The Rules of Silver Service Etiquette

Silver Service

Published on May 4, 2017

To comply with silver service guidelines a server must adhere to the correct etiquette. There are clear silver service etiquette guidelines procedures for every sub category of the art. This guide aims to teach you the basics of silver service etiquette.

History of Silver Service Etiquette

Silver service has been around for hundreds of years. But unless you’ve eaten at high-end restaurants, stayed in the best hotels or worked in wealthy homes. You may not have experienced silver service dining.  Historically, upper-class British people have admired and respected silver service. And this has become the bar set for dining across the globe.  

Silver service originates from the 17th and 18th century. On Sunday the normal wait staff in a private home would be given the day off. So the butler would be asked to step in to serve the food to the family.  The butler would walk around the table, serving the family or guests from his platter directly onto their plates.  This particular service style is called ‘silver service’. And it became very popular in high end restaurants and 5* hotels in the modern-day.  Those who wish to work in luxury homes, 5* hotels, high-end restaurants, chalets and yachts require silver service skills. So being familiar with silver service etiquette is vital.

The Basics of Silver Service Etiquette

Silver service is a method of food service that’s performed from the left side.  In France, this service is known as ‘service à l’Anglais’, or English service. The guest to the host or principal is served first. As they are typically the most prominent guest of the principal. Service continues clockwise so staff don’t bump into other servers. Plates and glasses are cleared from the right. And glasses are stacked in a diagonal line to the right. With wine served in order by course and water glasses in front.  

Silver service tends to be easier for a right-handed waiter.  You stand behind the guest to their left side. Holding and supporting the silverware with your left hand and serving the food with your right hand. This technique requires a great deal of practice and dexterity.  You should practice whenever you can to keep these skills refreshed. Especially if you are not actively serving as part of your daily duties.

Silver Service Etiquette: Service, Courses and Drinks

  1. 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.  
  2. 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.
  3. Formal dinners may take between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the number of courses served.
  4. Traditionally the main course at a formal dinner is roast beef, fowl or game.  This will often be served on a platter. And is traditionally presented to the host for them to inspect.  They will indicate if they are happy for service to commence. In a hotel or restaurant platters aren’t presented to the host as the maitre’d will do the inspection before food service begins.
  5. If service includes watery vegetables then the platter will have a napkin in the base to absorb the excess liquids.

Silver Service Etiquette: Pudding and Clearing

  1. Present sweet, chocolates, or glaceed fruits in compotes. And then placed on the table as part of the decor. Occasionally if there are long lapses between courses guests can enjoy helping themselves.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. Crumbing the table is key to freshening up before pudding.  Stand to the left of each guest. Then, with a thin brush or folded napkin, brush the crumbs onto a small plate or tray held just below the edge of the table.

Silver Service Etiquette Tips for Service

Read our guidelines on how to treat guests correctly during silver service dinners! #bepolite Click To Tweet
  1. Make eye contact if culturally appropriate
  2. Smile
  3. You should always be well presented
  4. Be patient and allow guests time to enter and sit down. This will make guests relaxed and they won’t feel they have to rush
  5. Offer to help with coats
  6. Be discreet and professional, and don’t get overexcited by a celebrity.  Treat them as you would any other guest
  7. If a guest offers you their hand to shake, you should always do so. If you’re wearing gloves you should remove it and then shake their hand.  As a general rule, never offer your hand first
  8. Pay attention.  If you see a guest needs additional help always offer to assist
  9. Let the service flow.  Make your greetings natural and respectful, and don’t force interactions
  10. Read non-verbal signals.  If a guest is angry, upset or nervous, try to ensure they are more relaxed by providing a professional service
  11. When guests leave, smile and thank them and help them with their coats and outerwear
  12. Offer to escort guests to their waiting vehicle if appropriate
  13. If there has been any problem, take a record of it and follow the establishment’s protocol

Understanding silver service etiquette is vital to getting this art form right. If you’d like to undertake silver service training or enrol on one of our future courses, why not drop us a line today?


  1. Natarajan says:

    Wonderful guide. Useful for many of the 5 star hotels F and B department, fine dining restaurants across the world and catering college students.

  2. Shueb saifi says:

    Thank you for the guide and help to gain knowledge for service types!

  3. Shawn luis says:

    Thank you for the basics of Silver Service Etiquette and guidelines

  4. Aleixo Pereira says:

    Thank you for giving helpful guidelines of Silver Service etiquette.

  5. David Kirby says:

    Hi, please could you explain this a little further as it does not seem to make sense to me:

    Plates are served and cleared from the left 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. In this case do not lean across the guest, and simply remove plates from the right side.

    If you are clearing from the left, why would a sherry glass on the right hand side effect you clearing?

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Hello David, thank you for your question. We’ve edited the article to help give more clarity – I hope this helps and let us know if you have any further questions! 🙂

  6. David Kirby says:

    Ah thank you Lucy, that makes more sense, greatly appreciated.
    Have a fantastic new year

  7. Grace says:

    Thanks a lot, I am impressed with your guides and at least I have got what I needed.

  8. Kalesh Yadav says:

    fantastic silver service

  9. linnet akoth says:


  10. mapenzi furaha says:

    very helpful. thanks.

  11. Max says:

    Excellent Summary by Polo & Tweed!

  12. Kevin lawrence says:

    I work in a luxury retirement complex where the young hospitality staff when serving breakfast lunch and evening meal are serving from the right and clearing from the left. Now I was silver serviced trained back in the early 80s and I keep advising them how to serve but for some reason they tell me different, has it changed since I did my training or are these young ones knowing something I don’t?

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Thank you very much for your comment. Food service should be from the left and cleared from the right. If there is a glass, someone leaning in for a conversation or a wall in the way, then plates can be served and cleared from the same side either right or left. The aim is to ensure that the person being served doesn’t feel enclosed or leant over. Beverages should be served from the right ideally. Silver service is about uniformity and giving your guest the best possible service, so making sure the whole staff are doing things the same even if not perfect will give the best possible impression. Every principal or family or restaurant may choose to adjust service if they have a preference, but this is the pure and correct form for silver service!

  13. Patricia says:

    how has silver service charged from the olden days to now

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Silver service in an art form, and the charm and practice of Silver Service has changed very little with time. It’s essence is the great service achieved and the guest experience. Modern establishments or homes may wish to vary it depending on personal taste, but the art form is traditional and typically the same from the very start of creation! I hope that helps 🙂

      • Elena says:

        Hi Lucy, can you share with me please some more complete articles or folders, documents you have about silver Service?
        Thank you very much!

        • mm LucyChallenger says:

          Hello Elena! Thank you for your interest in our Silver Service. I would recommend you browse our many articles on our advice hub on Silver Service – you can find them all here. Alternatively if you’d like to learn more, we would love to welcome you on one of our Silver Service training courses – either group, private or online! You are welcome to call us on +44(0) 203 858 0233 if you’d like to know more! Have a great day. Lucy

  14. Marge James says:

    Can beverages be silver served?

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Silver Service is a form of table service. The drinks served during service are considered beverage service. Beverage service does not change with the type of table service (Silver service, Russian service, French service, etc) only the number of courses and types of beverage being served.

  15. Ciprian says:

    Hello, I think you are amazing, but I do not think serving a plate with food on it from the left side is correct, only serving a guest with a platter for silver service should be from the left, am I wrong?

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      You are correct that a platter should be presented to the guests left for silver service. Traditionally a plate with food on it should be served from the left and cleared from the right. Silver service is about uniformity and giving your guest the best possible service. Every principal or family or restaurant may choose to adjust service if they have a preference, but this is the pure and correct form for silver service!

  16. Aireen Catibog says:

    Its really helped a lot👌

  17. Lady Butler says:

    Hi Lucy,
    Just found out about this lovely presented page.
    I am a Head Butler in a Palace and it is correct as you mention.
    Everything is about training staff.
    We are doing Silver Service all day and I’m just loving it.
    Must mention that there is a lot of silver service training world wide but not all of them are high level of command in service.
    Good luck all …

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Hi! So pleased you enjoyed our article, it sounds like you have an amazing job! If you ever need our assistance with training your staff, please don’t hesitate to get in touch. Lucy

  18. Jeremy Okwany says:

    Thanks for this helpful tips. silver service improve in our outlets after accessing this important information.

  19. Thomas bond says:

    What side do we pour the drinks it states that we take the glasses from the right side but doesn’t mention anything about pouring drinks into glasses?

    • mm LucyChallenger says:

      Glasses are placed on the right and so you should stand on the right of the guest to pour the drink. The main concept of Silver Service is to care for your guest you should never lean across a guest or make them feel closed in. 🙂

  20. jeri says:

    when using napkin rings, my manager instructed us to remove the ring for the guest? Is this correct? I feel it should be removed by the guest only and placed to the left. Of course no napkin rings informal dining. Thanks and HELP

    • Aafke Meelen says:

      Thank you for your question. Firstly we would agree that in formal dining they would not use napkin rings.
      Generally, high-end restaurants offer the service to lay the napkin on the lap. In private houses this is less so, however, this doesn’t mean you don’t if managers and principals request this, we learn to be adaptable and flexible where we work.

      The correct etiquette of the guest means that they lay the napkin on their lap immediately after being seated at the table, Therefore the laying of napkin for guests was never a question until more recent years. We hope this helps!

  21. Simon Rous says:

    Speaking as someone who has both served as a waiter (while an undergraduate) in prestigious establishments (Claridges, Gavroche etc) and also, decades later, hosted events at the same establishments as chairman of my Law firm, few things are more irritating than a waiter who is intrusive and wants to be part of the show, a particular failing in American establishments, even expensive ones. The best waiter is the one you hardly notice because he/she does the job so well. Sometimes the client may seek interaction with the waiter eg to diffuse an embarrassing moment among the guests. The advice above about not seeking interaction, but responding appropriately when initiated by the guest is good.

  22. Emily maritim says:

    When is silver service used in a restaurant? Its urgent kindly reply now

    • mm Gabriela Pacurar says:

      Hi Emily, thank you for your comment. Silver Service means serving the guests from a platter directly onto their plates, rather than the common practice of plating in the kitchen and serving the ready meal to the guests. Many high-end restaurants use silver service but it is uncommon to find silver service in a pub or an a la carte restaurant.

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