Etiquette Tips for Restaurant Server Training

Published on October 18, 2018

Flawless service means attention to detail, and detailed training can help your wait staff deliver! Click To TweetA great restaurant experience is nowhere need depending on the food alone. From the moment the guests step through the door, their restaurant experience starts and therefore it is of vital importance that every waiter or server is on their a-game when it comes to providing service. Displaying the correct level of etiquette as a waiter is vital in giving your guest that truly special experience. Guests will remember the way they were welcomed, served and cared for during their dining experience and are much more likely to return if you managed to get it right.

But why exactly is Etiquette important, and what are the main etiquette rules to live by when working as a waiter or server?

How important is the serving etiquette at restaurants?

Providing amazing service does not stop at making sure you do not drop any plates, or spill wine over a customer. It is the little details in service and etiquette that make the difference. The way you carry yourself around the restaurant floor, anticipating actions before the guest knew they needed something – like making sure their glasses always stay filled, or offering to put someone’s handbag on a hook so that it does not have to be on the floor. Etiquette also plays a part in different cultural greetings, your level of politeness and professionalism.

The restaurant you work for will likely have its own idea of the type of etiquette that they want to display: a Michelin Star place will be much more formal than a cafe. However as a waiter it is vital you understand a solid level of etiquette that can be relevant to any work location!

What are etiquette tips for restaurant servers?

  1. Presentation
    This covers both your attitude and hygiene: You must always smile, and have a friendly, open posture so people feel comfortable around you. You must also smell clean, have neat hair and simple make up. Your job is not to stand out and be the centre of attention, but for your guest to be. So do not be too flashy with any jewellery either.
  2. Order of service:
    Plates are served from the left and cleared from the right side.  This makes the guests feel less enclosed. Use your right hand to clear a used plate, and the left hand to slide in a fresh plate.  The only exception to this is if there is an object on the right side, such as a sherry glass or if the guest is obstructing the way physically (perhaps leaning). In this case do not lean across the guest, and simply remove plates from the left side.
  3. Drinking glasses:
    Water and wine glasses should remain on the table throughout the entire meal, as guests will have their own preferences on the beverages they drink.  Only the sherry glass is removed.  Of course, if a guest asks for other glasses to be removed then you should do so. Always change the wine glass when a guest asks for a new type of wine.
  4. Inspect food & plates:
    You want to make sure that whatever is presented to your guests looks perfect, and the plates might have become a bit messy after taking them out of the kitchen. Inspect the plates before you serve the table and make any (tiny) adjustments where possible.
  5. Clearing the table 1:
    When clearing the table you must keep noise low, so never stack several plates or clear on a tray.  Carry each plate individually to the kitchen. During large dinners you can carry the plate to a sideboard and then another server will move them to the kitchen.
  6. Clearing the table 2:
    Before pudding everything must be cleared from the table that isn’t relevant to the final courses.  Start with the largest item and work down to the smallest.  To speed this process up you can used a small doily-lined tray, as this will prevent slippage and reduce noise.
  7. Crumbing the table:
    This is key to freshening up before pudding.  Stand to the left of each guest and with a thin brush or folded napkin, brush the crumbs onto a small plate or tray held just below the edge of the table.
  8. Remain professional:
    Be discreet and professional, even if a very famous of well known person walks through the door. Remember they expect service from you and probably a private, quiet night out. Treat them as you would any other guest.
  9. Know the menu:
    Before service, make sure you understand the menu and will have answers to any questions your guests may have. Check with the chef in case you are unsure what anything means so you can answer your guests with confidence.
  10. Stay present:
    This does not mean you should bother your guests or hover next to their table constantly. Give them private space to enjoy their dinner, but make sure you keep looking (discreetly) towards the table incase anyone wants to make eye contact or ask you anything.

How can training help?

As the saying goes, practice makes perfect, and taking a Silver Service or Etiquette training course will give you ample opportunity to practise the able skills and many more things to give you the confident to provide a flawless, high end service on the job. Training is done in a safe environment so you can have the space to make mistakes, go over things again (and again!) until you get the hand of it. It can also give you the inspiration, skillset and confidence to aim for higher up jobs in the restaurant or hotel industry – or even in private households or corporate events. Training looks great on your CV as it shows you are taking your career seriously, so it could open up a lot of doors for you.

Polo & Tweed are specialists in providing Etiquette and Service training in small group settings and for private bookings. Contact us here to find out more and book a space on our of our training courses!

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