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servers taking away my plate too soon...

trolley Dec 17, 2013 07:41 AM

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??

  1. c
    cheesemonger Dec 22, 2013 10:02 AM

    How was your flatware positioned?

    1 Reply
    1. re: cheesemonger
      trolley Dec 22, 2013 11:58 AM

      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.

    2. Cheflambo Dec 21, 2013 08:19 AM

      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
        LotusRapper Dec 21, 2013 08:23 AM

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

      2. monavano Dec 19, 2013 10:01 AM

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

        2 Replies
        1. re: monavano
          Puffin3 Dec 21, 2013 07:55 AM

          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.

          1. re: Puffin3
            LotusRapper Dec 21, 2013 08:22 AM

            Amazing !

        2. h
          Harters Dec 19, 2013 09:04 AM

          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
            Karl S Dec 19, 2013 09:18 AM

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

            1. re: Harters
              LotusRapper Dec 19, 2013 09:51 AM

              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
                emglow101 Dec 20, 2013 06:40 PM

                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. Karl S Dec 19, 2013 07:56 AM

              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. elegraph Dec 17, 2013 06:37 PM

                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
                  KaimukiMan Dec 18, 2013 01:14 PM

                  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. PotatoHouse Dec 17, 2013 06:18 PM

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

                  3 Replies
                  1. re: PotatoHouse
                    LotusRapper Dec 18, 2013 07:20 AM

                    LOL !!

                    Movember is over, PH ;-)

                    1. re: PotatoHouse
                      jrvedivici Dec 18, 2013 07:30 AM

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

                      1. re: jrvedivici
                        LotusRapper Dec 18, 2013 07:44 AM

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

                    2. k
                      KrumTx Dec 17, 2013 03:26 PM

                      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. Will Owen Dec 17, 2013 02:46 PM

                        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
                          trolley Dec 17, 2013 03:11 PM

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

                          1. re: trolley
                            Will Owen Dec 17, 2013 03:14 PM

                            Nasty cough. Here, have a Smith Brothers …

                            1. re: Will Owen
                              trolley Dec 17, 2013 10:52 PM


                          2. re: Will Owen
                            CanadaGirl Dec 19, 2013 04:05 PM

                            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
                              josephnl Dec 19, 2013 08:12 PM

                              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. c
                            ChervilGeorge Dec 17, 2013 11:59 AM

                            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
                              josephnl Dec 17, 2013 01:01 PM

                              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
                                Will Owen Dec 17, 2013 02:53 PM

                                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. s
                              sedimental Dec 17, 2013 09:51 AM

                              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
                                melpy Dec 17, 2013 09:59 AM


                                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. jrvedivici Dec 17, 2013 09:43 AM

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

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: jrvedivici
                                  tardigrade Dec 20, 2013 06:10 PM

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

                                2. Uncle Bob Dec 17, 2013 09:28 AM

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

                                  1. melpy Dec 17, 2013 08:54 AM

                                    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
                                      trolley Dec 17, 2013 09:19 AM

                                      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
                                        melpy Dec 17, 2013 09:27 AM

                                        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
                                          trolley Dec 17, 2013 09:47 AM

                                          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
                                            Bob Martinez Dec 17, 2013 09:56 AM

                                            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
                                              melpy Dec 17, 2013 09:57 AM

                                              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
                                                trolley Dec 17, 2013 10:06 AM

                                                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
                                                  LeoLioness Dec 17, 2013 11:00 AM

                                                  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
                                                    trolley Dec 17, 2013 11:03 AM

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

                                        2. re: melpy
                                          monavano Dec 19, 2013 10:00 AM

                                          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. j
                                          Jerzeegirl Dec 17, 2013 08:12 AM

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

                                          2 Replies
                                          1. re: Jerzeegirl
                                            trolley Dec 17, 2013 08:41 AM

                                            But the question is WHY??

                                            1. re: trolley
                                              bagelman01 Dec 17, 2013 09:36 AM

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

                                          2. Monica Dec 17, 2013 08:09 AM

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

                                            1. b
                                              beevod Dec 17, 2013 08:07 AM

                                              When dining out, always carry a Taser.

                                              3 Replies
                                              1. re: beevod
                                                LotusRapper Dec 18, 2013 07:18 AM

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

                                                1. re: LotusRapper
                                                  DuchessNukem Dec 18, 2013 01:39 PM

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

                                                  1. re: DuchessNukem
                                                    LotusRapper Dec 18, 2013 03:39 PM

                                                    Well played !

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