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 service style 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’re 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: Additional Rules and Guidelines
- 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.
- 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.
- Formal dinners may take between 4 and 5 hours, depending on the amount of courses served.
- 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.
- If service includes watery vegetables then the platter will have a napkin in the base to absorb the excess liquids.
- Sweet, chocolates or glaceed fruits can be presented in compotes and placed on the table as part of the decor. Occasionally if there are long lapses between courses guests can enjoy helping themselves.
- 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.
- 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.
- Crumbing the table 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.
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- Make eye contact if culturally appropriate
- Always be well presented
- Be patient and allow guests time to enter and sit down. Guests will be relaxed and won’t want to rush
- Offer to help with coats
- Be discreet and professional, and don’t get overexcited by a celebrity. Treat them as you would any other guest
- 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
- Pay attention. If you see a guest needs additional help always offer to assist
- Let the service flow. Make your greetings natural and respectful, and don’t force interactions
- Read non-verbal signals. If a guest is angry, upset or nervous, try to ensure they are more relaxed by providing a professional service
- When guests leave, smile and thank them and help them with their coats and outerwear
- Offer to escort guests to their waiting vehicle if appropriate
- If there has been any problem, take a record of it and follow the establishment’s protocol