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How long should dinner guests have to wait for dessert and coffee after they finish their meal?

I've been to a couple of different people's house for dinner with a gathering of people and in both cases when we finished the meal instead of having the dessert and coffee right away we had to wait at least an hour in the living room while the hosts tidied up in the kitchen and dining room and then go back to the dining room table for the dessert and coffee.

Is this the usual custom? I was surpised at having to wait so long. I personally would prefer to have the dessert and coffee served to me while I am still seated at the dinner table (that is, right after finishing the meal).

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  1. I do not think of a dinner party as the place where a meal is served in strict order from start to finish. For myself, I consider it an evening that moves at a slower pace and if the food is good, I'm happy for dessert and coffee to be served later. I find the idea of people taking an hour to cleanup a little over the top---an hour?--but since you were all comfortable in the living room didn't that just give you all more time to talk and have a pleasant time together? Anyway, the host gets to call the tune not the guest.

    1. It is always interesting to see how other people do things.

      I would never think about "cleaning up " with guests still at my table/home/ whatever. Usually, for me, the conversation doesn't end when dinner does, so we end up finishing our wine at the table...still talking...until I ask if anyone is ready for dessert? We then do dessert and either coffee or dessert bev right then. A few times, the feedback is that everyone is just "too stuffed" to do dessert right then....I tend to overfeed :). So we take our wine and go to another room for an hour or so. Dessert is put out on the table for guests to have *if and when* they wish.

      I think a good host is paying attention to their guests for timing.

      1. I often end serving dessert 30 to 60 minutes after a meal is finished. I don't want people to feel like I am rushing them along or that I am eager for the meal to be over so they will leave. I also like giving people time to digest their dinner a bit so they have room for dessert. But it definitely depends on the guests and how formal (or not) the occasion.

        1. Taking a bit of a break to digest or tidy up makes sense for many who entertain at home. Get a load in the dishwasher, take a mental break and reorganize before dessert. Or the dessert might have needed some finishing - warm the tarts, whip the cream, et. Not everyone has the skills or counter space to provide a seamless restaurant style dinner service to their friends. If the clean-up seems to be taking too long and you are feeling abandoned by your host, you could always offer to lend a hand.

          1. I actually prefer this. I can digest a bit, and be ready to eat more without feeling too full.

            In a small kitchen, it may take a bit of cleaning up before you've got the space to prep a dessert too.

            1. I don't do a full clean-up -- but yes, you have to transition to the next course, and space to put the dishes can take a few minutes. (doubly so in places where multiple courses are the norm, rather than serving family-style).

              I try not to keep guests waiting too long, but it's kinda nice to have a short gap to catch your breath and change gears with your palate.

              1. I can't say I host many formal dinner parties, but yes, there's generally a gap between dinner and dessert. People have more drinks and drift away from the dinner table while I try to free up some space/dishes for dessert. I don't have hard and fast rules about this, though.

                1. To the OP: is this the usual custom? I think it is, yes. Personally, I welcome the pause.

                  May I ask: did you not get enough to eat by the time the main course was served?

                    1. When you invite people to your home to dinner you can serve coffee and dessert whenever you like. If you don't like how long you had to wait for your host to serve you dessert then don't go back if invited.

                      1. As others stated, I like to wait also. Changing gears as someone said. Get leftovers in the frig, get a load in the dishwasher and give the meal time to settle and enjoy everyone's company.

                        Whether it's serve yourself buffet or family style of if it's a more formal event, having guests over for dinner generally means that everyone is planning to spend that evening together and no one should be in a rush.