From customer service and waiters to place settings and posture, there are many rules that are expected when working in accordance with a formal dining environment. Though some of these etiquette practices may seem like common sense to some (such as being polite), others may be unfamiliar to new employees who aren’t used to working at formal restaurants or banquets. Whether you’re serving dinner at a fine dining restaurant, or an upscale event, these rules will help ensure you act professionally in any formal foodservice setting.


Depending on the event or meal being served, the category of table service will differ. Normal dining at restaurants will not be the same as a buffet or catered wedding reception, but all service types aim to serve patrons quickly, efficiently, and with great care.

The American Style

The most common manner of restaurant service; customers first select their orders from a list, then the meal is cooked and plated in the kitchen before it is served. Servers should use descriptive words when explaining items to patrons. Servers know when to bring items to the table before they are told to do so. When paying for a meal, guests are let the server know what they ate, and can pay for their portion of the meal only. This works best, especially in situations where there may be money restrictions.

Family Style

Diners serve themselves from a large container presented at the center of the dinner table. Dishes are then passed around the table for everyone to help themselves. Waiters will be around for the start and the finish of the meal, to arrange and then clean up the table.

Russian Style

The food is carved or garnished on a cart beside a guest. All meals are prepared but may not be taken to the dining room on attractive platters until the guest requests it. Warn guests of hot plates or beverages.

British Style

British style may not necessarily involve a waiter or waitress personally serving each guest from a platter, starting with the host. Instead it will most likely be placed at a point where guests can serve themselves. This style stems from British houses where the head of the house does the cutting, and the servants pass out the portions.

Table Etiquette

Fine dining restaurants need more attention than just receiving an order and serving the food. Work procedures will often include arranging table settings for suitable designs. Good event settings can include up to 18 pieces of silverware for just one guest. Formally, silverware is set from one point to the other, since this follows the course of an evening’s meal.

Table settings are arranged for right-handed people. Do not be afraid to see three beverage glasses for one person’s place setting. Glassware should be placed in a nice pattern to the right of the dinner plate.

It is necessary to create a pleasing decor for guests to enjoy their dining experience. Therefore when serving, follow these general rules:

  • Rule 1: Ensure there is a good napkin on the table for the guest
  • Rule 2: Serve the guest properly and in a polite manner especially when handling glassware

When Serving

Most dinners will include up to four courses depending on the guest’s choice. Many servers do cross hands when serving; this is common in fine dining . A good server ought to maintain good posture and serve the guest as politely as possible, not minding the pressure around the restaurant.

BONUS: When serving wine, make sure to always handle it mindfully. Do not cover the whole glass with your hand in order to retain the coolness, instead delicately hold the stem.

How to Clear the Guest Table

There are a lot of ways of knowing when to proceed with clearing the table in a nice restaurant. One way is that the guest will place the napkin by his or her table and also turn down his or her glassware. If a guest places the napkin on the chair this means he or she is not yet through with the meal. Always ensure to clear the table from the right hand side.

When Serving, Always Remember:

  • Dp not chew gum
  • Do not fold or cross your arms when serving
  • In any situation, always serve the ladies first
Written by Jennifer

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