HOME > Chowhound > Not About Food >


Stacking dishes, WTF?

  • e

Is it just me or does anyone else think that stacking your dish at the table while dining is in poor taste? I have witnessed this a couple of times...someone is finished with their course and they will stack the dishes they have used after they are done...drives me insane!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. Besides the fact that stacking dishes at the table is definitely in "poor taste", this soils both sides of the plate and I don't see any advantages at all. Bringing each plate separately to the dishwasher or sink is preferable. Conclusion-I agree with emn76.

    1 Reply
    1. re: naturelle

      I think the OP is referring to restos, and you to dinner parties at home. But I agree with you about home affairs, I don't want good-deed-doers doubling my work by soiling the bottoms. Soiled bottoms are not for Wedgwood, they are for au pairs tending babies.

    2. Sorry, I can't have an opinion on this - my wife does this when we eat out, and doesn't care what I think. By the time we're ready to go, there's a nice, neat stack of plates, bowls and silverware ready for pick-up.

      1. almost as poor taste as a waitperson clearing dishes from some when others at the table are still eating that course.

        last night, a waitress actually lifted my plate and walked away while I hadn't finished my main course. There was still some meat and veg on the plate. She had placed another dirty plate on top of my food, so I wouldn't take it back. I asked her about replacing my unfinished meal, and she said, you ate most of it.

        Needless to say, that waitress received no tip, and I let the manager know that his staff stinks.

        2 Replies
        1. re: bagelman01

          If there were Darwin awards for poor service persons, bm01, you nominate her, I'll pay the entry fee, and we'll split the prize money.

          1. re: bagelman01

            That's when the fork is directed at the lifting hand. My sister did this once, in Page, AZ, to the waitress who - eager for her cigarette break - tried three times and on the third time actually wrestled with my sister over the unfinished plate (and my sister was not dawdling).

          2. As jfood stared in horror a few weeks ago when a colleague did this ritual, he then took his napkin and crowned the stack of dishes. OMG. Jfood will pass on the dessert.

            1. The thing I hate even more than that is when the other diners start crumpling their paper napkins on their plates when they are finished. DH has this annoying habit and short of hitting him over the head of his plate, he can't seem to remember not to do this. He even does it at home.

              2 Replies
              1. re: RGC1982

                I do this from time to time, as it's a sure fire way to stop yourself from picking at food remaining on the plate, even when you're not hungry.

                1. re: im_nomad

                  I guess it looks better than stuffing the napkin in your mouth (just joking).

              2. Going back to the Elizabethan Age (the earlier one), I was taught that this was not to be done, under any circumstance. However, times and things change. I’d guess that so long as the stack does not fall over and create a safety issue, it’s now OK. Still, and for me, I would admonish any younger person at the table to not do this. Same for any adult, so long as they are not the host/hostess.

                Still, I’m sure that there’s a Web site someplace, that says this is archaic and now things have changed. For me, it’s always been a no-no.

                Now, the bussers are allowed to stack, but I do not think that is what you’re talking about.

                Just an “old-school” sorta’ guy.


                1 Reply
                1. re: Bill Hunt

                  The reason it's not done is that plates are not cleared in advance of the course being finished by everyone, and everyone should be modulating the pace of their eating (and, uh, talking) so that everyone finishes the course in reasonable proximity....

                  Which just goes to show that it's often so much more difficult to invent workable rules of etiquette to replace ones that actually we much more practical than we realized.

                2. I'll admit to doing this in casual places, but only when the table has become crowded with many plates. If we have an shared appetizer and each person had their own little plate to go with it, I'll stack the little plates on the platter to make room when items are finished.

                  10 Replies
                  1. re: manraysky

                    Agreed on doing this when there are lots of plates on the table, such as at a tapas restaurant. I just did this at a local tapas restaurant on Saturday evening when our table was done with the first round of tapas. Makes it easier for the server to remove those empty tapas plates and replace them with clean ones.

                    1. re: LindaWhit

                      I agree that it is easier, and, if a server appears with new dishes while the table is still too full to place, I do help with that. However, would you agree that, ideally, the table would have been cleared before the second round was brought to the table?

                      1. re: MMRuth

                        In an ideal situation, of course.

                        But often this restaurant is very busy, and depending on how the tapas are ordered, they may come out in "waves" (as they did in my particular case due to the number of people at the table). When a wave of tapas is "messy", leaving the individual plates with a sauce that wouldn't mix well with the next group of tapas being delivered, we found it easier to stack the dishes to pass to the busboy while the waitress was setting down the hot tapas. She then went and got new plates and utensils for us.

                    2. re: manraysky

                      I do this too, but really only in the situation you describe. Oh, and at dim sum. I will consolidate the dumplings and stack the steamer baskets for pick-up.

                      1. re: manraysky

                        I do it with dimsum dishes all the time. If not, there isn't enough room. And, we also combine plates of the same food. The tables aren't big enough for our stomachs and we often order too much at once.

                        1. re: manraysky

                          This Standard Operating Procedure in Chinese restaurants. Especially in dim sum.
                          And kaiten-sushi places. :)

                          1. re: manraysky

                            Same here, I'll stack plates to make room. Doesn't bother me at all if some does it.

                            1. re: rednyellow

                              I also stack them when I'm at a asian restaurant. When I'm at a fine dining restaurant, I try not to do it, however if it's empty and sitting there for over 10 minutes and I have no room on the table for other things, I will stack them, like it or not it's in my way and I hate clutter especially when the table is tiny.

                              1. re: gourmet wife

                                And if you're at an Asian, fine dining restaurant, you spontaneously combust from the irreconcilable contradictions of it all... or maybe you just stack half? :)

                            2. re: manraysky

                              I agree a small booth or table and yes, I do stack and I have crumpled my napkin as well. It a nice restaurant I wouldn't consider doing it and at home I usually as on top of cleaning the table for friends so I would doubt that happens.

                              It doesn't bother me I try to take the ambiance and the style of the restaurant in question when I think of doing this. Most quality restaurants will clear the plates quickly but if there is no room, I will stack them. Doesn't bother me. But as a server once, things happen and sometimes you just can't get to every table on time and also some people eat quickly where others don't and some like a clean table and others don't mind it there. I hate making trip after trip and bugging them just to clear the table. They can walk by quietly and if they need service they can ask but occasionally just say, everything ok. Sometimes too much service is over bearing or at least for me.

                            3. I stack my plates because I'm a server and I know how much easier it makes things for the person clearing the table. I'm not saying that anyone else should do this, but I make a point to thank any table that does stack their dishes because they are trying to make my job easier. As far as removing empty plates when others are still eating goes, costumers are split on this issue. Some get mad if you do remove plates, some get mad if you don't. If I was to clear a plate someone wasn't finished with (like bagelman's experience) you can bet that I would do everything I could to make it right for the customer, that waitresses actions were inexcusable.

                              12 Replies
                              1. re: trask

                                ditto trask. We stack because I was a server for so many years and it makes clearing easier and frees up room on the table. It doesn't bother either of us.

                                1. re: rockandroller1

                                  Same here.....only at casual places though.

                                  1. re: rockandroller1

                                    Why does the table need more room? My view, as a customer (and no, I promise, I'm not a PITA customer), is that I don't want to see stacked up plates, whether stacked by me, or by the server, on my table, whether the meal is over or I'm waiting for the next course. Can't a tray be available to be used to clear plates? I guess I'm just in the camp that stacked up dirty dishes are "uglier" than non-stacked dirty dishes. The former makes me feel like I'm sitting next to the sink or something.

                                    1. re: rockandroller1

                                      I DON'T stack because I was a waiter!! No one stacks them right for efficient pick-up!!! And PLEASE stay away from my dishwasher because you're loading it THE WRONG WAY!!! ;) adam

                                    2. re: trask

                                      It is a simple thing to do for a server.

                                      1. Keep your hands away from the plates.
                                      2. Ask if there are any dishes the diners would like removed.
                                      3. Remove the plates that have been OK'ed.

                                      I hate being asked if it is OK to take my plate when they already have their mittens all over it. Back off and give me my personal space back until you have been granted access.

                                      1. re: trask

                                        I agree, I don't get what the big deal is. If I finish eating before you, why is it more annoying to sit and eat with my plates stacked instead of me with a bunch of dirty, empty plates lying around? It makes things easier for the servers, and it's not like I have 12 plates teetering on top of each other making things awkward at the table - if anything it makes things appear neater when I stack my (two? MAYBE three if I had bread plate/main/side?) plates on top. If that makes my dining companion feel rushed, perhaps they are being a bit oversensitive.

                                        1. re: Cebca

                                          It also means I'm not going to accidentally trail my sleeve (or whathaveyou) through a messy plate! :)

                                          And I think if it's done casually, not in a rushed manner, the dining companion should not feel rushed.

                                          1. re: jujuthomas

                                            exactly. i am a serial sleeve-in-my-food-trailer.

                                        2. re: trask

                                          After everyone at the table is finished with their meal, I have been known to stack our plates in order to help the server clear the table. I'm not doing this at nice restaurants or when there are 5 of us and 15 plates, but if I'm in a small party and there are a few plates, I figure why not help the server or busser out? Is this gauche?

                                          1. re: JungMann

                                            I will be blunt and say that, yes, I think it is gauche. Others don't.

                                              1. re: JungMann

                                                A past server, no it wouldn't bother me at all. I would of thought that you were once a server or just trying to help. Things like that just don't bother me much. I don't find it offensive, however sometimes more upscale restaurants I may not, but then usually the service usually clears then before I would think about doing it. But still if someone at my table did, no worries here.

                                            1. If I'm alone at a casual cafe, I will stack and then push the stack away to let the server know that I'm through. This is to clear some space while I read my paper and finish my coffee.

                                              1. No stacking by diner or by server, no pushing one's dishes away when finished eating, whether at home or eating out, in both cases.

                                                1. I must be a gauche slob then. I do this frequently when out (altho not at nice places - I think because they never let the dishes pile up like other places sometimes do) and I don't understand the issue with it.

                                                  1. This gets on my last raw nerve! The Hub, ever-helpful Eagle Scout Guy, insists upon stacking, believing that the servers "want" him to. (Huh?) This, while I am still eating. Makes me nuts. While I am dining out, I do not want to feel like I am seated in the dish room. Picky, yes...but I find it really off-putting.


                                                    11 Replies
                                                    1. re: cayjohan

                                                      I think it is his (and other stackers) way of rushing the dinner.


                                                      Relax people! Put down the fork and undo your zipper and put your hands down the front and relax. J/K

                                                      1. re: JanPrimus

                                                        I think there are some occasions, especially at restaurants with lunch specials, where stacking can be necessary because all the food comes pretty close in time and there's just not enough room for everything on the table. I don't stack at more formal places during dinner, but when the table is getting filled and servers don't seem to be coming to remove anything, I am more likely to stack.

                                                        1. re: queencru

                                                          I guess what I don't understand here is, why, if the server is bringing more dishes, why he or she can't removed the used dishes when leaving the table?

                                                          1. re: MMRuth

                                                            In many cases with lunch sets, you get the courses in such quick succession that you aren't necessarily going to be finished with one course when the next one is brought. The table is often overcrowded at that point and it's just more comfortable to stack up the appetizer course dishes when I am finished so I can actually have room to eat the main course. There are other cases such as in tapas/small plates restaurants where the dishes aren't intended to come out in a specific order and can just end up crowding the table.

                                                            1. re: queencru

                                                              Agree with your tapas example. When we go out for mezes, the table gets really crowded when all the food comes out. We stack any empty plates to the side, leaving room for those items that we are still working on. And the waiter comes and takes them away. Saves him having to figure out which plates we are done with and reaching into the middle of our feast to get them.

                                                              1. re: Sooeygun

                                                                Hey just catering a tapas party last night. I can understand and this was catering but not a restaurant. But perfect example. I did a per person plate of a seafood appetizers, after several minutes I brought out 3 plates per table of 6 to the table, no some finished, some didn't. Some mentioned they wanted to keep it with their main course. So many tables were left, then shortly later the main course, 1 large platter per table. But still some of the individual plates still there and a couple of the larger app plates there. So I left them all. As they ate, they stacked them for me when they were done. I had no problem. But 7 tables and only 2 of us for 40 and us eating with the group, you just can't get to everyone. No catering is different, but the eating styles don't change.

                                                                At a restaurant recently my friend ate 1/2 her salad first, then kept it for the end of the meal, same with the bread, she wanted the bread there for end of the meal. Extra plates that took up prime space on the table. Not a big deal to stack when you can.

                                                        2. re: JanPrimus

                                                          I don't see why making things neater and making more room on the table is "rushing" someone. But it's usually just me and mr. rockandroller and at an informal place so maybe I don't see it.

                                                          1. re: JanPrimus

                                                            " Put down the fork and undo your zipper and put your hands down the front and relax. "
                                                            YIPPEE, I can't wait to try that next time the wife and I are out having a bite. I'm going to tell her it's approved behavior over on chowhound. That'll fix her!

                                                            1. re: podunkboy

                                                              Napkin in the lap.You would rather finish your meal with a Poire William than a pair of handcuffs.

                                                              1. re: podunkboy

                                                                Don't forget to let one rip while your at it!

                                                            2. re: cayjohan

                                                              Hey Cay, by the way you wrote your response, I get a distinct feeling this is as blood boiling for you as it is for me..LOL!

                                                            3. The diner should not HAVE to stack their plates. They should have been cleared by waitstaff. If someone at the table is stacking other diners' plates on theirs as they finish - that is just weird. Waitstaff should still get the giant hint and clear.

                                                              1. I stack my plates at a diner, because sometimes I just want to sit with my coffee right in front of me, and not a mess of plates. I didn't realize this had the ability to drive people insane, but I will now keep an eye on the other patrons in case they seem to be getting agitated by my behavior.

                                                                1. Wow, I had no idea this drove people crazy, either. I don't often stack plates, but every once in a while, when I really like a server at a more casual restaurant and want to ease their work a bit, I stack at the end of the meal, when my table is getting ready to go (i.e. at Fatty Crab, where I ate last night). All the utensils go on top and the plates, below. I also do this after dinner, at home. No Wedgewood (or au pairs) in my household.

                                                                  I'm really curious to hear from servers whether this is an annoyance for them!

                                                                  5 Replies
                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                    As I said upthread, usually more of a hindrance for servers, unless you're a solo diner at the bar or counter. That is (was) my job; to clear and make sure you're ready for your next course. Shame on you servers who don't do this, or worse, make it your busboy's job.

                                                                    1. re: adamshoe

                                                                      Man... I'm duly reprimanded. I'll stop, I swear!

                                                                      Just curious: How DO you stack plates for efficient clearing as a server?

                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                        Well, I could tell you, but then, I'd have to kill you... ;) They're not stacked so much as "splayed" or "staggered". Each waiter has their own style and preferred method, but you're messin' with their mojo when you stack your own. adam

                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                          I had a co-worker who almost always did this at the end of our meals at Olive Garden (his favorite place). When we were there one day we were discusing the finer points of dining with upper management (he was quizzing me on how he needed to behave when meeting the European managers of our company). He instinctively started stacking up the empty plates when I stopped him. "Just trying to help" he said. "You don't work here" I explained. He never did it again. A couple of years later we were each at different jobs, but eating together with his new (and rather unsophisticated) boss. SHE started stacking the dishes at the end of the meal. My friend caught my eye, and gave me a knowing smile ....

                                                                      2. re: cimui

                                                                        I'm with you: Wow! I had no idea I was driving other people nuts doing it.

                                                                        I do it at home and in restaurants because I don't like spreading out and claiming table territory. I also don't like shoving an newly-emptied plate over in front of someone else.

                                                                        If I'm at a deuce, I stack them to conserve on space.

                                                                        At home because it assist me with moving them to the kitchen sink.

                                                                      3. doesn't bother me in the least

                                                                        1. Couldn't care less. Price you pay for having friends with OCD.

                                                                          3 Replies
                                                                          1. re: Striver

                                                                            What's the price? Who's paying? It's not about OCD, it's just simply about etiquette.

                                                                            1. re: emn76

                                                                              If somone feels compelled to stack their dishes, I don't find it offensive; a bit odd, but not troubling; it doesn't violate my sense of etiquette. If they started to stack MY dishes while I was still eating, I'd find that more problematic. You obviously live by a different set of rules.

                                                                              Oh - the OCD reference was intended semi-humorously. Sorry you didn't get it.

                                                                              1. re: emn76

                                                                                i think the mixed responses prove at least that stacking isn't confirmed poor etiquette. My bf is a former server and stacks religiously at the end of our meals. We've been thanked many times by servers. I personally don't mind sitting near stacked dishes- our table always looks more organized and there is more elbow room afterward, and as long as I'm in a restaurant, there isn't much about the arrangement of the plates that can make me feel like I'm in my kitchen with a pile of dishes. Someone else is still gonna do them for you. Chill.

                                                                            2. I am one who was taught that it was not correct, and that there were reasons it was not correct. First of all it was assuming that you knew how the server wanted the plates, dishes, flatware, etc stacked. Having watched half a stack of patron stacked plates slide to the floor when the server tried gallantly to pick up the entire pile (a plate in the center was gravy coated and the server didnt manage - with the one free hand that could reach the stack - to lift the stack pefectly level, i can see the wisdom in that.

                                                                              At the same time sometimes I am out with friends and it is literally impossible for the server/busser to get to the plates in the corner seats (booth type situation.) And often plates are not cleared by a separate busser, but by the server who is overwhelmed by too many tables and does not have an opportunity to clear the soup/salad/appetizer plates until they are standing there with our entree plates. There is often no way for the server to serve unless we get our first dishes out of the way, and the only way to do that is to stack.

                                                                              I do agree that draping the napkin over the food is atrocious behavior. If cloth there is no way it is not going to pick up some impossible stains. If paper then some poor busser or dishwasher is going to have to pull it off the top before washing (many places require that paper be disposed of separately from food.)

                                                                              In an ideal world there would be a server standing invisibly behind each diner ready to take care of their every need, although I have a feeling back in the 18th century this practice had the effect of somewhat stifling dinner conversation because there were some things you simply did not discuss in front of "the help."

                                                                              1. It depends on how much room there is on the table! When you go to breakfast and they end up giving you four different plates when only two would have served the purpose equally well, the extras are just clutter.
                                                                                I wouldn't stack at a gourmet restaurant, but we can't afford such places anyway...

                                                                                1. I do that...it's a habit from work. I used to be a server and I have to stack things up when I pick it up anyways and I do prefer it if people stack it first.

                                                                                  What's wrong with it? Will you prefer dirty dishes spread out on the table instead...?

                                                                                  31 Replies
                                                                                  1. re: AngelSanctuary

                                                                                    Seems like most (although not all) current or former servers are cool with stacking. Maybe we should all take a hint. Stacking is okay, but don't do it badly?

                                                                                    1. re: CoryKatherine

                                                                                      so asking a group of data points if it is acceptable to have others perform part of their job. jfood would guess the over-under is probably 90%.

                                                                                      Proper etiquette is no stacking at the table and clear the dishes in unison in the same manner as when they were delivered.

                                                                                      sorry CK

                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                        just out of curiosity- on whose authority should I take these rules? not trying to be fresh I just never realized that the rules were so strict here. if dishes are to be cleared in unison in the same manner as they are delivered i'm afraid i can't afford to eat anyplace that isn't totally gauche. is it possible that etiquette is an evolving concept?

                                                                                        1. re: CoryKatherine

                                                                                          Look at page 180 for the stacking question


                                                                                          this series seems to the pacing items for many young adults these days.

                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                            However, that seems to be for private dinner parties in someone's home, not out at a restaurant. And at a private party, I guess it just depends on how "formal" everyone is. At my dinner club dinners, while we have set, plated courses, whoever is clearing (usually 1 or 2 out of the 8 of us) usually takes plates from people and stacks them before removing them completely from the dining table and whisks them into the kitchen.

                                                                                            1. re: LindaWhit

                                                                                              Yup that was a private in-home citation.

                                                                                              - The rules of etiquette should be the same in-home and in a restaurant (see the other thread on excluding children from restaurants). It's good to place in the DNA and walk the talk. There is no stacking in casa jfood 24/7.
                                                                                              - At the jfood's dinner club parties it is just the opposite. The dishes are cleared, usually 2-3 at a time by the nice people who pick up the slack to help the host. Once a newbie tried stacking and one of the other cleaners did a "stacking intervention."

                                                                                              Interesting how different group do things differently. C'est la vie.

                                                                                          2. re: CoryKatherine

                                                                                            Etiquette is not static.

                                                                                            That is all.

                                                                                            1. re: CoryKatherine

                                                                                              Well-said (or, really, well-asked), CoryK.

                                                                                              To figure out whether something is "bad manners", we should maybe try to ID the original purpose behind the rule and see whether the same behavior makes sense, today. That's something I don't think anyone's really addressed, yet, on this thread.

                                                                                              1. re: cimui


                                                                                                Scenario 1 The server stacks the dishes on the table - The role of the server is to serve the customer from the beginning of the meal to its conclusion and to not cut corners. The idea of stacking by the server is to reduce the number of trips required thereby placing the server's convenience on a higher level than the customers. That was, and still is, not the role of the server, nor should the server's convenience trump the customers.

                                                                                                Scenario 2 the customer stacks for the server - The customers is the customer and performing the role of the server is not the role of the customer.

                                                                                                Purpose ID'd and still makes sense.

                                                                                                1. re: jfood

                                                                                                  So the purpose of the rule is to keep the server in her place. I see.

                                                                                                  I'm still not sure I understand how it follows that it is bad etiquette on the part of the customer if she voluntarily chooses to stack plates on occasion. Are you afraid that the server might get uppity and start expecting all customers to stack plates?

                                                                                                  If it actually inconveniences a server, as adamshoe claims, I could understand the rule. If not, I don't understand why stacking is a source of affront.

                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                    Stacked dishes belong in the kitchen/washing room, not on a table where people are eating in any restaurant pretending to a semblance of fine dining (as opposed to restaurants closer in feel to a cafeteria), or on a tray away from that table.

                                                                                                    1. re: cimui

                                                                                                      No, not keep him/her in their place at all, if you want to put this into a caste system debate please find another hydrant. And hyperbole is not a good discussion operating procedure

                                                                                                      jfood does not stack dishes at the table as it is not the proper etiquette as Karl S also points out and does not want to see stacked dishes at neighboring tables as well. As so many threads confront the idea of proper manners in restaurants as it relates to kids, drunks, loud talkers, BO, cologne, one has to remember that you (generic) are not the only person eating in the same room and you (generic again) should act with proper etiquette.

                                                                                                      Jfood has probably dined in restaurant 1000s of times and he can count on one hand the number of uppity servers. And if a server starts expecting all of his/her customers to act improperly by stacking dishes than s/he will be greatly disappointed.

                                                                                                      The "i will do anything i like" attitude that is becoming so pervasive is so disappointing.

                                                                                                      1. re: jfood

                                                                                                        >>The "i will do anything i like" attitude that is coming so pervasive is so disappointing.

                                                                                                        The failure to even attempt to think through rationales behind a rule before reverting to the "because I said so" or "because that's the way it is" argument is what is truly disappointing, Jfood.

                                                                                                        It's not about "I will do anything I like". It's about trying to consciously live one's life in a way where the rules one follows actually make sense, not blindly falling into rules and customs just because Someone Said So.

                                                                                                        1. re: cimui

                                                                                                          jfood has attempted to think through the rationale, has considered, has concluded that the rules make absolute sense. Jfood also assumes that you did not read his post at 3:29 in which he gave the rationale.

                                                                                                          Re-posted here:

                                                                                                          Scenario 1 The server stacks the dishes on the table - The role of the server is to serve the customer from the beginning of the meal to its conclusion and to not cut corners. The idea of stacking by the server is to reduce the number of trips required thereby placing the server's convenience on a higher level than the customers. That was, and still is, not the role of the server, nor should the server's convenience trump the customers.

                                                                                                          Scenario 2 the customer stacks for the server - The customers is the customer and performing the role of the server is not the role of the customer.

                                                                                                          Purpose ID'd and still makes sense.

                                                                                                          Heck, if you want to carry your dishes to the table and bring them to the conveyor for washing, then there are plenty of cafeteria-type places to dine in. Restaurants have servers, let them do their jobs to the best of their ability and enjoy you food and friends.

                                                                                                          1. re: jfood

                                                                                                            I appreciate that you are trying to define a rationale for your argument, and that you are game to understand behavior beyond doing it merely for etiquette's sake (which is definitely not the case for some!). But, by your rationale, it would mean we should never step in to help bag our groceries (that's what the cashiers are for), never clean up our hotel rooms a bit (that's what maids are for), etc. And I just don't agree with that.

                                                                                                            For the record, I am not a dish stacker, but it just never occurred to me to care about the behavior of others with regard to something that has so little effect on me.

                                                                                                            1. re: jfood

                                                                                                              Thanks, Cachete's. I was actually thinking of the exact same example of the cashiers in the grocery store, since I was just at the grocery store and chose to bag my own groceries. The cashier was swamped and there was a long line of customers waiting.

                                                                                                              Jfood, I also appreciate what you're trying to argue, but your argument and arguments, generally, about what actions ought to be performed by servers still don't explain why, if a customer VOLUNTEERS to stack plates in an effort to lighten the burden on the server, it is a breach of etiquette. I am choosing to place the server's convenience over mine in some instances (i.e. when I like a particular server and/or (s)he is extremely swamped). How does this inconvenience or otherwise harm anyone else, especially if I stack only as my table is about to leave and not between courses?

                                                                                                              1. re: jfood

                                                                                                                scenario 3 - i stack the dishes on my table for me, and my space at the table, and my comfort, and not the server at all. I want the room, for my own psychological reasons, and find it increases my enjoyment of my time in the restaurant.

                                                                                                                1. re: thew

                                                                                                                  Scenario 4 - I might think most servers do not make enough money for the work that they do...as a former server I try to help and may sometimes stack to help with the time that the server has to perform more vital procedures such as refills, collecting the bill, and performing other duties that require trips to other places other than the table. If I can minimize the servers stay at my table it only betters the service at other tables and give the server more time to perform services I really care about.

                                                                                                              2. re: cimui

                                                                                                                I and others have actually explained the context of the rule and its reasonability. Though having to constantly reinterpret and revisit rules of social etiquette is a task of Sisyphus - it should not be undertaken without serious reason, and there is no serious reason to reconsider this rule. If a rule is too small to be considered to be followed, it is no less too small a rule to considered worth breaking.

                                                                                                                1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                  Hmm, I understand and sympathize about not wanting to constantly challenge established rules of etiquette without reason -- but really this entire thread, which we're all voluntarily participating in, is about whether or not a rule of etiquette is reasonable, no? It's been called into question. If we're going to discuss its reasonableness at all, we need to think through the rationales behind the rule.

                                                                                                                  >>I and others have actually explained the context of the rule and its reasonability.

                                                                                                                  It would be really helpful if you could help me cull those reasons from the discussion, Karl_S. So far I've heard the following:

                                                                                                                  Argument 1. It is the server's responsibility to stack and clear dishes. Customers should not undertake to perform anyone else's (paid?) responsibility.

                                                                                                                  Response: Who is harmed / inconvenienced / reasonably offended when some customers choose to assume some of a server's responsibility?

                                                                                                                  Argument 2. It inconveniences the server for the customer to stack.

                                                                                                                  Response: Fair answer!! I would never stack if it inconvenienced the server. But from all the disparate responses to this thread, I think only some servers are inconvenienced. A great inconvenience for a few might be reason enough not to stack for me, but I'm not sure about this, yet. I have to think about it. On the other side of the equation, it seems to help many other servers.

                                                                                                                  Argument 3. It is ugly / ruins good china to stack.

                                                                                                                  Response: Fair enough. I will not (and actually never do) stack between courses nor do I stack at other people's homes unless I see the host / hostess stacking while clearing the table, first. In that case, I always get up to help and do help unless the host / hostess sincerely does not want the help. Barring the good china agument, there is no reason not to stack at the end of a meal as the table is getting up to leave a restaurant. Sadly, I do not eat at any restaurants where the food comes to me on Wedgwood china.

                                                                                                                  I'm sure there are arguments I missed, though. If you could help me ID them, I'd appreciate it.

                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                    The prime reason - mentioned not only by me but another - is that it should not be necessary if people ate as they should - pacing so that all finish within reasonable proximity to each other (a very practical fundamental rule of social dining that more people should be reminded of as it eliminates the need for invention of more rules) - so that everything is cleared at the same time by the server. Stacking dishes incentivizes people to neglect that more useful rule.

                                                                                                                    1. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                      This argument doesn't entirely apply to the stack-at-the-end-of-dinner scenario.

                                                                                                                      Also, given that others do not, or are not able to, pace themselves to finish at the same time (i.e. my SO's grandma, who eats with dentures and always finished much later than others at the table), could stacking ever NOT be a breach of etiquette?

                                                                                                                      1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                        What happens at the end of dinner is the same as throughout dinner. The fact that diners don't pace themselves doesn't change the wisdom of the rule. Stacking plates is a mark of crude manners. No one can prevent you from doing it, no more than you can prevent them from thinking you crude for doing so.

                                                                                                                  2. re: Karl S

                                                                                                                    "Though having to constantly reinterpret and revisit rules of social etiquette is a task of Sisyphus " -Karl S

                                                                                                                    Tell me about it. It's like pushing a rock up a hill.

                                                                                                                    Though fortunately it's one I don't encounter as I can seldom finish a meal large enough to require multiple dishes. So my plates remain unstacked so I can take the rest to go unsmashed.

                                                                                                                    And if it's a meal I actually finish, it was usually one dish. No stacking required.

                                                                                                          2. re: cimui

                                                                                                            yes, i discussed it above (er, below as a matter of fact)... it has to do with the server/busser being able to make choices about the best way to do their job

                                                                                                            1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                              that's a fair point, KM. and it's a separate point from the one Karl_S was trying to make, I think. would you feel differently (would the rule of etiquette change) if most -- let's make up a number... say 99% -- of servers preferred that customers stack?

                                                                                                              1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                I know you aren't asking me, but it wouldn't change my mind.

                                                                                                                1. re: MMRuth

                                                                                                                  Fair enough, but what do you think is the rationale behind the rule?

                                                                                                                  1. re: cimui

                                                                                                                    To be perfectly honest, I don't really care what the rationale is. My reasoning for liking the rule is that I don't want to feel as if I'm sitting next to a pile of dishes waiting to be washed, which is how I feel if someone stacks up plates at my table or, for that matter, at a table within my line of vision. I understand that there are some who don't like seeing a "dirty" finished plate in front of them; I don't like seeing a pile of dirty plates, whereas I don't mind seeing my "dirty" plate in front of me until the server comes to remove it.

                                                                                                                    If others don't mind seeing piles of dirty plates, I'm not going to change their minds about that. Perhaps at one point there was general agreement that diners didn't like to see piles of dirty plates at their table, and perhaps that view has changed amongst some.

                                                                                                                    I do understand the reasoning with respect to the table being too full to place newly arriving dishes, but, as I said above, I would rather that the server or "bus person" have removed the old dishes before bringing the new ones.

                                                                                                                    Ok - enough about piles of dirty dishes from me!

                                                                                                    2. re: AngelSanctuary

                                                                                                      as odd as it sounds to some people, old manners did prefer dirty dishes spread out on the table. people would pace their meal to try to all finish eating at about the same time, and it was considered very inappropriate to take away any dishes before the last person had finished their meal so that no one felt rushed.

                                                                                                      Just as someone who's dish has been delayed may urge the other diners not to wait but to go ahead and eat, it is also good manners for a slow diner to allow the meal to proceed while they finish their plate.

                                                                                                      I was recently at a dinner where there was a few minutes pause between courses to relax, have a sip or more of wine, chat, and savor the flavors we had just enjoyed before another course was brought. Not only was it great for us, it allowed the staff pleasantly clear away plates, used silverware, refresh drinks, etc. while making room for a nice presentation of the next dish.

                                                                                                      1. re: KaimukiMan

                                                                                                        Well put. And, if I'm having a dinner party, I'd much rather remove plates two at a time, while also getting the next course ready and clearing whatever other dishes etc. may be on the table from the prior course. My guests then, as you say, have a moment to chat, sip wine, and have a little pause until the next course.

                                                                                                    3. It's ok to stack- but don't scrape and fling the food around, don't stand up to do the stacking, don't stack more than 4 high, remove all silverware and stack those accordingly on the top of your not-too-highly-stacked-stack and while you are at it, group the dirty glasses together so it's easier for the busser to grab 'em like a 6-pack.

                                                                                                      (I really don't care unless people are still eating, then I think you feel rushed- it's like a large non-verbal cue to hurry up, because NO ONE else is eating but you)
                                                                                                      We drink un-sweet tea and use Splenda- I usually twist the empty Splenda packets and hide them under the rim of my plate, while my husband tosses his in an empty dish. That drives me batty for reasons unknown.

                                                                                                      4 Replies
                                                                                                      1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                                                                        Sorry BD, normally jfood agrees with most of your posts, but he is typing while shaking his head vigorously on paragraph 1.

                                                                                                        As much as jfood disagrees 100% with the stacking and 4 high is scary, the idea that a busser would grab glasses like a six-pack makes jfood's head explode. If a little jfood ever tried either, jfood would respond, please make a few trips and if that ever occurred in a restaurant, the silence at table jfood would be frightening and jfood would mention something to the server and the MOD. The only thing worse is when they bring the glasses over in the 6-pack method. At that point jfood leaves.

                                                                                                        1. re: jfood

                                                                                                          that was sarcasm SweetJ...
                                                                                                          (sigh) i thought you 'got me'.......

                                                                                                            1. re: Boccone Dolce

                                                                                                              Aces BD...your stock price just went up. :-))

                                                                                                        2. I don't want any stacked dishes ON my table. Period. Not when I'm at home, and not when I'm dining out. Those "all-you-care-to-eat" buffet places where guests take a new plate every time they go to the buffet table are among the worst examples of this practice. I think dishes stacked on the table totally detract from the dining experience. It's like leaving dirty laundry on the floor, or bags of trash accumulating at the kitchen door. It's a chore waiting to be handled, so handle it.

                                                                                                          Now, once the dishes have been removed from the table, the lines get a little blurry for me. If I'm dining out, I could care less what the server does with the dishes once they're out of my sight. But, at home, if you're trying to help me clear the table, please, please, don't stack my dishes.

                                                                                                          1. IMO, etiquette is about making the people around you feel comfortable. Many rules are arbitrary and/or have become archaic and deserve to be dismissed. But the stacking thing has the potential to make people uncomfortable by giving the impression that you are trying to hurry the end of the meal. My aunt starts clearing up the table when we're in a hotel having breakfast or something, and it drives everyone crazy. It has the appearance of a nervous habit and people wind up watching her instead of talking. It would be much more social if she would just sit and take part in the conversation. If you are habitually stacking stuff while people are still socializing, you may be a wet blanket.

                                                                                                            Also, am I the only one who if waiting on a table would be nervous about picking up a pile someone else has stacked? You may be great at it, but the server doesn't know that and may be worried about picking up a precarious unbalanced pile of stuff. They have their own routine and you are disrupting it.

                                                                                                            1. I would not do this at a resturant but if I am at home having a dinner party and I clear the table i would stack them in front of me in a pile and take them out in one hit, instead of having to walk back and forth from the kitchen to the dining to take 1 or 2 plates out at a time, I think to me it is more time management