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Proper Serving Etiquette

Updated on June 19, 2013
Place Setting
Place Setting | Source

Good To Know

Proper serving etiquette is most commonly used by those who work in the service industry but it is not exclusive to them.

Former etiquette may not be used personally on a day to day basis but, it can be important to know how to provide it and how to receive it.

Having the knowledge may help some individuals make a very good income as a banquet or fine dining server.

It also may save some people from embarrassment in front of their new in-laws or potential client.

Many of these tips and tricks are helpful when attending a formal business or social dinner out or hosting a large formal meal at home.

Proper Place Setting
Proper Place Setting | Source

Proper Place Setting

The formal place setting has many pieces. It is only typical to see all of the pieces out at once for events like large formal banquet parties, conferences or weddings. In these situations, it is customary to give each individual guests the option of using the wine glasses, bread plate, salad fork and so on.

The setting pieces that the guest does not use will be removed promptly so they may enjoy their meal without feeling cluttered with unnecessary items.

The Full Proper Pace Setting;

  • Charger placed on the table directly in front of the guest
  • Left side: dinner fork, salad fork
  • Right side: dinner knife, dinner spoon, soup spoon
  • Upper: dessert spoon, dessert fork
  • Upper right: water goblet, white wine glass, red wine glass, champagne flute
  • Upper left: small bread plate, butter knife

Wine with glass and cork
Wine with glass and cork | Source
Wine with glass and cork
Wine with glass and cork | Source

Wine Service

Wine service is standard in most restaurants that have a medium to large wine selection.

Certain restaurants and private clubs have a Wine Steward on staff. They are a wonderful resource when choosing the perfect wine to compliment a particular meal.

When wine is presented instead of simply poured, the dining experienced is enhanced.

1. Present the bottle with the label facing the guest who ordered it

2. Carefully cut away the foil around the cork

3. Insert the corkscrew and slowly remove and inspect the cork

If the cork appears dry or cracked, remove the bottle from the table and bring a new one

4. Present the cork to the guest who ordered the wine and allow them inspect it

5. After the guest approves, set the cork in the foil previously placed on the table

6. Wrap a clean, folded napkin around the neck of the bottle to absorb and drips

7. Pour a small amount of wine into the glass of the guest who ordered the wine so they can taste and approve the wine

8. Once approval has been granted, pour the wine for all the guests at the table. Serve the women first, starting at the left and continue clockwise around the table with the host being served last, regardless of gender.

9. If you are serving a red wine place the bottle on the edge of the table with the label facing toward the guests. If it is a white wine, set it in the pre-placed ice bucket.

10. Monitor the guest’s glass levels and offer to refill when appropriate. Never assume they want more.

If the guests order another bottle of the same wine repeat the procedure, omitting the tasting.

If the guests order a different bottle, repeat all steps shown above.

Serving the Food

When serving any course of the meal, the women are first, then men, and lastly the host of the party. The eldest lady at the table is served first and it continues on until the youngest male is served.

Gently place the meal in front of the guest from their left side, using your left hand to serve with. When removing the dishes, it is customary to do so from the guests right side, using your right hand.

The goal is to gracefully present the food and discreetly remove empty dishes without to much disruption.

Using the appropriate hand when serving and removing the dishes is necessary to avoid putting your arm in the face of the guest.

Guest Seating Numbers
Guest Seating Numbers | Source
Guest Seating Numbers
Guest Seating Numbers | Source

Guest Seating Numbers

Using seating numbers for your guests is a vital way to ensure that staff members know who is eating which meal and what they are drinking.

It can be very disrupting to the entire party if the server or other staff member is forced to auction off the food at the table because they are not certain which guest is having which meal.

Organized seat numbers are especially important when food allergies or special accommodations are a factor.

When every table is numbered the same way, it saves valuable time and confusion for the any staff member who is trying to attend to the guests needs.

Table numbers work the same for a small party of 2 people as they do for a large party of 200 people.

When a server is standing at the head of the table, the first seat on the left is number one and the counting continues clockwise for each seat. If one of the seats is empty, it is still counted.

If the table is positioned in a way that makes it unclear which side is the head of the table and which is the foot of the table, there is an easy way to figure it out.

When standing at the table, look to see where the front door is. If you are facing toward the door, you are at the head of the table. If the front door is behind you, that is the foot of the table.

Just Knowing Brings Comfort

These are some basic serving principles used in many situations from business to pleasure but few people are exposed to them until they are forced to be in one of those situations.

Former serving etiquette can make some people feel uncomfortable or out of place which is exactly the opposite reaction it was designed for.

Each step in the service process was created to make the guest feel more comfortable and make their meal an experience instead of just consuming food.

When people are aware of what each piece of the dining setting is used for and what to do when the Wine Steward hands them the cork to inspect, they will be more comfortable with the whole process and enjoy their meal that much more.

Bon Appetit


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    • profile image


      3 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this really helps a lot.

    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 

      5 years ago

      Thank you for sharing this. This will help when guests are visiting. You always want to make them feel comfortable and present your best image to them.


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