What is Silver Service? A Brief Guide To Silver Service

Silver Service

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. It is a skill 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. This has become the ‘bar’ set for dining across the globe. It originates from the 17th and 18th century. On Sundays 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. However 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. The ratio of servers to guests depends on a) the number of courses and 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 whether the setting is informal or formal.

As a butler, it is vital to have knowledge of, and experience in Silver Service to the highest standard. Because 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 it will really make you shine in front of the principals.

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 does come 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. Just 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. Then 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 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!


  1. Somenath Jana says:

    Thank you!

  2. Wandirad says:

    Thank you! It looks amazing!

  3. Jeremiah says:

    Hello, This is absolutely insightful… thanks!

  4. Deng says:

    Very helpful introduction! Just one point here:
    – Plates and glasses are cleared from the right, again starting with the guest to the host’s right.
    – Plates are served and cleared from the left side.
    Would be great if can illustrate a bit more. I understand food/plate are served from the right but how should be cleared, from the right or left?

  5. Sandra Jelavic says:

    Good Morning,
    I was wondering can you train in silver service without having been a waitress?
    Thank you,

    • Aafke Meelen says:

      Hi Sandra, you absolutely can! You do not have to have any specific previous experience to enrol in our Silver Service training courses – you will learn everything you need to know! We have people from all different types of backgrounds successfully completing our silver service training courses, whatever previous experience they had! You can find out all about our silver service training (as well as our online options) on our website here.

      • Sandra Jelavic says:

        Hi Aafke, that is most interesting. I have actually only seen your response today
        6 October 2023. Thank you very much for responding.
        Best Wishes,

  6. Pierce Jeans says:

    So if you are a left handed person, does this mean you cannot do silver service? Since the natural move is to hold with the right arm and hand and serve using your left hand, the hand you are most coordinated with?

    • Aafke Meelen says:

      Great question, Pierce! Always try service with the less dominant hand due to the correct body language, but if you can’t then you should use your left hand. However, one should be aware that it’s not ideal, and focus on where your body is going, taking into account the guests to the left and right. Hope that helps!

  7. ainsley foster says:

    Can you please send me the silver service training manual?

    • mm Alexandra Parker Larkin says:

      Hi Ainsley, thank you for your message. One of our consultants will be in touch via email

    • mm Alexandra Parker Larkin says:

      If you would like more information on our training courses then please click here. When you purchase our E-online Training you will also have the option to purchase our digital handbooks with the course.

  8. Caroline says:

    The biggest mystery…

    What side is the food served from?

    So many articles, so many opinions.

    In your opinion is served from the left and the plates cleared from the left too (8.), while in your course I’ve been told :
    serve from the left, clear from the right.

    Regrettably, I never got the right answer to so simple question

    • mm Alexandra Parker Larkin says:

      Hi Caroline,
      It is indeed a much-asked question. Different types of service follow a different set of rules. However many people and establishments take a more international approach and suggest serving from the left and clear from the right. The key point to remember is to always check with the team that you are working with. This ensures consistency whilst serving.

  9. Caroline says:

    Thank you for the answer Alexandra !

    Could you please kindly share examples of service when the food is served from the right?
    Recently I had the job interview (tasks to do) for a Butler position and the recruiter was very surprised that I did served from the left side. I was sure of what I was doing but he was the one who placed minus next to the task I completed.
    Thank you in advance.

    • mm Alexandra Parker Larkin says:

      Hi Caroline,
      When we serve food we tend to use the same hand holding the plate as the side we are serving from. For example, the left hand holding a plate, then we place plate down from the left-hand side in front of the guest. In the Middle East, the left hand is considered the ‘dirty’ hand and therefore sometimes servers opt for serving and clearing from the right-hand side so as not to offend. Many private establishments of course have their own set of rules that have been that way for many years, perhaps this is the case with the interview you recently had.

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