What is Silver Service? A Brief Guide To Silver Service

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Published on January 15, 2018

Silver Service is an expression known to many – but do you actually know what it really means, and what it all entails? We often get asked, “what is silver service?” so clearly, the answer is not as obvious as we thought. 

There are many different facets to Silver Service that can be discussed elaborately, or taught in training, however, with the below we hope to give you a brief overview of the art that is Silver Service!

What is Silver Service?

Silver Service is the all-encompassing word for all types of (mostly) food and beverage service, being it formal or informal. From pouring a cup of tea to synchronised service on a yacht through to cutting a cigar, is one that requires education in the fundamental theory supported by hands-on practice.

You can find Silver Service practised by staff in private homes, hotels, restaurants, chalets and yachts.

Silver service has been around for hundreds of years, starting with the origin of silver cutlery and tableware, but unless you’ve eaten at high-end restaurants/hotels or worked in wealthy homes, you may not have experienced silver service dining.  

Historically upper-class British people have admired and respected the service referred to as Silver Service and this has become the ‘bar’ set for dining across the globe. It 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 (head of the house and staff) 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. 

How To? A Brief Overview Of Silver Service

Typically, Silver Service is performed from the left side. In France, this service is known as service à l’anglaise (“English service”).  

  • Food is always served from the left, drinks and plated meals from the left.  
  • The guest to the host/principals right is served first (this is typically the most prominent guest of the principal).
  • Service continues clockwise so you don’t bump into other servers.  
  • Plates and glasses are cleared from the right, again starting with the guest to the host’s right.
  • Glasses are stacked in a diagonal to the right (by course) starting with wine and then lastly water glasses in front.
  • You stand behind the guest, to the guests left side (as a general rule), holding and supporting the silverware with food on it with your left hand and then serve the food with your right hand. Using your right hand you use the pincers (normally serving fork/spoon) to serve the food.  

Some Ground Rules Of Silver Service

The complete rulebook of “What is Silver Service” is rather large, but the below gives you an initial idea of some of the ground rules to adhere to.

  1. Never leave an empty space before a guest.  
  2. Blend into the background. Excellent service is quiet, effortless and unobtrusive.  
  3. Ratio of servers to guests depends on a) number of courses b) special prep required.
  4. Do not touch the plates!
  5. Single direction service.
  6. Atmosphere is important.
  7. Temperature of the plates are either cooled or heated due the type of food being served and in guidelines with the Chef’s requirements.  
  8. Plates are served and cleared from the left side.
  9. Water and wine glasses remain on the table throughout the entire meal, as guests will have their own preferences on wines/beverages drunk. Only the sherry glass is removed.  

Different Types Of Silver Service

There are many different types of Silver Service, and if you are in the hospitality industry it is vital to not only know the difference, but to be able to provide them flawlessly.

  • Russian Service: Service à la russe (French, “service in the Russian style”) is a manner of dining that involves courses being brought to the table sequentially. 
  • Butler Service: A modification of silver service. In Butler service the guest helps themselves from a serving plate held by the waiter or Butler
  • Buffet Service: Guests help themselves to food.
  • Tray Service: Tray service can be breakfast, lunch or supper.
  • English Service: The food is plated and brought to the host who then passes it along the table to the guests.
  • French Service: Food is brought out at once in an impressive display
  • American Service: Portions of food are plated in the kitchen. Bread, butter and salads are served on the table.

Who Could And Should Practice Silver Service

Yacht Crew
Whilst working onboard yachts, you will be expected to know all forms of service. Each service will be called upon depending on the nature of the yacht, the guests and host taste and if the setting is informal or formal.

Butlers
As a butler, it is vital to have knowledge of, and experience in Silver Service to the highest standard. If your knowledge of the subject is slightly rusty, we highly recommend enrolling in a Silver Service course. It is vital to stay up to date with your qualifications and practice, and joining a Silver Service course will do just that.

Personal Chefs
Whereas some households would prefer the Chef to very much stay in the background and not be actively part of the family life, other households have a more interactive setup. It’s mostly in these situations that knowledge of silver service will be highly appreciated and will really make you shine in front of the principals.

Nanny
As a nanny, you might have never thought of the option, or relevance of doing a Silver Service qualification. And although your main focus and priority will always be on the children, it comes back to these new multi-tasked roles that have become increasingly popular.

Many households nowadays would much rather invest (more) money in a member of staff that can be serving multiple roles, so there is one trusted person in the house taking care of several different things. If you, as their trusted childcare provider, would also be able to prepare their dinner parties, set the table and be there to serve the food and drink in an outstandingly professional manner, you will have a unique set of skills that will make you stand out, and highly valued. Don’t be a nanny who asks the question “what is silver service”. 

How To Become Qualified In Silver Service

Silver Service is a complex and varied matter and to gain a full understanding of all its different facets, undertaking a training or qualification is vital. At Polo & Tweed we are proud to offer Silver Service courses of the highest standard, either on a one-to-one, tailor-made basis or in small groups.  

If you’d like to know more about our open courses or our private courses, then please do have a look here, or drop us a line,  tell us what your needs are and we will be delighted to advise you onto your steps to becoming an advanced practitioner of Silver Service!