wanted and it is up to you to make sure they get what they want. Be sure
items wanted are cooked as requested; proper temperature for steaks and
other meats. Special requests are as requested; no this on that, extra this
on the other thing, crisp this, plain that etc.
Everything is as requested and it’s time for the entrées to be served. Serve
them in order and when everyone has a plate ask if there is anything they
may want at this point. As you work in the restaurant you will learn what
kinds of things are most typically wanted. It could be condiments; ketchup
or hot sauce or ranch for fries or maybe there are sauces offered at your
restaurant which are popular. Whatever it may be; now is the time to see
what they may want. In my opinion, unless it’s something odd, if the guest
has to ask for something I have failed. It is my job to anticipate their
Have you ever cut into a steak, expecting it to be medium rare only to
discover that it’s as rare as rare can be? If you have, you know how long it
seems the server took to return to the table to see how everything is. Keep
this in mind, check back very shortly after you have served the meal. Just
after everyone has had a chance to assess their entrée is when you should
stop by and ask if everything is to their liking. You should check back
again after everyone has had a chance to taste their meal. This is another
point at which there could be cause for a change of meal for the guest. It’s
not only good for the restaurant but it shows the guest you actually care
about their experience.
Everything is going well and your
guests are enjoying their meal. Checking back half way through will allow
them to let you know if they want anything else. This can be done when you
are refilling drinks or you can simply stop at the table and obviously
assess how things are. You don’t need to say a word; they will let you know
if they require anything.
The entrée plates have been removed and now it’s time to offer dessert. Your
trainer informed you as to what is proper for the restaurant. You will
either have a dessert cart, tray or menu. The use of the cart and tray are
obvious as is the menu. If it’s the menu you will be using be sure to
present it to the guests instead of assuming they do not want dessert or in
hopes of turning the table more quickly. Offer after dinner drinks if
appropriate or coffee if that’s all that’s available to offer. Remember,
anything you sell the guest increases your salary, it’s as simple as that.
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