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servers taking away my plate too soon...

Maybe it's just me and the places I've eaten out at but lately I feel like servers and bussers want to take away my plate too quickly all the time. I know they want to turn over the table but sheesh! calm down! We recently ate at a place where the busser practically stood behind my shoulder in anticipation for my finish. The other night we were at pretty decent brewery/farm to table place and I was halfway thru my meal. I was drinking some water and the server comes over "are you finished?" I was polite with just a "no" but I almost gave her a lecture.

What is the deal here? is it just me or is this a trend everywhere??

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  1. When dining out, always carry a Taser.

    3 Replies
    1. re: beevod

      I thought for Chowhounders, "pepper spray" is the preferred tool ;-)

      1. re: LotusRapper

        Only if it's local artisan small-batch heritage non-GMO, estate-bottled, organic, fair-trade, sustainable pepper spray.

    2. especially when the restaurant is half empty, especially when my companion is still eating....

      1. Not just you. Seems to be happening every restaurant we've been to lately.

        2 Replies
          1. re: trolley

            #2 Greedy management and owners
            #3 Diners who don't open theor mouths and complain

        1. If my husband and I are both obviously finished, by all means clear. But if one of us is eating, it is very rude to take the other person's plate. My husband is a very slow eater. In fine dining I say no, please wait until he is finished. In casual places I usually let them because I just don't want to explain myself.

          9 Replies
          1. re: melpy

            yeah none of the places we're eating is Per Se or anything but when dishes cost $15-30 I don't consider that fast food either. No pun intended here! :-P

            1. re: trolley

              Usually once something hits that 15 dollar mark, I expect some common manners courtesy in the serving department.

              When I say casual I am thinking a sandwich shop, the local pho restaurant, some of the chains that are ubiquitous here.

              Also places that are owned/operated by a population that may not share the same customs get a pass.

              1. re: melpy

                and I actually meant to up the price of the 15-30 bc I noticed the most expensive item came in at $49. The restaurant was half empty and a Tuesday night. The last place was a brewery/pub but not cheap either. small plates from 9 and most expensive dish in the high 20's. definitely more casual but not McDonalds either.

                1. re: trolley

                  I've seen that as well. It's a training issue. There was a young busser who did it to us a number of times and we had to gently fend her off. It became a running joke with my GF and I.

                  "Watch out! Here she comes!"

                  In time she learned her trade and has become an excellent waiter. We still laugh about her early days.

                  1. re: trolley

                    That's terrible. I might even say to the server, no, it is impolite to clear while some members of the party are still eating. Although as a general rule, I really dislike the "educating" of servers by diners. My father does this in a non-condescending way but I still feel awkward.

                    1. re: melpy

                      EXACTLY! I've been on the other side as a server in my early 20's at the end of my college career and after college. I always had one table (usually an older man) that had to tell me "how it is". Even if they were wrong I had to just bite my tongue. I don't want to end up like those old men ever by telling my server "how it's supposed to be" but I guess next time I need to speak up to make a change.

                      1. re: trolley

                        Instead of saying it's "how it is" just state that's how YOU want it to be. I've definitely seen people here complain that dirty dishes were allowed to pile up on a table, even though others were still eating.

                        1. re: LeoLioness

                          i guess in the fashion of my therapist it needs to be formed as an "I" message versus a "you" message :)

              2. re: melpy

                Taking away one plate while another is eating is really a pet peeve of mine.
                It reflects poorly on the server and will be duly noted in my tip.

              3. It's rude! I don't tolerate rudeness very well. When this happens to they usually draw back a nub!!!

                1. Bite their hand! This is one time it's ok to "Bite the hand that feeds you".

                  1 Reply
                  1. re: jrvedivici

                    No, no, no - that's what the fork is for!

                  2. I have noticed this too. It has happened to me several times in the last few months (maybe a tight economy?).

                    This just happened to me the other night. Only in a bar. Meeting friends, ordered a huge (and expensive) platter of meat and cheese to nibble on as we drank wine. After the first round, ordered a second round, less than half the platter was eaten (being polite and all :) and I was asked if we were all finished? I said, no...and I would like like extra bread please. In the middle of the second glass of wine, clearly people were still picking on it...now that we had more bread for all the condiments ..she asked again! All finished? WTF???

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: sedimental


                      I have found some servers don't know more than 3 stock "check in" lines and this is one of them. Obviously training is in need here.

                    2. This happens to me all the time. I am not a fan. I tend to be the slower eater in a party (but not absurdly slow) and am always left feeling like I have to rush because all the other diners have had plates removed.

                      At least if they ask if I'm done, I can tell them "no". I've had several experiences recently where they have taken the plate without even asking if I was finished. Most of the time I catch them in time and tell them I'm not done but there have been a couple of times where I was in conversation and didn't notice they took my plate until it's too late. And it's not like I've set my silverware upside down and together at the top (how I was taught) to signal I was done.

                      2 Replies
                      1. re: ChervilGeorge

                        That's never happened to me, but if it did, I would call the server over and insist that I be served a fresh potion of what was removed. Wonder how that would go...and think that I'd have several options if it didn't go well. To me, removing a plate while food remains on it unless the silverware is face down and crossed, always requires a polite query as to whether you've finished eating. To do otherwise is IMHO very rude!

                        1. re: josephnl

                          In the case I cited above (or below – I just posted it), no inquiry was made nor my protest acknowledged, most likely I suspect because the busser spoke no English. And my high-school Spanish was over fifty years ago! What I need to do if it happens again will be to complain (politely) to the server.

                      2. There's a pricey and somewhat pretentious "Bistro" (their term) that's owned/operated by the same guys who have the Arroyo Chop House – so these aren't amateurs. Despite a few annoyances, it's a comfortable place with an okay noise level, and the food is generally pretty good if dumbed-down a bit from the French originals. Mrs. O's mom, who IS a French original, likes to take us there for our birthdays, mostly because she's crazy mad for mussels and they do very good ones. I love their snails. I was having some of those a couple of years ago, and when I'd finished them I was reaching for the bread basket so I could mop up the garlicky buttery sauce, my favorite part, when a white-clad arm suddenly appeared and then disappeared … with my plate! I actually did yelp at the guy, to no avail. We've since noticed that the bussers have apparently been told that they MUST remove plates as soon as they're emptied, whether anyone else is finished or not. I have also bared my teeth and snarled at the last bus-person who was intending to remove my snail plate.

                        That such a clear breach of etiquette is not only tolerated but apparently made a matter of policy would be bad enough in a Sizzler or similar, but is infuriating when coming from as supposedly savvy a company as this.

                        5 Replies
                        1. re: Will Owen

                          Ahem, LeCheval, cough* cough*. Did I just say that? ;)

                          1. re: trolley

                            Nasty cough. Here, have a Smith Brothers …

                          2. re: Will Owen

                            I would have insisted that the snails be removed from my bill. You didn't get to finish the dish, so why should you pay?

                            1. re: CanadaGirl

                              Agree completely. I would have done the same. I hate when anyone grabs my plate before the point when it's obvious that everyone has finished eating.

                          3. Giving the server/busboy the stinkeye while growling always works for me.

                            Unfortunately, I think servers are almost always told by management to turn tables as quickly as possible. For most, it's not their fault. Some may want to turn tables for their own tip profits, but they're possibly cutting their tips by doing so.

                            1. I just throw my arm around the plate protectively and growl at them until they go away....

                              3 Replies
                                1. re: PotatoHouse

                                  OMG I just want to tell you I LOVE your duck callers!!!!

                                  1. re: jrvedivici

                                    I was gonna say that, but glad you did first (afraid he might pull out a shotgun or something)

                                2. My mother tried to teach me to give people the benefit of the doubt. That said, The servers / bussers are there trying to serve / bus and probably think they're doing a good job by removing your plate as soon as you are finished eating. Be gentle with your admonitions, most are young and not well-trained.

                                  My pet peeve is when they bring the check before everyone has finished eating. But again, I assume they are trying to provide good service and don't know any better.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: elegraph

                                    I think you hit the nail on the head. And many people - both servers and diners do not observe the rule of placing your utensils together at the side of the plate to signify you are done. Many people do prefer their plates be cleared individually instead of the "old school" where it was improper to remove any plates till everyone was done. Watching our weight has a lot to do with this. Sitting in front of a 3/4 eaten plate and repeatedly telling yourself to just stop is very difficult. Easier to have the plate taken away.

                                  2. I remember back in 1996 when my father and I lunched with my sister for her sobriety birthday, at some hotel dining room in Page, AZ. The place was not too busy, and my sister is a slow but far from glacial eater. The server came three times to take her plate, but my sister was still eating, and each time we said for the server to wait until my sister was done before trying again to remove her plate (it was quite obvious my sister was still eating). The server came again before my sister was done, and put her hands on the plate; my sister placed the tines of her fork on the back of one of the server's hands. That ended the farce.

                                    Oh, of course no tip.

                                    1. In my culture, removing one diner's plate before others had finished would just be so rude. Even asking , if the finished plate could be removed would be a no-no. Plates are only removed when everyone has finished Seems different in America though.

                                      3 Replies
                                      1. re: Harters

                                        Well, I agree, but we've had almost as many flame war threads on THAT tangent as on tips!

                                        1. re: Harters

                                          I was taught table etiquette when I was 7 (in my home country in Asia) while eating at the US officers club where my parents and their friends regularly dined.

                                          To let the server know you're done and your plate is good to go, place the knife and fork on the upper right corner of the plate, both parallel and in a NW<->SE alignment.

                                          But if you are still eating and not ready to have your plate taken away, you can place your knife in the same orientation as described above, but have the fork resting on the upper LEFT corner of the plate and sitting in a NE<->SW orientation.

                                          Ha, there are YouTube clips for *everything* :-D


                                          1. re: LotusRapper

                                            I was also taught this way. The fork and knife, blade facing inward in the center of the plate.With the handles over the rim of the plate. You would position the utensils at 10 min to four.NW- SE. I position the tines of the fork downwards. Some say they should be upwards. Servers should know this. That's when I'm finished.

                                        2. You *can* take away my plate before I'm done, but you'll be pulling back a bloody stump.

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: monavano

                                            Once in a 'fancy' restaurant called 'The Owl's Nest' (I think)years ago I ordered a steak and lobster main. It arrived and after eating for about a minute I was called to the phone at the desk. I was gone from the table for less than a couple of minutes. When I returned my steak, barely touched and the lobster completely untouched had been removed.
                                            I called the waiter over and demanded my plate be either returned or replaced. I had to actually phone the manager of the restaurant at home and have him tell the staff to replace my meal. They were demanding I pay for a new meal. Never returned but I told as many people who would listen how I was treated. The restaurant only lasted about a year. Hopefully I had a hand in it's demise.

                                          2. I, too, was taught to place my cutlery together on the side of the plate when officially finished, but few servers or bussers these days know about this silent signal. I just wish these folks would realize that if the fork is still in my hand, I AM STILL EATING.

                                            I used to eat in a greek restaurant in NYC that served lovely fresh pita bread, and we'd have the little bread plates on the side for this. Each time I would pick up my piece of bread to take a bite, a busser would appear out of nowhere and sweep the empty plate away. One evening this just got ridiculous - the first time I never saw him coming; I got up, walked to the waiter's station to get another plate - again, when I took a bite of bread, the guy came by and reached for my plate - I put the bread down, and he tried to take that too, but I stopped him. When I went to take my last bite, I picked up the bread with one hand and the plate with the other, and actually held it away from the busser when he tried to take it.

                                            1 Reply
                                            1. re: Cheflambo

                                              Maybe he was OCD and had a tic of taking away bread plates :-O

                                            2. How was your flatware positioned?

                                              1 Reply
                                              1. re: cheesemonger

                                                i'm well aware of flatware positioning. I went to an all girls boarding school where believe it or not and as antiquated as it seems we had lessons on basic "proper" behavior like dining etiquette. my flatware was crossed in front of me and my bowl was more than half full. i was drinking some water.