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Service protocols. How do you stand on the old standards?

How do you feel about traditional service standards?

Service from the right?

Not taking anyone's plate away until everyone is finished (even if someone is clearly done with their food to the extend of having pushed the plate forward).

Taking orders from and serving ladies first?

Others?

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  1. some table configurations and placements prevent serving from the right. i'm fine as long as i am not elbowed in the face.

    plates should remain until everyone is finished. that is one of my pet peeves. however, i don't like when plates are left because the server or busser is too afraid to ask if we are finished.

    as an addendum to that, do NOT ask me if i "am still working on that." it's gauche. my silver is appropriately placed to indicate whether or not i am finished. if you're too ignorant to realize that, ask me "may i clear your plate?"

    as far as order-taking and serving ladies first, it's nice but not a deal-breaker in my book. especially on a round table. i'd prefer a nice smooth clock-wise rotation there.

    overall, i prefer gracefulness and being unobtrusive to protocol, which is sadly lacking in training of service staff today, except in the most high-end places. sometimes even there.

    1 Reply
    1. re: hotoynoodle

      As someone who waited tables for what seemed like ages I want to reply to the 'are you still working on that comment'. While silver placement should indeed be an indication of whether a person is finished, I have seen people put their silver an infinite number of configurations and, believe me, the law is not universal. There is no way to know what every person is trying to indicate in every situation because it is different to every person.

      Of course, "may I clear you plate?" is much more tactful.

    2. depends on the restaurant of course.

      as far as "service from the right" goes- in general i'm a fan of service that imposes the least on the guest. say if a couple is leaning in to each other- i'm not going to try to get between them just to maintain a service from the right rule.

      we wait until everyone is finished eating to clear so you don't ailienate the person who is still eating. the exception is when a guest asks for his plate to be taken- and when he moves his plate aside it is considered a non-verbal request.

      serving ladies first again depends on the restaurant and also the guests. if it's a couple on a date then YES, definitely the old fasioned rule applies. if it's business people dining though you have to be careful. women have had to push hard to be considered equal to men in the business world and treating them different in this case would be embarassing.

      1. I agree with not clearing until everyone is finished -- definitely one of my pet peeves. What I notice, in general, about service and the old standards is that many do not seem to care about service. They seem to care more about getting my food to me and getting me out the door. All it takes is a genuine introduction and a pleasant demeanor to make me feel as if the server cares. I am old school when it comes to table manners and service protocols and it's nice to have that experience from time to time.

        1. The jfood input:

          - Service from the right - woof I am Pavlov's dog. When the servers bring the food my inclination is to lean left. This is the server a few more inches to clear the shoulder and head and lessen the chance of me wearing some food. If the right is not accessible, then do the best you can as a server to be unobstrusive and careful.

          - Taking away plates - Major pet peeve of jfood. Yes there may be disagreement, but it feels like the kitchen needs the dishes back quickly to clean and re-use. Jfood knows that's probably not the case, but please we order together, eat together, drink together, pay together, leave together. Please do not break the flow by grabbing the plate. And especially NEVER ask if jfood is doen while others are still eating and as others have said the use of the phrase "are you still working on that" is not a proper mode of interaction. As someone else mentioned, if there is an overt act by a custo to have the plate removed, then approach, otherwise, wait til everyone has "utensils down".

          - Ladies first - Absolutely. If jfood is with a group and the server looks at a male as the first orderer, i politely mention to him to please take the ladies first. I am absolutely, totally and completely in the mode for equality, but courtesy and decorum trumps this decision in this venue.

          9 Replies
          1. re: jfood

            I have to respectfully disagree on even the possibility of putting ladies first and equality into the same idea. Having women order first and serving them first is related to a number of other dining and social conventions--holding doors for women, giving women menus without prices (I realize this no longer happens), giving the wine list to the man, giving the check to the man, and so on. They all stem from ideas about divisions of labor and control of capital--men make and spend the money, women are their guests--and they cannot be separated.

            Though I realize that you're arguing for (what you view as) courtesy and mean well, treating women differently, and here especially because it means treating women as "guests", cannot support equality, it can only detract from it.

            All of that said, I have worked in a number of restaurants whose protocal says women should order or be served first, and I have complied. Similiarly, when I or the women at my table are served before the men I don't get upset wtih the server or the restaurant. I understand why they do it and that they probably mean well by it. However, I sigh to myself and think sadly about how far we still have to go in the world of gender equality.

            1. re: nc213

              How about this phrase "are you all set with that"... drives me crazy! Or, when the waiter/waitress asks "have we made a decision yet"
              It is a pet peeve of mine as well when servers take away one plate before everyone is finished, however, I live in a place where, even in the nicest restaurants, they have a tendency to do this... or at least there is no consistency, so I have gotten more used to custom (or lack of custom).

              1. re: harryharry

                I worked in formal dining and we didn't serve the women their food first! You start with the oldest female at the table; however, and then you move around the table from there. Does anyone else know of this convention? Could be British?

                1. re: nummanumma

                  When we stayed with French relatives in Burgundy, the server would typically serve the female head of the household first and then her husband, and then my mother-in-law and then father-in-law. She would then proceed clockwise around the table. This was for the principal meal; most suppers were more casual, and while the dishes were offered to the elders first they would then be set on the table to be passed. As for plate removal, this was done between courses at any fairly formal meal, but everyone's at the same time. Always to and from the right, of course.

                  We ate at only three rather formal restaurants, mostly in Paris, and there the women were served first , beginning with the oldest, and then the men in the same order. In caf├ęs and brasseries no particular convention was observed; Chez Julien was so crowded the waiter had to stand in one spot and hand things to the closest diners to pass along!

                  1. re: nummanumma

                    Thank you, you just helped me with my take-home exam. The only question I was stuck on because this section is not in our Dining Room Service books (I'm in culinary school). The question is: Following traditional protocol, whose order would you take first?
                    A) Senior Male
                    B) Senior Female
                    C) Youngest Male
                    D) Youngest Female

                    Everyone in male class guessed A, all she told us is that A was not correct. I mean, I've been to places that serve kids first, and places that serves the oldest male first. Because that oldest male generally orders for everybody. So I was really stuck. I've learned that by taking the kids orders first, it allows the kids to eat and give the parents a break when their food comes.

                2. re: nc213

                  NC, must say that is possibly the nicest retort and disagreement I have ever seen. Nicely done.

                  But equality cannot be equated to homogeneity. There are differences, whether size, weight, race, creed, national origin, gender, hairy, older, there are differences. Mrs jfood is by no stretch "the guest" at dinner at a resto or otherwise. Likewise when the Jfoods dine with others, there are no guests, no hosts, no nothings other than four friends out for a good meal. Someone must go first in queuing theory and Jfood courteously asks Mrs Jfood. Equating that courtesy with being treated less than equal is a broad brush jfood cannot buy into. Likewise jfood always asks the in-laws to order first. Common courtesy. They are treated as super-equals, and deservedly so.

                  That being said if the comfortable arrangement between two people is the male goes first and the female second, or female chooses wine, or check goes to female. And these roles get reversed every other week to keep theplaying field as level as possible, that's cool. To each his own, but jfood will never sacrifice actual courtesy for perceived (in)equality, courtesy and equality go hand in hand in jfood-land.

                  1. re: jfood

                    i fully understand that equality and homogeneity are not the same. And it's nice that you ask your wife to go first and the same for your in-laws. It's like holding the door for a friend or a stranger. however, when women are treated differently--and better is a form of differently--based solely on their sex, that's a problem. When the history of why women need to be treated differently--why it's not polite to swear in front of a woman, for example--has to do with their exclusion from certain types of discourse, then it perpetuates gender inequality.

                    The thing is, it's great that servers are becoming better about not automaticallly handing the check to the man or asking him to taste the wine, but those are easier problems to fix. the notion that women should be served first is automatic (i.e. not dependent on who orders the wine or asks for the check), so it's a tougher one. Likewise, it's different for you to say, "honey would you like to order?" courteously than for a server to assume that she should order first.
                    I'm all for courteousy--often my husband holds doors for me and often I hold doors for him. But the assumption that I couldn't or shouldn't open a door myself, which is the history that some of these courtesies are based on, is problematic. And though courtesy can and should be gender-neutral, it often is not--and there's where the problem lies.

                    Seriously, though, as I said. I don't see any maliciousness in these actions and I don't get offended. But as someone who studies (among other things) how gender is and has been constructed in societies, I notice it and sigh a bit.

                    1. re: nc213

                      Jfood wishes you luck on your journey. Don't let those of us with different opinions deter your youthful exuberance.

                      jfood believes

                      - server should ask the women to order first
                      - women should be served first by the server and should not be a random number generator on males first on even numbered tables and women on odd number tables
                      - door holders can go either way, but mrs jfood likes to have it opened and jfood likes to open it. still working on how best to do this when the door opens "out" but that's an issue for my orthopod
                      - anyone who gets to the door first can open it. you should go on a college tour with other families. quite funny on how the door thing is handled, almost a master thesis topic in sociology.
                      - that there is not a "problem" when courtesy are not gender-neutral. personally i like the gender-based courtesies that have developed. jfood resents the gender based practices that permeates other aspects of our society, but the mods will nix

                      we may not agree (and little female jfood is 22 and a sociology major so discussions happen often and long on these subjects at home) and i appreciate the issues from both sides. but with respect to a resto setting, jfood is not there for total equality, jfood is there for some great food and companionship.

                      1. re: jfood

                        Hee. I think I'd enjoy dinner in your company.

                        What seems to be developing here is a difference in protocol and agenda. When I was a young woman I actually resented a door being held open for me by a man. (Sigh). Now I'm pleased as punch. Things change.

                        When I waited tables I showed no deference to sex. As far as to whom the first taste of wine went to, it went to the person who ordered the bottle.

                        While I'm all for feminisim, in almost all of it's forms, there are just some things that are silly to fuss over. Do I hold a door open for a man? Hell yeah. Especially if he's older or has an arm full of bags. That's just polite. Do I let an older person sit on the bus rather than taking the seat myself? Yes, yes I do. Some things have nothing to do with gender.

              2. I would venture to say that the majority of diners and servers out there are out of touch with the traditional ways. At most resturants, it doesn't really bother me. But if it's a special occasion and we are spending a lot of money on fine dining, I expect a certain formality to accompany my meal. To me, this is an unobtrusive server who is polite, prompt, and congenial.

                Unlike the folks above, I don't like empty plates to sit on the table. I only dine with close friends or my SO, so nobody ever feels any pressure to eat faster or anything. I always push my plate to the side when I'm done so the server knows to take it away.

                17 Replies
                1. re: mojoeater

                  Mojo, do not think its the pressure thing, but jfood has been both the slowest and the fastest eater at the table and has felt uncomfortable with having my plate removed and being the last dog eating.

                  Just curious if you have ever asked the friends and family their opinion of this. After 15+ years of marriage jfood finally asked mrs jfood, and she mentioned that she preferred the all away at the same time theory. Since then jfood either paces himself to finsish simultaneously with mrs jfood or if finished first asks the waiter to leave til she is finished. You may want to ask, if you haven't. May be one of those really easy thing you can do for your SO (if memory serves me correctly it's fiance?).

                  1. re: jfood

                    He's almost always done eating before I am, and it doesn't bother me at all if they take his plate away. And usually when I eat out with friends, we all share the food. So nobody is left with a fork in his/her mouth while the rest of us are done, though one of us might be reaching for the last roll or something.

                    If it was a more formal business dinner, I would expect the more formal service standards. But when I'm with the people with whom I'm most comfortable, it just doesn't bother me.

                    1. re: mojoeater

                      from the flip side, most servers consider plate pushers rude. a casual eatery, i suppose is one thing (like a diner counter, maybe?), but it seems that you're intimating, "i'm done," without regard to everybody else at the table.

                      1. re: hotoynoodle

                        Well, you said it is one of your pet peeves and I get that. And once again, formal dining is different. But most of my dining out is more casual and nobody cares. I worked in restaurants for 12 years (managed them too), and the protocol in the more casual ones (entrees less than $20) was always to clear plates as they are finished. Customers would sometimes put their plates on nearby empty tables if you didn't clear them in order to make room at their own table. Now, that is rude.

                        1. re: mojoeater

                          Clearly people have different views about the "pushing plates away" and "removing plates before everyone is done eating" things, but I instinctively find it rude when people push their plates away and prefer that all plates be removed at the same time - whether at home, at Denny's or at a four star restaurant.

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Casual restaurants rely on turnover and the servers are trained to remove plates as they are finished. And on the other side, diners don't spend as much time at those places so having the table cleared more quickly is often preferable for the customers as well. I know for a fact that the majority of people who dine at Denny's will feel that their server is being negligent if their plates remain in front of them. I've been on that end of it.

                            1. re: mojoeater

                              I worked in many restaraunts, some chains. And the chains always wanted the tables kept up, ie dirty plates cleared asap, drinks kept full, courses moving, etc. for the quicker turnaround. The term used was "pre-bus" as in bussing or clearing the table.

                          2. re: mojoeater

                            As mentioned on other threads Jfood thinks the word "rude" is one of the most ill-used words on threads. But placing dirty plates on a clean neighboring table is as close to rude as jfood has heard on CH. It is definitely toally inconsiderate and it may actually qualify as rude in the jfood definition. Triple-ouch!!!

                      2. re: jfood

                        Had a inquiry to your comments above on leaving all the plates until everyone is finished. What if it is a large party, say, eight or more dining, should the servers restrain from clearing until all are done? I understand in smaller parties it is a customary procedure, but there are those customers that REALLY take their time and will ponder over that last tidbit of whatever. Should everyone have to keep their plates then, or is there a decent time period when clearing should happen even if that supposed person is still reluctant to give up their plate?

                        I'm wondering because I have been presented with this dilemma before as that server. Just wanting to know an outside opinion...

                        1. re: cocktailqueen77

                          Jfood thinks the default is "plates stay". There are those (as seen on these boards) that would like them removed from in front of them, and they can ask the server to remove.

                          But to answer your question, the number of patrons does not change Jfood's conclusion.

                          Think about dinner at home. If you and your SO have dinner, do you want your SO to get up and place the dirty dish in the sink if done first. I think not. Now think if you had a couple of kids. Do you want little CQ to get up and place the dish in the sink? Again probably not. Fast forward the analysis to holiday dinner with lots of CQ's. Aren't the plates in front of everyone until everyone is finished and then it's "dishes to the kitchen" time. At casa jfood that's how it works. So why should it be any different in a resto?

                          1. re: jfood

                            It's too tempting...so I have to ask (in jest, of course) if you also lean to the left in la casa jfood?

                            1. re: enbell

                              Temptation answered :-)). In casa les jfood, it's usually jfood plating and serving. Most times food hits the table while the jfoods flock from various parts of the house and outside. In the event that jfoods beat the food to the table and since i am right handed, i carry food in left hand, use right hand to go over right shoulder of the jfoods. they "lean left" unless they want some risotto or mashed potatoes on their right temple. That would lead to "nice dad" and another shower to wash their hair. :-))

                              1. re: jfood

                                but arent' you leaning the wrong way- in fine dining, isn't service from the left? wait...I gotta go check, maybe i'm remembering wrong-

                                1. re: nummanumma

                                  just did a little test- ok, never mind.-

                                  1. re: nummanumma

                                    He is leaning the wrong way. I posted below, but...the rule is serve from the left, clear from the right.

                                    1. re: srr

                                      srr,

                                      Food that is presented in platters is shown to the diner from the left as the platter of food is held by the server in the left hand to present.

                                      Food that is presented in a "plated" manner is served from the right. This comes from the statement jfood mentioned earlier in that most people are right handed and serve with the right hand "over" the right should of the diner. The diner would therefore lean to the left exactly as jfood mentioned. Items that are currently presented from the left are veggies and other condiments that are placed to the left of the dinner plate. The direction of the presented plate is the direction of the departure.

                                      So when the food is plated and presented jfood is leaning to the left that is the correct direction.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        people confuse french and russian service.

                                        but jfood is correct.

                      3. My thoughts:

                        Service from the right is not that important to me

                        Not taking plates away until everyone is done bothers me. I usually eat quicker than most people I am with, and do not want to sit looking at my dirty plate, I have no problem with the plates being cleared as each diner is finished.

                        Taking orders from the ladies first is a must. If I am asked for my order before a female dining companion has placed their order I will not place my order until all the ladies in my group have placed their order, food , or drinks.

                        1. Service from the right. As others have said, l always lean a little to the left to help facilitate this. If it is more obtrusive or difficult to serve from the right I expect the server to deal with that and serve in the least obtrusive manner. I really just want the server to try and do his or her best with this one though.

                          I would prefer that no one's plate is cleared until everyone is done eating. I eat slowly but often am done before my dining companions as I don't eat that much and to have my plate cleared and a doggie bag given (if I want one) is sort of weird/awkward/embarrassing while everyone is still eating. Along with the inevitable question of did you enjoy your __ as you didn't eat very much of it. I appreciate your inquiry as if something is wrong the kitchen should have an opportunity to fix it but please ask that question quietly so as not to draw attention.

                          As far as serving ladies first, well this one really is a difficult one. I generally say ladies first, especially if I am out with a boyfriend/date/SO. As a young professional lady when out with male colleagues (who are generally much older then myself) what I would prefer is sort of a tough call. On one hand, I am constantly battling to be thought of as an equal in my career that is filled with older men. In my opinion to be thought of as an equal at the dining table (and other social occasions) is just as important as at the conference table; therefore ladies first no. On the other hand, it would be worse if one of the older gentlemen colleagues were to interrupt service to insist that I be dealt with first. So I guess I would prefer ladies first.

                          1. I'm firmly in the "leave the plates" camp unless a diner expressly advises otherwise. Unfortunately, more and more managers push bussers to clean clean clean so I find it a constant battle.

                            1. I don't care about service from the right as long as nothing is poured on me. I actually had never heard of that one until CH.

                              Many years of restaurant work have made me insane about looking at dirty plates, so I always want mine cleared as soon as it is clear that I'm done. I usually say, "may I get that plate/dirty wine glass/etc. out of your way?" rather than asking if someone is still "working on" something. Hopefully that is more polite.

                              When taking orders, I usually start with the oldest woman at the table and go clockwise from there. If it is clearly a business dinner, I try to find the person in charge (usually the person who gave me their credit card) and begin with them.

                              I tend to leave a check in the middle of the table unless someone at the table has specifically asked for it, or otherwise indicated they would like the check. I always say "I'll be right back with your change" instead of "would you like change" if the customer is paying with cash.

                              What are the other pet peeves people have mentioned? I can't remember any more!!!

                              3 Replies
                              1. re: jnstarla

                                As somewhat of an aside, I wouldn't necessarily start with the person who gave you a credit card for the dinner - since they are the host, I'd actually serve them last. Just a thought.

                                Though at home, while it may seem counter intuitive, if I'm not serving family style, I give my guests their plates last, so that their food is warmer.

                                1. re: MMRuth

                                  I never thought of it that way... I guess I kind of figured that the leader was probably the boss, and most of the time people would prefer to have their boss "set the stage" for the meal. Hm. Will have to reconsider this one.

                                  1. re: jnstarla

                                    I like the "set the stage" idea. Good way to give the guests an idea of price, if alcohol is appropriate, and how many courses to order.

                              2. I think that I do expect traditional service standards.

                                If I am not served from the right I actually get a little disoriented about the service and where my waiter and the food might be coming from, so I would prefer right side service.

                                Not taking plates away until everyone is finished is a big one for me. I am a slow eater. I remember an event at a restaurant with 11 other people and at one point I looked up and realized I was the only person at the table with a plate in front of her. Several of my companions were actually watching me eat; very uncomfortable.

                                I definitely believe the first order or service should be a women but I understand if the server then chooses to go around the table after that. I am a business woman in my forties and most of the businessmen I have eaten with understand this serving convention and expect it. Just like holding the door open or letting me off the elevator first, it is an expectation that can lead to awkwardness if not observed.

                                1. I've noticed that many restaurants we've been going to lately do a sort of hybrid thing in terms of taking orders. They almost universally start with a woman, but then go around the table in order from there rather than taking all of the womens' orders before moving on to the men.

                                  Serving from the left is always nice, but as other have point out, not always possible. Sitting at a banquette, for example. The key thing is for the server to try not to force a particular way of doing something such that it becomes the sole focus and actually gets in the way of doing their job and of the enjoyment of the diners.

                                  1. Actually, the rule is serve from the left-clear from the right.

                                    1 Reply
                                    1. service from the right unless there are table configurations or other obstructions that make different position of service make more sense.

                                      plates stay unless someone requests they be cleared, with the exception-- someone leaves the table, leaving empty plate-- it's not nice to come back to a dirty dish. if the diner does push their plate away then it is a non-verbal signal to the server to clear the dish, and the server should take it without being obtrusive to the table. although many chowhounds hate hate hate when their dish is cleared prematurely, there are lots of folks who think it is the worst thing in the world to sit looking at a dirty plate. people with eating disorders or recovering from them often want plates cleared right away because looking at the evidence of what they've eaten can lead to some real mental anguish and can trigger obsessive-compulsive behavior such as covering as much of the plate as possible with lap napkin, cleaning, fidgeting etc.-- the subject of eating disorders doesn't come up often on chowhound but i am sensitive to these issues after living with people whose recovery process could be easily derailed by a "simple" dinner out. server should always be sensitive to the customer's needs first, service protocol 2nd. i always asked "may i clear your plate" when in doubt.

                                      some places the ladies first rules apply, others are more "equalist" or "rude" depending on p.o.v.-- neither bothers me, esp since i am female and frequently waffle between dining options until the very last second-- i frequently find myself asking the server to take dh's order 1st, then quickly make my own decision & order 2nd.

                                      the more casual the place, the more leeway there is with service conventions. i would not dream that my favorite diner waitress is being rude by clearing my empty plate before dh is done-- i know the whole place has only 2-3 cases of dishes, and she must run the plate to the dishwasher in order to serve the table that just came in!

                                      i hate hate hate the phrases "are you still working on that" and variants, and "how is everything tasting." i always want to say "go back to your denny's lunch shift" but i never have.

                                      8 Replies
                                      1. re: soupkitten

                                        How would you prefer to be asked? I don't want to be hovering around your table like a creepy stalker to see if you might be done or have a complaint.

                                        1. re: jnstarla

                                          well, i'd try "may i bring you our dessert menu?" or "are you enjoying everything?" or "is there anything else i can bring you at this time?" sometimes you can just stop by a table and say "hi." the diners will smile and say hi (or everything's nice, thanks), then return to their conversation, and you can go on to the drink station. . . or else they'll say-- "oh and may we also have". . . or "i think there is a slug in my wife's salad" and then you can help them out.

                                          1. re: soupkitten

                                            I always think that the more direct the question, the better. So, instead of "may I bring you our dessert menu?" to see if the diners are finished, I'd vote for "Are you finished eating?" followed by "would you like me to clear your plate?" (Unless, of course, the plate is just totally cleaned, in which case you skip right to question 2).

                                            If its the quality check, excuse me miss has the right ideas as far as I'm concerned. I also think its always a good moment to follow up wtih "is there anything else I can bring at the moment?" or something similar.

                                            Sincerity, as excuse me miss says, is the key.

                                            1. re: ccbweb

                                              right--i think we actually agree on this-- my sample interaction was kind of a catch-all, but the server should be going off of her/his earlier interaction with the table, so could be more specific with questions-- the "how is everything tasting" comment delivered to every single table at exactly 3 1/2 minutes after the plates have been put down serves less as a quality check imo than it does to raise a "perkins server" flag to the table, while simultaneously making their dining experience feel generic and cheap.

                                              the brief relationship a diner has with a server should feel personal, not canned (and i had my days where it took real effort, but the key IS sincerity, as excuse me miss has already pointed out). just one or 2 real interactions between a server and her diners during a meal can drastically improve the experience for everyone.

                                              i always liked to make one or 2 (brief, true & sincere) comments when taking a patron's order ("oh, i think you'll be glad you ordered the special, everyone's loved it" or "the scallops look wonderful today")-- that way when i stopped back to check on the patron i could very often specifically say: "do you like (or are you enjoying) the scallops?-- oh good, they're one of my favorites too." or some such. because i was a bartender serving food at the bar, most folks wanted plates cleared sooner rather than later (different rules apply at the bar than at tables), but in reality i "checked" each diner at the bar much more frequently relative to those being served at tables-- i passed each one many times during their meal, watching them closely for any "cues" that i needed to give them any attention-- again, different rules at the bar. giving quick, personal attention and behaving like a service professional while at the same time a real human being was really refreshing to the vast majority of my customers and got me a lot of loyal regulars.

                                              1. re: soupkitten

                                                Everything you just said emphasizes why I enjoy dining at the bar nine times out of ten. The service is always more personal, and the bartender is right there when you need him/her. Plus, your drinks certainly stay full!

                                        2. re: soupkitten

                                          What is a good way to ask how the meal is progressing? I never say "how is everything tasting" but what would be a nice way to verbalize that phrase instead? Without sounding too hokey?

                                          1. re: cocktailqueen77

                                            the "how is everything" moment is referred to as the Quality Check. i like to use the yes or no types of quality check questions..

                                            "are you enjoying everything so far?"
                                            "do you like your oxtail ravioli?"
                                            "is your steak done just the way you like it?"

                                            i always thought the sincerity of the asker was more important than the specific choice of words.

                                            1. re: excuse me miss

                                              unless you are in Boca and then you ask 'is anything all right?"

                                        3. i'm sure all us tradionalists that have commented above will be taking dinner tonight gentlemen wearing jacket and tie, ladies, dress, no pants suits. Of course the next topic should be the proper way to hand out that evenings bill of fare.

                                          1. I thought the old standard was the man orders for the woman.

                                            I guess I am in the minority but I like my dirty plates removed right away so I'm a "pusher." Looking at cold and congealing old food on a plate is unattractive to me.

                                            4 Replies
                                            1. re: tom porc

                                              A man ordering for a woman is a very old standard indeed. It does happen on occasion, but most women seem to be able to speak to servers on their own these days.

                                              1. re: nc213

                                                Hrm. I enjoy it when my husband orders for me -- it makes me feel cherished and intimately understood in a way that few other things can (in public, anyways ;) ).

                                                And, he enjoys it when I order for him - for, he tells me, much the same reasons.

                                                I mean really -- there's nothing that indicates you really know what another person likes then being able to order for them in a restaurant.

                                                Of course, this doesn't come up very often -- he'll be having trouble deciding what to get and ask me to order for him, or I'll know I'll be arriving a little late, and ask him to order for me. Or vice versa. And once in a while, it's almost a "date" kind of a thing that we plan ahead of time.

                                                And I'm with Tom - I like dirty plates cleared promptly.

                                                1. re: AnnaEA

                                                  Sometimes either my husband or I will order for the two of us. I don't see any problem with that. In that case, like in the case you mention, the courtesy or decision-making, or whatever you call it goes both ways.

                                                  However, the traditional service/ordering situation, which is what this thread is about and what I believed the person I was responding to was referring to (since he didn't say we order for each other, but rather "the old standard was that the man orders for the woman"), is one-sided--i.e. a woman can or should not order for herself and a man should do it for her.

                                                  there is a clear difference between the two.

                                                  1. re: AnnaEA

                                                    If we are sharing appetizers or steak/sides/etc. (at a steakhouse where most items are a la carte) I order those items. I am better at ordering than my husband who can confuse me even though I understand what he wants. I often do an inner eyeroll when a "lady" is insistant that she not order for herself as if it's beneath her or something (my first MIL was of this school), but if it's for practicality or to make things easier, I have no issue with it.

                                              2. I wonder how all you 'traditional' folks would have reacted to my experience yesterday. It was our weekly girls' happy hour. We chose a sports bar kind of place where we know the owners. I got there first and had to ask the hostess to wipe the table and chairs, since they had crumbs all over them. Seems that there were some 20-somethings partying it up before we got there.

                                                Anyway, the server took my drink order and brought it to me quickly. As I waited for my friends she didn't check on me. My friends each arrived separately and she took their drink orders when we waved her down. We move to a smaller table once we realized fewer people were coming than once expected. We ordered one appetizer to split.

                                                The server had forgotten our silverware and by this time her section was packed (we'd forgotten about the big B-ball game. I'm a football fan myself). SO after she ran by us a couple of times, I went to the wait station and got the wrapped silverware myself. The server did manage to keep our drinks flowing and cold. She never asked how our food was, but smiled and was polite the entire time. I left 20%.

                                                The lack of attention didn't bother me. It was a casual place and she was busy. So what if I had to get my own napkins? This might infuriate some 'hounds, but I prefer to come away just happy for having a good time with friends.

                                                5 Replies
                                                1. re: mojoeater

                                                  Did she serve you your drinks from the right or the left (insert smile)? Sounds like you had a great time - wouldn't have infuriated me necessarily.

                                                  1. re: MMRuth

                                                    I bet she didn't even crumb the table. Man. I'm with MMRuth, though, a good time had by all and at a sports bar, the cold, flowing drinks is really the key.

                                                  2. re: mojoeater

                                                    Jfood for the traditionalists. :-)). Revert smile from MMRuth's comment, nice!!

                                                    Sounds like alls well that ends well. Had a good time with friends in a sports bar while the b-ball game was going. helped yourself when no help arrived, had a great time with friends. Traditionally thats a good evening. What's the question?

                                                    1. re: jfood

                                                      I guess that's my point. If you're having a good time with your companions, inadequate service doesn't matter quite so much. It matters more and more as the cost of entrees goes up, but even then I'm not super picky about standards. Probably comes from my years working in restaurants. If the food, drink and company are good, I can deal with most things.

                                                      1. re: mojoeater

                                                        ms mojo, left or right on the dish in or out jfood would probably not notice. askingthe ladies first, would notice and nudge the server in the correct direction, also, no biggie. taking plate too soon, not a biggie but jfood prefers it does not happen.

                                                        Can jfood think of any meal in the thousands eaten in restos that this moved the needle to a less pleasant experience, answer is "nope".

                                                        Now when the resto brings all the dishes with a dome on each, places it in front of the custos and simultaneously lifts them all, now that's an OMG you gotta be kidding. Usually a good laugh in car-jfood on the way home.

                                                  3. I think the question is which old protocols. Clearly the days of having a server and busboy for each guest with 9 or more courses being simultaneously served and cleared is long gone. Gone also are the days where everyone learned the same set of manners, at least the people who would be in a dining room. Even in this select grouping, there is no real concensus of what is appropriate service and what is not.

                                                    But the old protocols were set up to maximize the enjoyment of those dining. The same basis for the rules ought to still apply. If you are sitting in a booth with 3 diners on each side, clearly the person furthest from the waiter should be served first so that the server does not have to reach over other peoples food. Bussing should take the reverse order. If a diner has made it clear that they wish to have their place setting cleared before others, that should be respected by the server/busperson. And much as I personally hate seing people push their food away (never mind piling their own dishes and cutlery), how many people these days were ever taught the proper placement of cutlery on the plate to indicate they were finished? Many hardly know how to hold the cutlery in the first place.

                                                    As has always been the case, a good waitperson will always try to be aware of the status of the table, and when possible take his or her hints from the actions of the host and/or hostess if their is one.

                                                    5 Replies
                                                    1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                      I guess I'm now a "pusher" and a "piler."

                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                        lol, i frequently have to remind my waitstaff that it's not our job to teach the guests etiquette. if a guy uses his steak knife for butter or his butter knife for salad, he still gets re-set with a new knife.

                                                        however, once at a certain level of dining, i think it is the restaurant's responsibility to try to maintain decorum. regardless of the bad manners of the patrons.

                                                        1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                          jfood agrees with Hoto up to the point where the decorum of one table leads to a lowering of the decorum in a resto. Thenthe resto needs to gently inform table "uncouth" to please lighten the load.

                                                          Likewise the waitstaff is not the etiquette police. Nor is it jfood responsibility to teach manners to anyone other than little jfoods (and young associates wrt business meals).

                                                          That being said it is unfortunate that from the local dive to the snootiest resto, the overall level of decorum seems to have decreased over time. Some jfood agrees with (see "voila" comment elsewhere) others jfood is disappointed. How many times has jfood seen colleagues grab a roll, slice it like a bagel, butter the whole thing and eat it like a sandwich. Ouch. Likewise at a business meal, taking the bread to soak up the sauce is embarassing. But as hoto stated, resto stays out of these minor faux pas. The job of the server is to assure correct utensils and serve.

                                                          We could probably have an entire thread on the subject of decorum which jfood will start to see where people think improvement can occur.

                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                            ooh, i was not being macro here on bad behavior. more in regards to proper silver usage, "is this my bread plate?" and that sort of thing. i've had to reign in unruly customers more than i'd like. ack. i'd hate to eat at their homes if that's how some folks behave in public.

                                                            1. re: hotoynoodle

                                                              Now I'm a "pusher" a "piler" and a "soaker."

                                                      2. The only standard I really notice and care about is not taking plates away until everyone's finished. What I really hate is when, if I have leftovers on my plate, which I often do, the server asks me a bunch of questions or makes cute little comments. Fine to ask me if everything was alright (I actually expect that question a few minutes after being served, don't wait until you're clearing) but I don't want to get into a conversation with you about why I may not have eaten a lot. It's embarassing when you point that out in front of my companions.

                                                        1 Reply
                                                        1. re: JennS

                                                          frequently people will say everything's fine when it isn't. and often those people get home and write an email to the management. and then the management will come down on the server for not recognizing there was something wrong with the meal.

                                                          i personally am way past the point of coaxing complaints out of people. if i ask you if you like your food and you say yes even though you don't- that's your problem. but it's not the norm to not eat most of your meal. i suggest you say "it was delicious but i'm full and i don't care for leftovers, so no doggie bag thank you." or you could say "i'd LOVE it if you could wrap this up for me" and then dispose of the doggie bag later.

                                                        2. Service from the most convenient place possible. Not too worried if left or right, but then again I'm a plebe.
                                                          Plate removal - I'm voting for when everyone is done. Could any Euros on the board enlighten us as to what happens there - not that it matters in a huge way because we're talking about the U.S. here , but I am curious because it seems to me that Americans are overly obsessed with the whole plate-removal thing. I do know that in a formal restaurant in Europe, the rules are stricter, but not once in all my visits to Europe (my family is from there) do I recall having someone try to remove my plate prematurely and that happens all the time in the States.
                                                          Pet peeve: "Are you still working on that?" It's a linguistic thing.
                                                          Ladies first? I'm with NC213 on this one. There has to be a polite way of asking who's ready to order.