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Tips for How to Hold Multiple Plates as a Waiter

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Waiters who master the skill of carrying multiple plates to and from tables can serve more customers during a work shift, which increases efficiency and tips. Carrying multiple plates can be challenging, but enterprising restaurant waiters can learn the skill.

Plate Position

The edges of the plates you carry should be clean to avoid slippage. Usually, it's the chef's responsibility to clean the plate edges, but it doesn't hurt to check. Position the plates in your arm in the order you will serve the diners to minimize movement around the table. If you're right-handed, place the heaviest plate in your left hand with your thumb on the outside edge of the plate and your index finger on the bottom rim of the plate. Your remaining three fingers should be free and exposed. Position the second plate on your exposed fingers so its edge is pressing against the bottom rim of the first plate. Hold the second plate securely with your middle, ring and pinky fingers. Position the third plate on your lower arm so it balances against your wrist and the edge of the second plate. You can carry a fourth plate with your other hand.


Carry heavy loads at waist height where you have the most power and control. Maintain a straight back and keep your arm straight so the plates won't tilt, disturbing the food presentation. Don't carry the plates too high or else the plates will touch food. If you find the plates touching food, it's best to carry fewer plates.

Plate Load

Avoid carrying too much weight or stacking the plates too high. The more weight you add, the harder it is to maintain control of the plate load. Use extra caution when carrying small plates on your forearm. Without good balance and control, you won't be able to lock small plates between the plates in your hand and forearm. Place a towel over your arm if the plates are hot.


Don't hurry in a busy, crowded restaurant. Hurrying could result in a collision with a customer or fellow waiter or you could trip and spill the plates. Use extra caution when entering swinging doors and moving around blind corners while holding multiple plates. You won't be able to shield yourself from the door or individual if you're carrying multiple plates using both arms.


Practice carrying multiple plates so you are confident of your abilities as a waiter. Prepare yourself for worst-case scenarios such as dropped plates or food spillage. That way, you know how to react if you ever find yourself in this uncomfortable situation.


Aubrey Warshaw has experience working in federal, state and local levels of government. He has a Master of Public Policy and a Bachelor of Arts in political science. Warshaw's written work includes policy briefs for a 9-12 institution, letters to constituents and various reports involving policy issues such as education and poverty.

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