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Waiter Etiquette for Fine Dining

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When it comes to measuring your experience at a fine dining establishment, the courteousness and integrity of the wait staff can make all the difference. In order to satisfy the food and drink needs of the customer, including information about the wine list and food menu, and make guests feel pampered, waiters should follow certain etiquette guides to ensure that guests enjoy their time.

Greeting the Guests

Waiters should approach the table and introduce themselves to the guests, letting them know that they will be taken care of for the meal. If menus are not already on the tables or presented by the host or hostess, it is up to the waiter to present menus. It is then customary for the waiter to present the specials to the patrons. This often includes presenting the wine list and offering suggestions to the guests.

Serving the Food

In a restaurant, service starts at the right and moves in this direction around the table. The exception to this rule is if the food is being served on a large platter and being served individually at the table, in which case service goes to the left. If the serving is being done at a special event, such as a wedding or banquet honoring a particular person, some changes to the serving regimen apply. For example, the guest of honor should be served first. Serving then moves to other tables, starting with the female guests and moving to the male guests. The host or hostess of the event should be served last.

Clearing the Table

As with serving the courses, the plates should be cleared all at once, not in bits and pieces as guests finish their course. Once each course is cleared, the waiter should give the guests time to digest and cleanse the palate so they do not feel rushed through the meal.

Presenting the Check

It is customary for the host of the dinner to let the head waiter at the restaurant know this to avoid any awkwardness of presenting the check after the meal is complete. The check should never be left if patrons are still eating or enjoying cocktails. The presentation of the check should be discrete and subtle, never the result of hand gestures from afar.

Carrying the Conversation

Overall, the waiter in a fine dining establishment should be knowledgeable about the menu, chef and history of the restaurant. The server should be respectful and kind, without being too involved in the dinner conversation unless otherwise invited in by the guests. Servers should always be attentive and helpful, with the interest in mind of best meeting the needs of the diners. Traditionally, waiters may be seen as stuffy or cold, but this does not need to be the case. Waiters should always be welcoming and accommodating.


Liza Hollis has been writing for print and online publications since 2003. Her work has appeared on various digital properties, including Hollis earned a degree in English Literature from the University of Florida.

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