Food and Drink Serving Etiquette for Restaurants, Caterers and Dinner Parties

The etiquette of serving food is a set of rules which are adopted by restaurants, caterers and even at private dinner parties. Use these rules as a guide, they are not official rules and can differ between cultures and countries.

While some of these techniques may sound petty and a bit over the top, most have a sound explanation. Making service appear smooth and faultless allows the customer to relax and not be interrupted by service staff. It dates back to when servants were required to serve their masters without being noticed.

The order of who to serve first starts with the guest of honour and anyone else of importance. Followed by the eldest woman all the way to the youngest male. The host is to be served last. This is for all service to the table including taking food and drink orders and serving them (if serving all at once isn’t possible).

Food and drinks are usually served from the left and cleared from the right but this varies in different regions of the world.

Plates are only cleared when everyone on the table has finished. To make sure everyone has finished, ask the table if they have finished followed by ‘Was everything OK?’ Although, this is fine, try ask a open question so you receive feedback rather than a yes or no.

Never rush your guests, allow for a break between courses especially before desserts. Obviously drinks are served before any food orders are taken. The bill is only given to the table once it has been asked for.

If the table has wine or champagne, remember to periodically top up their glasses. However there is a fine line between being intrusive and neglecting your customer. Avoid letting your customer pour their own drinks unless they have expressed this.

Remember to be human; you want your guests to be relaxed and comfortable. Build rapport with your guests, but don’t become friends with them. Avoid making remarks about your guests, such as don’t comment on a clean plate as that could imply your guest is greedy or fat.