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Oct 6, 2007 08:03 PM

When do plates get cleared?

I've always been irritated when I sit with my plate in front of me too long after I've finished my meal. A friend recently stated she hates when a server clears her plate when other people are still eating. With a little research I discovered it is actually etiquette to wait until everyone is done before plates are cleared so that the people still eating don't feel rushed. That makes sense but I think most people equate having their plates cleared promptly with good service. Which is it? I'm curious what the chowhounds prefer.

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  1. I'm in the "wait for everyone to be done" camp. I always feel the person still eating is being rushed, and I don't mind a few dirty plates on the table. I will admit I'm particularly sensitive to feeling rushed out of a restaurant; nothing ruins a good meal for me like feeling pushed out by the staff. I hate sitting down too close to closing time for the same reason, though I'm probably remembering my own far away waitressing days of wishing ill on the 3-martinis-after-closing people.

    1 Reply
    1. re: corgette

      Im with Corgette on this one too, but probably because I am usually the slow eater, and the last one finished. I also have a pet peeve with busboys who persistently remove plates I am still using (i.e.the bread plate after Ive had my last bite of one piece, but still looking forward to another).

      And while I'm venting ... some of my co-workers are hoping to move up through the company, and I've emphasized to them all the little things that Upper Management notices and keeps score on, one of which is table manners. Im trying to break them of the habit of bussing their own dishes. They finish their meal (well ahead of me as usual ...) and they start stacking their smaller plates on the bigger one. No no, I tell them, you're not the busboy. "But Im just trying to help" is the usual reply. I resist the temptation to suggest they just walk their dishes back to the kitchen....

    2. My theory is the dishes arrived together they should be removed together. I do not want numerous interuptions to the flow of conversation as each dish is removed. Breaks the mojo at the table.

      there are definitely two camps on this subject and i am camped in the all at the same time. I very much dislike the grab the dish as the last bit is taken by each person at the table. I feel thatthe busboys are almost laying in wait, ready to pounce when that last morsel of duck crosses the lips. just feel over-aggressive.

      i am a quicker eater than mrs jfood and have learned to "slow down" and pace myself so that we can finish in a tie. in the event that i do quicken the pace and finish first, and the busboy arrives at the table to remove my dish, i politely ask him to wait until everyone is done before removing any of the dishes.

      1. Personally I much prefer that all plates are cleared when everyone is done and would agree that according to etiquette that is truly good service.
        I think when servers clear plates individually the slow eaters tend to feel rushed and it also interrupts the conversations of those at the table. As a slow eater I have on occasion even had my plate cleared with some food still on it and I wasn't quite done. This is one of the worst server offenses IMO.

        7 Replies
        1. re: SweetPea914

          I'm with SweetPea, but perhaps as equally offensive for me is to have the the first diners finish their entree and have one or more diners still eating and the waitstaff will appear & offer dessert & coffee! "Would you like some dessert & coffee?"
          My reply is, "Why, I really don't know yet, I am still eating my entree!"

          Let me say that rarely happens in New Orleans where I live, but travelling out west this summer, plates flew off of the table as soon as the first person finished. I sat there with my lone plate finishing my meal, which was clearly 2/3s still on my plate. I asked my host & hostess about this & got different responses. My hostess said, "Time is money! Clear those plates & get them out!" My host, who I believe travels a little more, which might explain his answer, "I think it is just a matter of different styles. <then inserts jab> But at the rate you eat, you would still have been alone eating whether the plates would have been there or not!" I might mention he inhaled his food at every meal we shared.

          1. re: Isabella

            How terrible, not the most hospitable of hosts IMO. I would much rather enjoy my food than inhale it. BTW, Love your name, as it is my daughters as well!

            1. re: SweetPea914

              Thanks Sweet Pea, I appreciate your comments. I was wondering if maybe it was just me. I did poll a group of friends out west about the incident all but one said clear the plates all at once.

              I am happy to hear most folks still go with clearing all at once. I am by no means on an ettiquette trip and love casual dining too . . . but rude is rude!

              1. re: Isabella

                Isabella, as a server we are taught to not clear until everyone is done, unless someone stacks their plates or pushes them to the side. Same with offering dessert. In fact one time I had a man asking me to bring dessert menus before everyone was finished and I (politely) said (as one of the people was an elderly woman) "Perhaps you would like to wait until everyone is finished?" Oh no you can just bring the menu, was his reply.

                1. re: Missmoo

                  Good for you! The more I read of these threads it seems , good servers AND good dining partners are hard to find!

                  1. re: Missmoo

                    Good job, Missmoo!
                    Just curious- in what area are you located?

                    1. re: Isabella

                      That would be the Bay Area (San Francisco)!

          2. "wait for everyone to be done" ABSOLUTELY.

            2 Replies
              1. re: MMRuth

                add me to the wait for everyone camp.

            1. I'm with everyone else--wait till everyone's done. My worst experience was last week when I went to a restaurant where little individual dishes were placed on a sort of modified bento box (about 6 in. by 4 in.). Our servers actually removed some of the dishes as we were still eating out of other ones in the same box! This was at a high concept place in town, not your local sushi joint.