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Aug 15, 2008 02:28 PM

Please don't take my plate away

One of my pet peeves is when waiters feel the need to take my plate away before bringing the check.

I'm a slow eater so I usually finish last and in an effort to please my fellow diners, waiters will continually offer to take my plate away when I'm not finished. I don't mind if they bring the check so we can get squared way while I finish eating. To me, that's not a problem. But more often than not, waiters will not bring the check until they have cleared my plate. It's annoying!

How do you feel?

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  1. I think one simple "Please leave my plate, I'm going to keep eating this" should be enough. The truth is that most people get annoyed when their plates aren't cleared, so they are just doing what they have been trained to do.

    1. "I don't mind if they bring the check so we can get squared way while I finish eating. To me, that's not a problem."

      tell them that!--servers are not mind readers. they don't think they can bring the check w/o clearing your plate because that is how they've been trained. in fact, most mgrs would have words for a server who delivered the check before the plates were cleared: 'whaddyatrynadoo, rush these nice people? didja even offer them dessert? what are you, the worst waiter ever? why, i oughter. . .' --if you tell the server it's okay to bring the check out while your plate is still there, the server can shrug at the manager and say: 'sorry boss, the nice lady said that's what she'd like. customer's always right, y'know, boss?'

      1 Reply
      1. re: soupkitten


        This is a good idea. It should work well, but often does not. In Europe, the check is most often not presented, until it is specifically asked for. I like that plan. However, I do agree that one should make their wishes known, whether it is the norm, or how the waitstaff has been trained.

        A great dining experience is about many things. Unfortuantely, in the US, especially, it is more about turning the tables.

        Now, we normally do multiple courses, ending with a cheese-course, then a dessert course. We normally have several wines with both. Wife will often add decaf at the end. We usually open many restaurants and then close them. We do not linger, but are ordering all the time. Maybe growing up in/near New Orleans has led me to believe that dining is something to be taken seriously and to be savored - every bite, every sip. Snatch my plate/wine glass and incur my wrath.

        I usually start by telling the waitstaff that I will be a slow diner, and will likely order several more courses, than the average diner. That takes the "mind reading" out of the equation.

        Yes, the staff needs to know the wishes of the diner. In several other threads, too many complained that the staff did not present the check, when the dessert/coffee course was served. It's up to the diner to make these wishes known. Let me summon them for the check.


      2. Two questions here:

        1 - When to clear the plate - jfood falls into the camp of all plates come together and all leave together. He does not want one party to feel rushed because the other plates have been removed
        2 - When to bring the check - the check should not be delivered until the meal is completed and the customer asks for it. There are exceptions to this, i.e breakfast, diners, etc.

        57 Replies
        1. re: jfood

          I agree with JFood. I also use the phrase, "I'm not ready yet" as well as, "I'll wait until the others are finished."

          1. re: brendastarlet

            I say the same in response to the server or busboy asking if they can take my plate, "Not till the others are finished."

            Quite a while ago, when I was in culinary school, we had several classes of classical table service, and the rule we learned was not to clear the table until everyone had finished eating. And not just because it makes the diners still eating uncomfortable when others have already had their plates cleared.

            There's another aspect to this, a visual and psychological aspect, which we also learned in culinary school. It's called table symmetry. The table looks unbalanced when some plates are cleared and others are not. Having that visual unevenness psychologically places people into two separate camps --those eating and those not -- and adversely affects the sense of table unity.

            Another current thread on this:
            "When the waiter wants to clear the dishes before everyone is done "

            1. re: maria lorraine

              My wife always gets mad, but I actually prefer to have the dirty plates cleared when people are finished. I'd rather not sit and look at a dirty plate while others finish. Maybe that's not the correct thing to do manner wise, but it is my preference.

              1. re: Rick

                If you knew that having your plate cleared caused others who are still eating to feel rushed or uncomfortable, would you still want your plate cleared?

                Have you asked your dining companions their preference?
                Is your wife's preference important?
                Do you consider a plate that has remnants of fresh food on it "dirty"?

                1. re: maria lorraine

                  i can't believe how strongly people feel on either side of this, as in many other issues, here at CH. I do not like having my check brought before i ask for it, true, because it it up to me and not the restaurant when i am finished. I prefer not having an empty plate in front of me, comfortwise, but i am not bothered or disgusted by a dirty plate, nor am i bothered by an empty plate being taken. What other people in the restaurant wear does not matter to me. if the waiter does or does not tell em their name, does not matter to me. if the waiter is informal and calls me "guy" i don't care. I care about good food, good company, and friendly service. the rest... pfft

                  1. re: thew

                    Well, I look at it at this way...and I know you may not agree.

                    A dining table of two or more persons is a micro-community, and I am willing to put aside my preference if it makes others feel uncomfortable.

                    Especially if my preference is a minor one.

                    If I like having my plate cleared, but it makes my fellow diners feel uncomfortable or rushed, then I don't wish to cause those persons discomfort.

                    Some diners may not even be aware that having their plate removed has this adverse effect on those still eating.

                    1. re: thew

                      I am so with thew on this one. I do have my preferences, but in the end, none of this stuff really matters to me. I hardly even notice. If the food and company are good and the service staff is trying, then i've enjoyed myself!

                      1. re: thew

                        It bothers me because when i'm the only person with a plate a feel self-conscious. I have some social anxiety, so I often reach the point where I can no longer enjoy my food, because I feel like everyone is waiting for me. More often than not, I surrender my plate rather than finish eating alone. Of course, i could choose to keep it, but my discomfort is so great that it overwhelms. I doubt I'm the only one.

                        1. re: nc213

                          Not to fuel the fire, but if you're the only one with a plate left, perhaps you SHOULD feel self-conscious. I don't think one should shovel their food in, but I believe in keeping the approximate pace as my guests.

                          Frankly, if you're the only one with a plate left, your fellow diners ARE waiting for you; the waiter clearing or not clearing plates doesn't change that. Maybe your companions mind, maybe they don't, but they ARE waiting. Being the only one to linger is flat-out rude.

                          1. re: invinotheresverde

                            funny - i think rude is expecting people to eat at anything but their own pace, not eating faster or slower to appease others

                            1. re: thew

                              You're saying it wouldn't be rude to nibble for 45 minutes after everyone else has finished?

                              1. re: invinotheresverde

                                i'm saying that it may or may not be depending on the situation. if it's good friends or loved ones, i would enjoy their company, assuming i didn't have someplace to be. and if i had to be someplace, and the nibbler didn't, i would kiss them good bye and go when the time came. if it was someplace we needed to be together, i'd say.. we have to go in 5 minutes or we'll be late.

                        2. re: thew

                          Thew, congratulations on being so unable to be bothered. It must save you a lot of anxiety! Just curious, what has happened that you can recollect in a restaurant that has bothered you? The things you mention above would bother me to various degrees.

                          1. re: SamuelAt

                            bad service. bad food. people fighting at my table. people on the verge of sex at the table (if im not invited)

                        3. re: maria lorraine

                          Maria, I don't understand how my empty plate sitting there for 10 min. makes one feel less rushed. If my plate is empty it's obvious that I'm done eating whether the plate is in front of me or not.

                          1. re: Rick

                            I'm glad you're trying to understand. That's admirable.

                            This is a matter of nuance and subtleties, and the idea that dining companions go through a meal *together.*

                            Let's say you and I are friends and we're dining together. If I am still eating when your plate is removed, then I feel hurried. You are essentially waiting for me to finish eating, and that puts pressure on me to speed up, and I don't enjoy my food as much that way. We are also out of sync at that point. I'm still on one course, and you are waiting for another to begin. If your plate remains on the table for a few minutes more, then we are still in sync -- we are still on the same course even though you have finished eating that course.

                            The visual thing is more subtle yet. The table looks funny when some plates are cleared and some are not. It's visually out of balance. I know this is lost on some people, but it's the same as if a flower is missing some petals -- it doesn't look quite right.

                            I do find that women are a little more tuned into these nuances than most men. Not all men are unaware of the discomfort that is caused by having their plates cleared when others are still eating, but some are. And generally, men are more efficient eaters than women and finish before them! Obviously, there are exceptions to this.

                            Finally, something very dear, and I hope you can hear this from me. If I were your lovely wife and loved you and you loved me, and she was mad when the plates were cleared before everyone was finished, I'd yield to her preference. It may seem like a little thing but if it pleases her, I'd try to make her happy. And in things like this, it's a two-way street -- I'd certainly yield to your preferences too sometimes!


                            1. re: maria lorraine

                              In addition, if the dirty plate is so horrible one simply must have it removed for comfort, there's a lot more wrong than different eating speeds. :)

                              1. re: maria lorraine

                                if you feel hurried, that is not because i am putting pressure on you, but you are pressuring yourself. If i enjoy your company, i don't want to rush away just because my plate is empty or cleared. In fact, i'm done eating by exactly the same amount, with or w/out the plate in front of me. And if one is trying to watch their food intake, they might not want the temptation of picking at food they are really done with, just because the plate is still there.

                                and while many men are "more efficient" eaters i think it is complete nonsense to say that women are more tuned into the nuances.

                                also - not being affected by something is NOT the same as having that something lost on you.

                                1. re: thew

                                  I gather that you don't understand or agree with me, or agree with the rule taught in culinary and hospitality schools around the world.

                                  While *you* may feel that something does not affect you or your dining companions, your dining companions may feel affected by that something.

                                  <<<if you feel hurried, that is not because i am putting pressure on you, but you are pressuring yourself>>>

                                  You're personally not putting pressure on the diner who is still eating -- your empty place-setting is -- the visual void is. The other aspect is the lack of being in sync.

                                  But I can see that you feel otherwise, and feel strongly that your viewpoint is the correct one.

                                  1. re: maria lorraine

                                    I think some people need the visual void to make a point. Most of the time when I go out and someone is much slower, they are either monopolizing the conversation and not eating a thing or are attempting to use utensils that they are not the most familiar with or are not necessarily the correct one for the meal.

                                    I am with thew about food intake. Typically if the portion is too big, I try to eat half and then stop. Most higher end places don't seem to have huge portions, so it is less of a problem there. But at a lower-end establishment, if I am given a meal for three, I want the other two meals wrapped up when I am finished.

                                    1. re: queencru

                                      When we dine with others, there will be at least two persons' dining preferences, hunger level, eating speed, conversational ability, and skill level in using utensils and chewing.

                                      It's rather easy to be aware of our own preferences, but not as easy to be aware of others' preferences.

                                      How often do we even check in with others about their dining preferences?

                                      And when do we put aside our own personal preferences for the comfort and happiness of another or the group?

                                      Someone eating much slower because of monopolizing the conversation or utensil ineptitude is an interesting issue.

                                      The absence of dinner dialogue could reflect a lack of social skills, or it could simply be a diner excitedly sharing stories from his recent mountaineering trip to a willing listener.

                                      The second situation is one of coordination. A lack of coordination with utensils could be because the diner is an old-timer or a toddler or simply inexperienced with chopsticks and wants to get better.

                                      In both situations, one diner finishes eating before the other(s).

                                      Because my elderly father chews more slowly than I do, do I wait for him to finish eating his appetizer before I move on the entree or not?

                                      And, though my preference is for plates to be cleared when everyone has finished eating, Thew's comment about not wanting "the temptation of picking at food they are really done with, just because the plate is still there" is not lost on me.

                                      Let's say -- hypothetically -- that Thew and I are close friends and are sharing a meal. [Just to be clear, we are not friends, and I gather he does not respect my viewpoint on plate-clearing or the reasoning behind it!] Let's also say -- hypothetically -- that Thew is attempting to lose a few pounds, and he has eaten what he feels is best to achieve that goal and doesn't want to be tempted by the food remaining on his plate. I, however, am still eating. Now even though I'd prefer the plates to be cleared after we both are finished eating, I'm sensitive to Thew's not wanting to be tempted, and I want to support Thew in his goal of weight-loss. So yes, in this case, please clear Thew's plate ahead of mine, and possibly box the remainder of his course for him to enjoy at another meal. He has the greater need in this particular situation. His preference in this case overrides mine.

                                      I bring this up because it's one way to ascertain the best course of action when dining as a group -- who has the greater need in an specific situation? Who will experience discomfort or dissatisfaction by a certain action, and who will not? Is one aware or oblivious that an action MAY cause discomfort? Has one inquired? And even if one *is* aware of another's discomfort or preference, does that person *care*? Is someone willing to put aside his or own preference for another who may have a greater need?

                                      No one rule is the best for all situations. The rule of waiting for all diners to finish eating before clearing the plates *seems* to be the best to keep the most people happy at a table, to keep the table unified, to help the restaurant in firing and serving courses to the table as a unit, and to keep the table visually balanced. But, like I said, there are exceptions, and determining what's best for a specific situation requires an awareness of others' preferences.

                                      1. re: maria lorraine


                                        Interesting observation, as usual. I have many opportunities to dine with various wonderful ladies, who are always on some diet, or another. Most will only pick at a plate, and allow the majority of the food to go back. I respect this. I am not on any diet (though maybe I should be, especially a non-foie gras diet, according to my cardiologist), and enjoy great food. Whether I am the host, or just a guest, I have no problem with their plates being cleared before mine.

                                        I do agree that it is wonderful orchestration, when each course is presented with great fanfare and the covers are all pulled at once. The same goes for the clearing of plates. It's nice to have the staff all arrive and retrieve every plate in one group swoop. I love the pageantry of this level of service. I also understand if some of the folk around the table do not really wish to eat. That is their choice, but it does not have to be mine.

                                        To coordinate the removal of all plates at once, should these diners be forced to sit in front of their plates (mostly ladies, but some gentlemen as well), or should I stop dining, to acquiesce to their pace? From your comments, I think that you would allow me to finish, given these circumstances. I have come to expect this latitude from you.


                                        1. re: Bill Hunt

                                          My preference, if I have finished eating the food on my plate before you have done so, is to wait for you to finish. It's no chore to wait, and I don't in the slightest feel "forced" to sit in front of my plate. I enjoy you, enjoy your company, and want you to enjoy your food, as many bites as you wish to take. When you are finished, we will both move on to our next course. There's a beauty in that, a peacefulness and elegance to that.

                                          Plates may be delivered to the table without fanfare, but they usually are delivered at much the same time. I like the plates to be removed at much the same time also -- not only for visual symmetry, not only because the arrival of plates simultaneously is symmetrically "bookended" by the simultaneous removal of plates, but also because of conversation. When a server/busboy/backwaiter is asking, however politely, everyone at the table if they want or not want their plate removed, the conversational flow is interrupted. I'd prefer that to not happen.

                                          I like a pause between courses, to clear, to set up, but once the next course starts, I like it to continue as uninterruptedly as possible, just like the chapter of a book or movement of a symphony.

                                        2. re: maria lorraine

                                          I am not sure about the "greater need" point except in extreme situations like you brought up about your father. If someone's eating is slowed down due to a physical limitation, that's an entirely different story...however, after I had dental surgery and could only eat very very small pieces of food at a time, I routinely asked for half of my food to be boxed for me to eat later so I didn't make everyone else wait for me. It's a two-way street - if I know I am going to be slower than average, either I have to make sure my dining companions are fine waiting for me, or I have to figure out how to keep pace with them (e.g. boxing some of the food) or decline the invitation. I think it's weird for someone to impose their will on the rest of a group and make everyone wait until he/she is done to "release" the table from that particular course. It sort of seems like a power trip/entitlement thing.

                                          1. re: akq

                                            If someone is imposing their will, that's one thing, and that person is obviously oblivious or uncaring of others' preferences.

                                            If it's simply a matter of being patient and allowing others to finish, that's another.

                                            The concept of the "greater need" is a huge one, and applies to many human situations. Compromise doesn't always lend itself to a solution. If you want the window closed, but I want it open, the compromise of having the window open halfway is not a solution. If you want to eat Italian, but I want to eat Chinese, how we do we decide which restaurant to go to?

                                            Who has the "greater need" helps decide. You want the window closed because you feel a cold coming on, so you have the greater need. You may have a preference for Italian, but I've really been craving Chinese, so in that instance, I have the greater need.

                                            In a dining situation, several things determine who has the greater need. Even though I prefer to have the plates cleared together, Thew had the greater need in his desire to not be tempted to eat more on his plate.

                                            In terms of the meal's pacing, my father, who chews slowly, has the greater need. It's not merely because he has the slower eating speed, or a physical limitation. I don't want him to feel rushed in any way. I want him to enjoy every bite, and so I try to be patient. I also wait for him because he is my father, out of respect and deference, and because I feel it's the right thing to do. Does my patience always come easily? No. But in this funny kind of way, it feels good to be patient. I am sharing a meal with my father, after all, and the meal is not about food or me -- it is about our sharing time together as happily as possible.

                                            In the case of "utensil ineptness," it sounded in your post as if you were annoyed at this person's lack of skill level. Was this person simply trying to become more skilled at using chopsticks and you could have been a little more patient and allowed him a little more to do that without too much skin off your back? That person might have had the greater need then? Or did that person choose an inappropriate time to improve their chopstick skills, say your rushed lunch hour at work? In which case, that person was insensitive to the timeframe and your needs. Or was something else happening? My father is not as fast with a knife and fork as he used to be -- do I get annoyed or do I give him time?

                                            After your dental surgery, were your friends accommodating of your slower eating speed? If there were not, would you have preferred them to be more patient? Would it have been much of an imposition on them to be more patient? What would have the been the best way to proceed given everyone involved? Your dining companions being more patient *and* your having the rest of your course packaged for another meal?

                                            Your other example was monopolizing the conversation. Was this person trying to dominate the conversation and you were annoyed? That wouldn't be about eating speed then, but about that person's insensivity to others. Or, did that person monopolize the converation because he had something especially interesting to share and say? If you were extremely interested in what this person had to say, would you still be annoyed he was a slow eater? This may be more about not liking the the person than about that person's slow eating.

                                            1. re: maria lorraine

                                              "If you want to eat Italian, but I want to eat Chinese, how we do we decide which restaurant to go to?"

                                              Why a Korean B'Bq place with a killer tiramisu, of course!

                                              Joking aside, you make some very good points, even if you do not agree with me...


                                          2. re: maria lorraine

                                            maria i do respect your viewpoint. i just do not share it.

                                          3. re: queencru

                                            Obviously, you do not play the role of host/hostess at many dinners. If one is doing their job, a lot is happening that takes time from eating. Conversations amongst the guests are started. Wine is ordered and the service is often supervised. All guests’ services need to be checked and their promptness and correctness need to be verified. The service staff needs to be monitored, so that each guest has what they wished, when it is appropriate. These are the things that I juggle weekly and then must find time to eat.

                                            Your allowances that there are only two reasons that one is slow are totally baseless to the point of absurdity. With regards to the various utensils, I can juggle them in either American, or Euro-style and diners in either areas will never know how I was originally trained.

                                            I also maintain that one should not “wolf” down their food, but should savor each bite. Heck, that is what we are there for, right? Now, on occasion I do dine with folk, who act like the restaurant is afire and they are starving. That is their problem, not mine, except that I then have additional work to be done– to insure that their frenzy does not affect any of my other guests.

                                            By your suggestions, I should not be allowed to also enjoy the food on my plate, even though I have usually carefully chosen that particular restaurant for that group of guests. I have also carefully chosen the wines to pair perfectly and have orchestrated their service. Sorry, but this does not play well with me.


                                            1. re: Bill Hunt

                                              I don't really see how you inferred so much out of a relatively short post. There are plenty of reasons why people take longer or shorter, with portion control, overtalking, and utencil ineptness as three of the many possibilities. Chances are if you eat 1/3 of your plate while someone else eats the whole thing, the former is going to finish much faster even if he/she is savoring the meal. It's one thing to savor and another entirely to slow down to the point where the food is getting cold.

                                              The reality of the matter is that for most meals, people aren't really there to savor the meal. If I have people over to eat at my home, it's for the company and enjoyment of being with my friends and it's usually the same when I go out to a restaurant. It's simply a reason to get together. I think this is common for many people who go out to eat, especially for the work lunch crew. I wasn't aware this topic was solely for the high-end establishment.

                                      2. re: maria lorraine

                                        Maria, I'm on your team. I'm a slow eater and it makes me uncomfortable when everything is cleared away except for my lonely plate. And usually when thats the case,I notice it makes the waiters more anxious to speed me up and asking me if they may take my plate away every 5 minutes while still chewing in mid bites.

                                        Must we have to go to an high end establishment to avoid this now ?

                            2. re: jfood

                              Ditto. My mother, especially, is a slow eater, and it does seem rude for the waiter to take away all the other plates and leave her eating alone. I avoid letting them take mine, but I like brendastarlet's directness, and will work on that (usually my request seems a mystery to the waitstaff). Also about bringing the plates -- I grew up with "don't eat till everybody's served" UNLESS it's something that's really best eaten hot (like breakfast).

                              1. re: juster

                                My training indicates that no gentleman shall touch fork to food, until all of the ladies have been served, and at least one has taken the first bite.

                                Old school? Yeah, but I also stand when a lady arrives at the table, or leaves from it. Events can be a bitch, but that is part of the drill.


                                1. re: Bill Hunt

                                  You stand when a lady leaves from the table? That sounds akward.

                                  1. re: Rick

                                    Only when we are seated in a booth. I also stand, when a lady arrives at the table. This can take some time, at an event, as many come to our table to chat with one of the guests. It's part of what a gentleman does, when a lady either arrives at, or leaves the table. It does slow down one's dining, but I live with it.

                                    I also pull the chair for a lady being seated, and insure that it is at the proper place for her to dine, unless there is someone else to do this.

                                    Only problem that I have is when a lady "springs" from the table and disappears to wherever, too quickly to acknowledge. Some of my friends do this, just to bug me. Some have even had fun by standing in unison, to see what I'd do.

                                    Yeah, as admitted elsewhere, I'm old school, but I learned my lessons well. I still tip my hat to ladies on the street...


                                    1. re: Bill Hunt

                                      just curious bill - where do you live?

                              2. re: jfood

                                i don't even like those exceptions. i'm not one of those fawning europhiles, but this is one thing they have right - they almost never bring a check until you ask for it.

                                in my snarkier younger days, if someone brought me an unasked for check, i would usually order a cup of tea or something after.

                                1. re: jfood

                                  In theory I agree with Jfood - all plates should be cleared at the same time. However, in practice - my SO is a REALLY slow eater and I end up picking at my food for a good 10+ mins after I am done while waiting for him to finish. I realize it's a personal responsibility issue and I should be able to just stop and not pick at the food left on my plate while I wait...but I just have a tough time with it. I will often ask for my food to be boxed or plate taken away while he is still eating...

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    I absolutely hate having to ask the waiter to bring the check. I've always considered it an example of bad service, like he's forgotten about us or something. I do agree it should wait until the meal is finished, of course...but if the waiter asks if we want dessert, and we say no, the check should be coming soon after, without us having to ask, in my opinion.

                                    1. re: Six_of_One

                                      Interesting, definitely 2 schools of thought on this one and jfood on the other side.

                                      He does not want the check delivered until he asks for it as it seems that the wiater is now asking them to leave. Sorta leaves a bad taste in jfood's mouth when all of a sudden the check appears.

                                      1. re: jfood

                                        In every restaurant I've worked at, after desserts, after-dinner drinks and coffee mention is finished (either offered and declined, or offered and served) you have to present the check. If you present it really nicely and make it clear when doing so that you will continue to service the table and add to the check in whatever capacity they'd like, it's usually not a problem even for people like jfood who would rather ask for it. Unfortunately, this also often creates "campers" as they're known in the business, and these people feel comfortable enough to sit an extra half hour to an hour after they've finished eating, and you instantly quit making money on that table, just keeping refilling their coffee and water or what have you. I have *never* had a table of campers that ordered anything else that added to their check, and it just means instant stoppage of income on that table. I like being nice and delivering good service, but I'm there to make money. If you've finished your meal and want to go hang out somewhere and drink coffee for an hour, go to Starbucks. JMO.

                                        1. re: rockandroller1

                                          a restaurant does more than sell food, it sells a place to have a meal. If you just want to sell food, and move on to the next customer open a take out place. if you want to be a restaurant, expect people to sit and talk. and i will tell you when i'm ready for my check.

                                          1. re: thew

                                            I know what you're saying, that's just not the way it's worked at anywhere I've ever worked. Now I am not a "career" server but I have worked at about 10 restaurants.

                                            1. re: thew

                                              And once you've finished eating/drinking what you've purchased, it's time for you to go. Your lease is up.

                                              1. re: JonParker

                                                maybe you can hover over my table saying "eat faster, eat faster" too... or try to take my plate everytime i put down my fork. that would make the meal even faster. if fact, a place that treats customers like that will soon have such a streamlined operation there will always be empty tables.

                                                remind me not to eat in your restaurant.

                                                1. re: thew

                                                  I don't own a restaurant, nor am I in the business. I just recognize the contract between patron and establishment, and understand the need for politeness and consideration on both sides.

                                                2. re: JonParker


                                                  I agree 100%. It is the push to turn the table, while the cheese course is being served, that gets my ire. While I am still dining (and paying), I do not wish to feel rushed. If a restaurant is so concerned about getting the paying patrons out, then they should not offer desserts, or cheese courses, and NO after dinner drinks, of any sort. Maybe they could move through the dining room with cattle prods, or something...


                                              2. re: rockandroller1

                                                as jfood has stated numerous times eating in a restaurant is a relationship that goes both ways. If there is a bunch of people waiting then if the server has not rushed jfood then he will finish his coffee, ask for the check and not camp out. If the server has been pushing and rushing jfood to turn the table is a less than acceptable manner then jfood will not cooperate as much.

                                                But if there are no waiting customers then jfood has never been asked to vacate.

                                                1. re: jfood

                                                  Now don't get me wrong, jfood, I basically agree with your approach and am likely to do the same as you (though if I truly felt rushed I might just get annoyed and be inclined to leave and never come back)...

                                                  Nonetheless, for some reason I am reminded of a study I once read, back in the day when people actually used pay phones, that concluded that people tended to stay on the payphone longer on average when there was someone waiting to use it...if true, I wonder if that behavior was a reflection of feeling rushed (just because someone was hovering around waiting)?

                                                  1. re: jfood


                                                    Good plan, and one to which I subscribe. I respect a restaurant needing to make a profit on the night. However, as long as I am spending well and tipping high, I do not expect to be rushed, regardless.

                                                    Even with designated seatings, I always tell our waitstaff that we are likely to enjoy all possible courses. So far, no one has complained to me, especially if I'm doing a couple of US$25/glass Ports. If they cannot handle this, then I go elsewher. There is no restaurant on Earth, that will get my business, if they push me out. I don't care if Jack Nicholson is waiting for my table. When I am done, I leave, and not before. I also like to request my check, but then I'm rather "old school."


                                              3. re: Six_of_One

                                                In some cultures it's considered rude & inhospitable for a check to be presented before it's requested by the diner, especially if the restaurant's not expecting to turn the table.

                                                1. re: Six_of_One

                                                  In our restaurant we are instructed to wait until the customer asks for the bill before bringing it to the table. This creates a little annoyance with some people, usually those who are used to the whole Nth American dine and dash routine. Most people don't seem to mind asking for it, and honestly I prefer to be asked for the bill.

                                                  1. re: kiwiFRUIT


                                                    Good call. Yes, some will become annoyed, but they should be in the minority. If they want it all fast, regardless, they should be dining at a Denny's.


                                                2. re: jfood

                                                  Normally, I agree with you 100%, but on the clearing of the plates, I have no problem with them leaving at different times. Yes, it's nice to have the staff make the presentation at once, but as different diners eat at different paces, I have no problem with a plate, or two, remaining, until that/those diner(s) is finished, especially as it is usually me.

                                                  The only time that I will tolerate plates being cleared at the same exact time, is with events. Otherwise, I'm cool with the bussing being done per the diner.

                                                  I know, a minor quibble, and a personal one at that.


                                                  1. re: Bill Hunt

                                                    I think this may be the only time I have ever disagreed with you.
                                                    I'm still a huge fan...................

                                                    1. re: maria lorraine

                                                      Remember, ML, you are allowed only one disagreement per year. This is IT for '08!!!!!! Thank goodness we're more than half-way through, so you can start anew in a couple of months. [Really large grin inserted here]


                                                    2. re: Bill Hunt

                                                      Not to worry Hunt.

                                                      There are many times that halfway through his meal jfood decelerates the pace to allow him and at least one other to finish simultaneously.

                                                    3. re: jfood

                                                      I agree with Jfood. For me, the flip side is irritating. I was at an establishment recently where the check was dropped mid-dining and the waitier stated "Let me know if you want anything else and I will take that back". To me, what he did in fact made it seem like he was "closing out" our table. I was annoyed by that. As far as we were concerned, he was implying his remaining responsibilty to us was to take the check and payment. I think the check should ONLY come after you are asked if you would like to order anything else and the answer is no. (As jfood says, the exception is diners, and casual counter type restaurants.) Regarding repeated questioning about clearing plates, I agree with you. You should not be asked repeatedly. Perhaps you take long breaks to converse which makes the waiter wonder? If not, a good waiter will know just by looking when you are done.

                                                    4. I don't like seeing my "finished" plate in front of me -- so I vote for taking mine away when I'm done. It seems everyone has their own view -- what's a waitperson to do and not offend?!

                                                      2 Replies
                                                      1. re: Sarah

                                                        I'm like you in that I don't like the finished plate in front of me, however that's a personal quirk. The correct thing to do is to clear the plates together, so I just live with it. It's my problem, not the waiter's.

                                                        1. re: Sarah


                                                          I agree, though mine is never the first one finished. I say to bus the finished plates, as they are empty, or the diner has indicated that THEY are finished. No qualm from me on this. Just do not grab MY plate, when I have a bite on my fork and major portions on the plate. I am usually entertaining my guests and trying to enjoy the food. This takes time. Still, a gentle reminder *usually* works wonders, or it should.


                                                        2. I find that waiters don't take any plates away until everybody is finished eating. But I tend to more or less keep pace with everybody. Are you perhaps leaving your utensils in a position that cues the waitstaff that you're done even if you have food left on your plate?

                                                          5 Replies
                                                          1. re: Miss Needle

                                                            I'm in the, "if it's empty take it" group. I hate my empty plate sitting in front of me.

                                                            1. re: bubbles4me

                                                              That's fine but you need to realize that proper service requires all diners to be done before the plates are cleared, under the theory that it makes the slow eater self-concious to be the only one left with a plate. If you really can't stand it you can push it aside.

                                                              Just don't ding your server on the tip for not clearing it, because they are doing their job properly. It's also more efficient for the server to make one trip with the plates rather than two or three, which makes a difference in a busy restaurant.

                                                              1. re: JonParker

                                                                I'm starting to wonder if there are regional differences. I live in NYC, and nobody has taken away any plates until everybody was finished. But I was in New England this weekend and everybody took the plates away when he or she was finished, regardless of whether other people were finished eating.

                                                                1. re: Miss Needle

                                                                  No, the proper standard is still to take them together. It's just that in NE there is a longstanding problem with servers being undertrained about proper service.

                                                                2. re: JonParker


                                                                  Not sure that I ascribe to this theory. As I am most often the host, and have to spend extra time with each guest, plus the wine list, I am never finished first. I also do not feel "self-concious," as I have other duties and responsibilities to perform. Goes with the role. Good service should NEVER be designed to make any diner feel "self-concious," especially the one paying the bill.

                                                                  Pull that stunt on me, and my business goes elsewhere and in a hurry. As it is not uncommon for me to host a rather large group, this could translate to many thousands of dollars to the restaurant.

                                                                  When doing four candidate dinners, I was made to feel uncomfortable by the sommelier at one resturant. Our tab was US$3000 for that meal. Guess what. The next three dinners were at another restaurant, and we've never been back to the first one. I do not like to be made to feel uncomfortable. As a matter of fact, I'll go elsewhere. In this case, it cost the first restaurant US$9000 +/-, just for the act of their sommelier. Bad move. Make me feel good, and give me great food, and we're patrons for life. Make me feel uncomfortable and you're history. I'll take my business elsewhere.