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Waiter Poll - What do you think is more professional?

This is a long standing argument between my husband and the owner of the upscale restaurant he works at.

Is it more professional for a waiter to bring your food/beverages on a tray or by hand?

The owner thinks that a professional waiter should balance the plates down his/her arms. My husband thinks that it looks more professional for a waiter to bring large orders on a tray.

What do you think?

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  1. more than 2 plates, use a tray, a second waiter holds the tray while the main waiter (the one assigned to your table) serves individual plates.

    1. The classiest I have ever experienced is at Emeril's in New Orleans, the servers all work together and each delivers a plate to a guest at exactly the same time.

      11 Replies
      1. re: pairswellwithwine

        That's what they do at the French Laundry, too.

        1. re: Glencora

          At FL it's done as if it were choreographed, which it probably is. I watched a table of eight served by four servers, each with two plates. Their cues must have been with eye movements or a very slight gesture, because I never heard a word and saw nothing but exact timing. Of course I was in the mood to be wowed, but it was very impressive.

        2. re: pairswellwithwine

          I loved the way the servers worked as a team when I went to NOLA! One of our waiters looked like a younger Bobby Flay.

          1. re: tracylee

            I loved that at some point during the meal they just replaced our water glasses. Also they escorted me to the bathroom. I haven't been to any other restaurant with the same level of attention by wait staff. NOLA is the standard to beat.

            1. re: pairswellwithwine

              Most of the Michelin star restaurants I've been in the SF bay area and in London tend do the following:

              -escort you to the bathroom and wait for you so they can push in your chair for you
              -fold your napkin while you are in the bathroom
              -place dishes down in front of you simultaneously, or in pairs of two (i.e. each waiter carries no more than two plates, and makes sure they place them in time with the other waiter)
              -briefly recap the plate and gives suggestions on how to eat it (if necessary)

              A couple places even bring a black napkin if you are wearing dark clothing. Nice touch.

              These are the places that I have personally experienced these features: Hibiscus (London), Restaurant Gordon Ramsay (London), Launston Place (London, although not Michelin starred...yet), Plumed Horse (Saratoga, CA), Meadowood (Napa, CA), Chez TJ (Silicon Valley, CA)...and probably more I'm not remembering right now. :-)

              And personally, I think trays smack of Denny's or IHOP. I would never use them unless it was completely unfeasible to NOT do so, due to space or staffing. Again, ideally I would want waiters to carry no more than two plates each. If it was a choice between carrying 3-4 or using a tray, I vote carry.

              1. re: guster4lovers

                Forgot about the black napkin for dark clothing - I've experienced that also and think it's a seriously classy touch, even though the high-quality linens used in such places rarely have so much as a speck of lint on them.

                1. re: guster4lovers

                  "Escort you to the bathroom" ????? That's just plain creepy. Waiting for you is one thing, but escorting you??

              1. re: pairswellwithwine

                at Le Gavroche in London all the waiters come to the table with each plate covered with a silver dome all of which are removed with great aplomb at the same moment!

                1. re: smartie

                  I've seen that done elsewhere as well - synchronized serving is one of the little flourishes that distinguishes a seriously high-end restaurant.

                  1. re: BobB

                    Synchonised dome-lifting used to be very common in high-end British restaurants. Havnt seen it in many years though. All a bit 1980s. Interesting La Gavroche still does it.

              2. I get anxious watching waiters balance plates on their arms, and can't help but think about how the plates are usually hot. It may look "unprofessional" to some, I prefer the tray method for the comfort of the waiter.

                1. In the DC area, I am not aware of any upper echelon restaurant that has a waiter balancing 4 dishes.

                  1. It's more professional to bring them by hand, but not on the arms. One plate in each hand, with a follow/help for any additional plates. Not up and down the arms.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: rockandroller1

                      Agreed. Neither the tray nor up the arms are used at upscale restaurants, everything is hand delivered by actual hands.