Tuesday, June 28, 2011
to clear or not to clear
An interesting dilemma brought up by another of my lovely readers!
Now, in the ideal situation, the proper etiquette is for the server to wait until everyone at the table finishes eating before clearing plates; therefore not rushing the last person through their last few bites.
However, there can be a number of problems when it comes to this etiquette point: 1. a lot of guests are boorish and don't understand this concept therefore they shove their plates off to the side of the table or throw their cloth napkins on top of the plate (another topic for another day!) and 2. the majority of service staff in our fair city lack any formal service training and are set free to run willy-nilly with little or no direction from management/owners.
Even as a server of some formidable talent (pardon the ego) I sometimes struggle with the question of whether to clear or not. In the appropriate setting (finer dining) I always impose this etiquette on tables who don't understand, but you can face wrath from people who want "this dirty plate out of my sight!". In more casual restaurants eg. diners and pubs as a guest you must realize that it is more common to have the plates cleared as they are finished and this is acceptable at this level of dining.
Servers who lack training/direction seem to automatically lean toward appeasing the snarly guests (who are often the ones who don't understand the proper etiquette) rather than the polite ones (who would prefer to wait for the other guests before having their plates cleared). This becomes a cyclical problem as these servers become floor managers and teach those new servers the same bad habits they have come to know as the right way to do things.
So I guess the answer is both:
- to the guest: please stop stacking your plates off to the side while your friends are still eating, but don't get upset when your chicken wing plate is cleared ahead of the others
- to the server: please learn the appropriate style for the appropriate venue (read your tables, this is what makes you good at your job)
As in all things, balance is key!