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Aug 22, 2008 04:26 PM

When the waiter wants to clear the dishes before everyone is done

This is my pet peeve in a restaurant.

I eat slower than my husband. Is it up to HIM to say "I'll keep my dirty dish until my wife is finished"...usually it happens so fast I can't really fault my husband, but it makes me feel rushed, and a bother.

This is a tough board to search, so sorry if this has been covered already, but what is the protocol when this happens?

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  1. - here's one from last week. I know what you mean about searching this board. In my opinion, the waiter shouldn't clear until everyone is done, and I think either you or your husband could ask him not to do so.

    1 Reply
    1. re: MMRuth

      Wow, MMRuth, that was a GREAT thread...because my OTHER pet peeve is when they DON'T bring the check...even though I may be the last one done, when I'm DONE I'm DONE.

      Can't believe that thread was so recent!

      You seem to be my guardian angel on these boards, LOL.

    2. My DH (twice my size) usually finishes his meal when I am half through mine. I like to take my restaurant leftovers home, but don't want to be stuck with the only plate at an otherwise cleared table. If an eager server tries to clear my sweetheart's place before I'm ready to pack up and go, he simply extends his hand over his plate, smiles up and says "Not yet." This way we can both eat at our own pace, with neither one feeling pressured to rush or slow down.

      1. Back in the Middle Ages, 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. When some plates are cleared, the persons still eating feel rushed. I like another one of the reaons for waiting to clear also -- the visual aspect, called table symmetry. The table looks funny when some plates are cleared and others are not. I have often quietly asked the server to not take my plate until my companion is finished.

        1. This drives me crazy. It is so rude and has the effect on diners of being pushed out. No plates should EVER be cleared until EVERYONE has clearly finished eating.

          I have had bus staff even try to take my plate while I had a fork in my hand. I am certain that they are trained to do this to keep things moving for the kitchen or the reservations.

          I am not a particularly slow eater, but when it happens, no matter whose plate at the table is being whisked away, I always say something like, "Please leave it. We're still eating." The person taking the plate away usually looks surprised or even a little insulted. Bizarre.

          The whole point of etiquette is not to impose some kind of arbitrary rules on people, but to be sure that everyone is comfortable. It is not comfortable to be enjoying a meal or a course, only to have someone trying to take it all away, presumably because they want to move your table.

          This is really one thing that I could rant about forever, but I'm awfully glad that I'm not the only one who is irritated by it or recognizes it as totally inappropriate.

          3 Replies
          1. re: chicgail

            I completely agree. The problem is that if one is out with a larger group, some clueless member will shovel down her food and reply "yes" when the server asks if she's done. This starts a chain reaction with the server, who will then assume that that's appropriate behavior.

            1. re: chicgail

              You assume that they are actually trained. Big assumption.

              I have found most waitstaff marginally trained, the exception being family-owned restaurants or some of the top end places. Most of the service employees at the chains and mid-level places appear to be students or part-timers. They get barely minimal training and often commit this and other service faux pas, including things like assuming that I will drink my beer out of a bottle instead of a glass without asking, neglecting to bring an extra plate when an item is shared, or even neglecting the silverware altogether. Of course, they NEVER come back to ask if everything is okay, except to mouth the always irritating ":How's everything tastig? (which, of course, you can't answer unless you have utensils to taste the food with).

              1. re: RGC1982

                I have had this problem repeatedly in lesser venues, never in serious restaurants that I often eat in. There are different standards of service in various venues. For instance a dinner or informal cafes with informal waiter service, where plates are removed when they are empty or where the nicety is totally ignored:plates are never removed. Hate this "service".
                Eat in more serious venues.

            2. That's one of my peeves too, Eujeanie. When I'm finished first, sometimes I like to taste my companions' meals; when I finish last, then clearing the plates makes me feel like the waiter wants me gone. (Perhaps he does, but he should keep that to himself.)

              Mom taught me that when a diner places their fork and knife together and parallel on the plate, it is a signal to the waiter that they wish the plate to be cleared away. Other than that, all the plates should be removed from the table together, when the meal is finished. Was Mom mistaken?

              A related peeve is when the waiter clears away a family-style serving platter that still has food on it. Hello? Is there a dish shortage in the kitchen? Does the staff get to eat the leftovers? I paid for that, and I'm going to eat it, so keep your grubby paws off!

              11 Replies
              1. re: Bjartmarr

                Your mother was correct, but the convention, while widely followed in Europe, is rarely even noticed here.

                I know that this could sound really snobby, but that's not how I intend it: most Americans have never been taught anything resembling etiquette or good manners. We literally just don't know and many people think that the "rules" of etiquette are constricting or constraining. My point of view is that they provide a structure that allows for a kind of freedom that most of us never experience.

                Even in most restaurants, it's a bit of a wild, wild west, every man/woman for him/herself, including the wait and bus staffs.

                1. re: chicgail

                  Well, then, the problem isn't that there isn't a standard of behavior, or that the standard doesn't accomodate all preferences; the problem is that some diners are unaware of the standard.

                  Rather than have their waiters simply pick a behavior at random (and risk getting undertipped if they get it wrong), perhaps restaurants should start printing reminders down at the bottom of the menu, next to where it says, "18% gratuity added for parties of six or more".

                  It's a crude, clunky solution...but waiters getting stiffed or scolded by ignorant diners is even worse.

                  1. re: chicgail

                    no, americans are not ignorant of the rules of etiquette, nor have they "never been taught anything resembling etiquette or good manners. " americans have a different set of manners, and rules of etiquette than europeans.

                    1. re: thew

                      Actually, while that is true in some instances, I don't think it is true in all instances. My understanding of what is "correct" in the United States (whether one agrees with it or not) is that utensils be placed together to indicate that one is finished with one's meal. Whether Americans have been taught that or not is a different matter. But, I think you and I are destined to disagree on this topic!

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        I'm very old fashioned and I take it one step further - tines down on the parallel fork to indicate I'm done.

                        1. re: Eujeanie

                          Hmm - I think I keep the tines up when the utensils are in their "I'm still eating" position, and up in the "I'm done" position. Will have to look into it!

                          1. re: MMRuth

                            Well MMRuth, I found sources that said one or the other, so let's just use this as the definitive conclusion that we are BOTH correct!

                            "When the diner has finished, he signals this by setting the fork and knife parallel to each other, so they lie either horizontally across the center of the plate or are on the diagonal, with the handles pointing to the right. The cutting edge of the knife blade should face toward the diner (again, avoiding all possible aggressive implications), and the fork may be placed with the tines either up or down. "

                            1. re: Eujeanie

                              There you go! Thanks for looking it up.

                      2. re: thew

                        sorry, i am replying to a very old thread, but i just have to get my 2 cents in.
                        americans i believe choose as a matter of pride to flaunt conventional or european etiquette to prove we are different and better. it is somewhat reminiscent of the concept of the ugly american. the different set of american manners is not necessarily the better set of manners.

                        1. re: thew

                          Does anyone know what they are? I don't think that is actually true. I think there is a feeling in the States that formal rules of etiquette are restrictive as opposed to being a convenience that allows people to communicate with each other and avoid confusion.

                      3. re: Bjartmarr

                        We were taught to place the knife and fork together, fork tines down both implements at 8 o 'clock to signal we were done with the course.Many servers and diners are not aware of this nicety at all. As fine waiters who replaced the silver according to what was eaten; sauce spoon, escargot implements, fish forks, cocktail forks etc we were taught to read the silver. Many fine diners are aware of the code. The public at large is not aware and cx\ontinues to eat American style by passing the fork from hand to hand. I never realized how ugly and destracting the New World Method was.