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Does it bother you when servers put your fork back on your table after appetizer/salad?

  • j

Not talking about fine dining obviously since this doesn't happen there. I'm talking about at other restaurants: low to mid-range.

I've notice this happening a lot: server removes my fork from my plate and without asking me places it on my table. Or the server tells me to take the fork as she removes the plate.

Is it laziness? Some insignificant way to save money?

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  1. doesn't bother me in the least - I use the same fork for my salad and main dish at home...

    1. Bothers the hell out of me.

      If I wanted to eat like I eat at home, I'd eat at home.

      11 Replies
      1. re: Sneakeater

        Agree. It's disgusting.

        If they attempt that, I just tell them to bring us clean ones.

        What next, they'll take a sip out of my water glass and then refill it.

        1. re: mitchleeny

          That's a false parallel, since that's your own saliva on the fork, not theirs.

          A better example would be if they made you keep the same glass for the red and then white wines.

          1. re: DagingKuda

            but even that has it's own argument -- glasses for red wine and glasses for white wine have different design characteristics built around maximizing the aroma of the wine....not to mention the dregs left in the glass.

            I'd send glasses to the kitchen in a heartbeat...but a drop of salad dressing on the fork isn't going to adulterate the flavor of the next course for more than a single bite, if that much.

            1. re: sunshine842

              "[A] drop of salad dressing on the fork isn't going to adulterate the flavor of the next course for more than a single bite, if that much."

              Yeah, it would be awful to lick or wipe that drop off, you know?

              1. re: sunshine842

                Oh, I agree with everything you say. Just pointing out the fallacy of the original analogy.

                1. re: sunshine842

                  I do not mind using the same utensil except if it is smeared with some sticky sauce.
                  About wine glasses, I grew up in Italy during the ww2, where we made our own wine and sold it in our osteria, we made white and red and we did not have different type of glasses, we had what you call water glasses, about 6 ounce with thick heavy glass. Now I do not enjoy drinking from fancy fluted glasses, I want a heavy glass that I can hold without fear of breaking it.
                  I took a tour of the Mondavi winery, and asked about wine glasses,
                  and Miss Mondavi ( forgot her name ) said that if you like the wine you could use a mason jar. Just enjoy it.

                  1. re: sgbigfive

                    "[I]f you like the wine you could use a mason jar. Just enjoy it."

                    Totally agree. I have no problem drinking out of many different glasses - I don't need "stems" unless my "juice jar" is going to offend everyone else.

                    1. re: sgbigfive

                      my most memorable wine glasses were made from water bottles -- we hacked the tops off of two water bottles, used my nail file to smooth the edge off, and used those to hold our wine during a picnic.

                      cheap, lightweight, durable enough to last the rest of the vacation (!!!) -- I've had worse! (we couldn't even find any plastic cups, so we had to figure something out or glug it from the bottle like a wino!)

                      Nowadays we use some very decent Lexan ones that screw together...but I'm still drinking wine out of a plastic glass.

                2. re: mitchleeny

                  Many many years ago in a dive diner I pointed out to the server that there was I bit of "food" stuck to my unused fork that the dishwasher apparently did not get. She simply scraped it off with her fingernail and placed it back on the table in front of me. Since then, no, it doesn't bother me that much when the only food stuck to the fork came from me.

                  1. re: mitchleeny


                    Rats and roaches are disgusting. Using the same fork twice? No. Now my preference would be a fresh fork but I can easily deal with reusing the one i used to eat my starter.

                3. At the low end of low-mid range, not at all. At the mid end of the range, it would annoy me. I probably wouldn't notice or care if I hadn't worked in the past at a mid-high-range restaurant where it was hammered into us to always replace silverware (hell to pay if you didn't and were caught). The only aspect that's annoying about it is that it strikes me as laziness, and I don't like feeling like I need to frantically snatch the fork off the edge of my plate mid-air as it's being cleared or else I'll have to flag a server down for a new one--should just be automatic.

                  1. No, it doesn't bother me. Yes, I think it's an insignificant way to save money.

                    If it ever happened in a fancy place, yeah, it would take me aback, but not in the types of places where I usually eat. I'm more likely to keep my chopsticks for all the dishes and have a clean new plate brought every so often.

                    1. Not on the low to mid end but have had fine dining where they have taken the bleu cheese dressing crusted laden knife and set it on the tablecloth...I've confronted them and asked what the hell was that about?

                      1. It's very possible that unless the wait person has worked in a fine(r) dining establishment, they might not even be aware of what is appropriate.
                        If I know I'm dining in this type of circumstance, I remove the sliver myself, beforehand, just to avoid the problem.

                        1. Don't like it,not crazy about it and mostly not OK with it so I pay attention.
                          I don't want to use it after a trip to the table top,if there is a plate for placement I'm usually OK.My practice is to "prevent" and or ask for fresh silver ware.

                          1. I am really bothered by it as there is no place to put the dirty silverware aside from on the table. That certainly isn't appropriate in any way, shape, or form. I understand the it begins on the table, but after it has been in my mouth, in food etc then even more grossness will stick to it - no to mention that you are then getting things on the table.

                            I am sorry, but, if a restaurant is going to make me keep the silverware then another napkin needs to be brought to place the items on.

                            3 Replies
                            1. re: Astur

                              I just rest it on the bread plate.

                              1. re: DagingKuda

                                In the places that do this there aren't bread plates.....

                                1. re: Astur

                                  The places I've had this happen at had bread plates. That's where I rested my fork.

                            2. I prefer having two forks, when appropriate, the salad fork being removed after the salad course, even at a mid-range restaurant. "Fine dining" implies a lot more than being given sufficient flatware for the meal. But it's not something which particularly bothers me.

                              1 Reply
                              1. re: GH1618

                                "fine dining" also implies that there will be an actual *salad* fork, which (like the wine-glass discussion upthread) is absolutely not appropriate for a main dish.

                                So if it's a salad fork that was brought with the salad, then yes, I expect it to be taken away with the salad and replaced with a fork appropriate to my meal (fish fork if applicable!).

                                But if it's a standard-issue fork, no biggie.

                              2. Frankly, I couldn't give less of a sh*t about it.

                                1 Reply
                                1. As a former server I have to admit I'm appalled that anyone in service would do this, but I guess standards have tumbled since then.....a funny aside---Sis and I both ordered iced tea, which both came with straws but no iced tea spoons. When we requested them the server came back with ONE, which I guess we were meant to share!

                                  We were laughing so hard by that time anyway it didn't matter anymore.....

                                  1. More than three years ago I started this thread:


                                    Pet Peeve, lack of separate salad forks. You'll find 64 comments on the topic.

                                    1. The late restaurant reviewer at th e St. Louis Post Dispatch used to refer to "one-fork restaurants", one of his pet peeves along with aluminum-foil-wrapped baked potatoes.

                                      I'm no germ freak but you might as well lick the table.

                                      30 Replies
                                      1. re: lemons

                                        My husband (The Duke) tends to use his napkin to mop up a table spill then dabs his mouth clean with it. Whilst I look on in horror. I have explained the "lick the table" concept multiple times but the behavior continues.

                                        I am possessive about tableware at low- and mid-range place after having my fork walk off with an appetizer plate a few times, followed by a quick drop of the the entree and a busy server who doesn't return. I will pilfer neighboring tables and service stands if available but have been left high-and-dry other times.

                                        1. re: lemons

                                          Just so I understand. You are seated at a table where, presumably, a fork and knife is already set. That's fine? I guess the flatware is dormant at that point. Then your first course arrives, which you consume using the fork, it then becomes a germ magnet of some sort when it's placed on the same table it was sitting on before? Does eating with it activate these germ gathering principles somehow?

                                          1. re: MGZ


                                            When you arrive at that table your fork had better not be sitting directly on the table. It should be either sitting on a clean napkin or better yet rolled in a napkin.

                                            Health department requirements differ in assorted jurisdictions. Some allow the utensils to sit exposed on the napkin, but many (current trend) require that they be wrapped/rolled in the napkin if allowed to sit on the unattended tables.

                                            Too often, restaurants set tables after they are sprayed and wiped with a questionable rag and then utensils, mats, etc. placed on a not yet dry table.

                                            The table is not a food safe surface. If a server took my fork off a plate being cleared and placed it directly on the table, the server would be instructed to immediately bring a clean fork.

                                            If necessary
                                            I might employ a little self help, by accidentally knocking the fork to the floor and requesting a clean one.

                                            1. re: bagelman01

                                              Can't say I've even done a 50 State survey of the health codes, or the 1000s of local/county requirements, but I've certainly been to places where the fork was sitting on the table or placed on the bar. Nevertheless, I made my position clear upthread. I'm just not that fussy.

                                              1. re: MGZ

                                                all I can think of takes it to the extreme.....
                                                Jack Nicholson in 'As Good As It Gets', coming into the same diner every breakfast with his own disposable cutlery....................................

                                                1. re: MGZ

                                                  not to mention those of who aren't in the US....

                                                  did I mention you put your bread on the table in Europe?

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    As you do at a formal dinner in the U.S. But I have to own up to being uncomfortable with spreading crumbs on nicely starched white damask, so I decline bread when it's offered. But so much has changed in my lifetime! I feel certain they still do this at State Dinners at the White House, but what about the rest of the country? And has anyone else ever wondered if Bill Gates has a butler? hmmmm.... '-)

                                              2. re: MGZ

                                                Drop a new piece of hard candy on the floor, pick it up, and it looks the same. Take the same piece out of your mouth and place on the floor, and it comes up covered in dust etc. Same principle with a saliva covered flatware piece. More definitely sticks and it is very likely to pick up far more germs that way.

                                                1. re: Astur

                                                  what physically and developmentally normal person over the age of about three leaves so much saliva on their fork that this is even a consideration?

                                                  1. re: sunshine842

                                                    Sunshine, your comment just caused a coffee spit take.

                                                2. re: MGZ

                                                  Exactly. I recognize that people have their preferences - they're entitled to that. But lets not pretend that it's a public health issue where thousands of people become ill each year after using their fork a second time.

                                                  American society has a germ fetish. I've seen articles in "Consumer Reports" magazine where, at readers request, they review dishwashers that "sanitize" dishes - they use extremely high heat that is guaranteed to kill all germs on the dishes and cutlery. They tested them and found that they were more expensive than regular dishwashers but they worked.

                                                  They also pointed out that once you take those dishes out of the dishwasher and store them in the kitchen cabinet the germs jump right back on them. They won't kill you or make you sick. The human body has evolved to deal with a few germs.

                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                    There are many types of bacteria and only about 1% are harmful. But those 1% can, indeed, kill you or make you sick. The fact that we are adapted to living in an unsterile environment is not a good argument for being unconcerned about possible contamination from pathogens.

                                                    1. re: GH1618

                                                      There are regulations, extensive regulations, on cleanliness in restaurants. Somehow they left out swapping fresh forks as a mandatory item. My guess is that the Dept. of Health doesn't consider it a significant issue.

                                                      By all means ask for a fresh fork if you feel like it but I'd bet the house that you're at far more risk from germs carried into the restaurant by other diners.

                                                      1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                        well that does it, then. Into the autoclave with all of you.

                                                        1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                          In your previous post to which I responded, you were writing about home dishwasher sanitizing cycles, not forks. Commercial dishwashers rinse at a temperature comparable to the sanitizing rinse option on a home dishwasher.

                                                          1. re: GH1618

                                                            Your argument is with Consumer Reports, not me. They've been around since 1936 and are widely respected. They have big labs and testing equipment and, on health issues, reach out to recognized medical authorities. I trust them to report accurately on whether a particular product is beneficial or not.

                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                              You wrote that Consumer Reports wrote that sanitizing dishwashers work, and I have no argument with that. As for medical questions, I don't look to Consumer Reports for answers.

                                                          2. re: Bob Martinez

                                                            Yes there are strict regulations for restaurants, but did you ever go into the kitchen where they store and prepare food?
                                                            In my work I had to enter many restaurants back rooms and I will not eat at some of these premises.
                                                            There's one place where I often stop for breakfast, and if I have the toast buttered or have hash brown potatoes, I will have to hurry home or stop at some restroom along the way. There I usually have dry toast and coffee
                                                            I go there because my co-workers meet there

                                                            1. re: sgbigfive

                                                              It's not exactly big news that some restaurants are dirty. Some fail their government inspections and are closed.

                                                              Re "contaminated" forks, I think a reality check is in order. Assuming that dishes and cutlery are washed in a commercial grade sanitizing dishwasher they are then *not* stored in a vacuum chamber and bathed in germ killing ultraviolet light. Instead, they go on a shelf or in a bin.

                                                              When it comes time to set the table it's done by a human being, not a robot. And that human being isn't wearing gloves. When we actually use it our tableware it's "everyday" clean, not super germ free "sanitized" clean.

                                                              1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                Yes, it's "everyday" clean, except that restaurant employees are expected not to work if they are ill with a communicable disease, and to wash their hands when appropriate. Even then, well-trained employees in a concientious restaurant will handle tableware appropriately. Flatware should not be handled by the business end, but by the handles (hence the name). Glasses of water should not be touched on the rim. And so on.

                                                                1. re: GH1618

                                                                  All true but lets not pretend what we live in a germ free environment where a second use of a fork, a fork we just used, will lay us low with the ebola virus.

                                                                  I see this more as a style issue, not a health issue. In a perfect world I prefer to get fresh cutlery for a new course but if I have to use the same fork I used for my salad t I don't fear for my health.

                                                                  1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                    Bob, I believe you are addressing a completely different issue than that posed by the OP. The OP was not addressing being given only one fork for multiple courses. The OP was addressing the server placing OP's used fork directly on the table as opposed to on a napkin, placemat or bread plate.

                                                                    I loathe using the same fork for salad and my main dish, but will not tolerate a fork I've used being placed directly on the tabletop by a server, and the server thinking I'll continue to eat with it. I insist that the server who has transgressed thusly bring a clean fork.

                                                                    1. re: bagelman01

                                                                      The OP writes "Or the server tells me to take the fork as she removes the plate." This implies that one fork is being used for multiple courses.

                                                                      1. re: DagingKuda

                                                                        I fully understand that the OP was given only one fork for multiple courses in a casual restaurant, BUT the issue the OP is addressing is the server placing that dirty fork dorectly on the table or telling the OP to remove it from the used plate.

                                                                        1. re: bagelman01

                                                                          Give me you best guess on the death rate for people eating with used forks that touched the table top.

                                                                          Anyone from a 3rd world country would think this thread is hilarious.

                                                                          Let me say it for a 3rd time - my preference is for fresh cutlery between courses but I don't think for a minute that it's a health issue.

                                                                          1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                            Re "3rd world country":

                                                                            I am reminded of an anecdote in a memoir I read long ago (I can't remember whose) about the secret to avoiding food poisoning in india being to have the server bring a large pot of boiling water to the table, into which all the utensils were dunked. I don't suppose you could get any American restaurant to do that, but, fortunately, it isn't necessary.

                                                                            1. re: Bob Martinez

                                                                              death rate, extremely low, upset stomach, incacluable as the cause may be blamed on low quality food at these low end casual dining establishments.

                                                                            2. re: bagelman01

                                                                              Hopefully, OP will return to clarify. But in the meantime, if you are not interpreting "the server tells me to take the fork" to mean that OP is addressing being required to reuse the fork, are you interpreting it to mean OP is addressing receiving an order from the server ? Because in that second context, the final line "Is it laziness? Some insignificant way to save money?" doesn't really make much sense.

                                                                              1. re: DagingKuda

                                                                                Lazy server, NO. Cheap operator, YES. Needs to own and wash much less flatware.

                                                                          2. re: bagelman01

                                                                            Yes. If you leave the fork on the plate, the server should remove it with the plate, and bring another (in a "one-fork" restaurant. If you want to reuse it, you should remove it yourself and place it on the bread plate. If there is no bread plate, you probably don't have a salad course anyway. Or maybe you shouldn't be eating there. Places I like to eat regularly have bread plates, and don't object if you request another piece of flatware.

                                                        2. If I do not have an extra plate, I ask for an extra napkin and place my fork on it. In a casual place, I do not expect to have silverware replaced.

                                                          1. I was just having a late breakfast (reheated chicken thigh - which I only cooked to about 160 last night) and my fork fell on the floor in my (commercial) studio. I picked it up and (without washin') finished my meal. I will let you know if there are any adverse consequences (if you never hear from me again, assume the worst).

                                                            2 Replies
                                                            1. re: MGZ

                                                              The difference is that YOU made the decision, no server made it for you.

                                                              1. re: bagelman01

                                                                Well distinguished, counselor. I'll take that under advisement.

                                                                Oh, and, by way of update, so far I'm still alive and without any distress.

                                                            2. Oh but it can happen in a fine dining environment ... in which case at least there's a table cloth. Hell yeah it bothers me ...

                                                              1. Yes, I much prefer it when they ask me to remove it so I can choose where to put it - usually tines down in the bowl of my unused spoon. But I would much rather have them move it than take it away with the plate and then not bring a new fork to replace it with and give me an annoyed stare when I ask for one.

                                                                1. Yeah, it would bother me. I don't do that when eating at the table at home, so why in a restaurant? Well, wait minute. I *DO* do it at home if I'm "eating over the sink." Where exactly is this restaurant seating you?

                                                                  1 Reply
                                                                  1. re: Caroline1

                                                                    You must have a fancy sink ;) I don't even use a fork when eating over the sink ... much less have multiple courses.

                                                                  2. Whilst it happens on occasions, it is not the restaurant etiquette where I am in the world - at any level of restaurant. As such, it says a lot about a place when it happens - none of it good.

                                                                    1. I hate it. But then I wish they would either give you 2 forks from the start or be committed to providing one with the appetizer when ordered.

                                                                      1. I'll comment on number of posts. Utensils in restaurants are not medical implements. They are not sterile. You are not eating in an operating room.
                                                                        Restaurant employees in the USA who are sick are expected to work to get paid. I know of no restaurant where hourly employees get sick days.
                                                                        I would not be thrilled if a server placed my used fork on the table but it would not be a deal breaker either.
                                                                        I usually take preemptive action. If there is only one fork at my setting and nachos or buffalo wings are anywhere on the menu, my guess is that I'm allotted only one fork and I remove it from the plate that contained my potato skins myself, placing it in the most sanitary area of the table I can find. If I leave it on my plate and it gets bussed away there is a good chance that I will be without a fork for my entree or might be waiting for one as my food gets cold.
                                                                        If there is any doubt whether or not this restaurant changes out utensils between courses, I remove my fork placing it near the plate. This way the server can still pick it up if that's what they do or leave it if that's what they do.

                                                                        1. Hate this. It's a sign a untrained staff, trying to save money, and servers who probably only eat out of a take-out bag in their own lives.

                                                                          1. I dislike it. Annoys me. Still, I don't go into conniptions over it but it is definitely a black mark against them in my books.

                                                                            On the other hand, certainly it is also irritating when they do take away the fork with the salad/app plate but don't replace it. I've raided the next table for cutlery before when that happened (when there is an unoccupied table to raid) and for some reason I didn't notice they took the fork away and my next course has arrived and the server has already vanished...