Author Topic: When should server begin clearing off the table?  (Read 10114 times)

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MrsJWine

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #15 on: January 23, 2014, 11:21:42 AM »
This is one of those things where servers can't win. If you wait for the signal (which most people don't know), you're going to have irate customers wondering why you're not taking their dirty plates. If you always ask, some people will be mad for how intrusive you are. If you take them without asking, some people will be mad that you took them too soon, or didn't wait for the signal. The only mostly-sure way to know if people want their plates taken is to look for the ones put on the end of the table. Usually that means you're supposed to take them. Usually. I did that once (there was a lettuce leaf pushed of to the side, but it was otherwise empty), and the lady slapped my hand and said, "No, no, no, no. NOT DONE." Seriously. It was so mean that it was hilarious.

I think the only time you can really expect servers to go by the silverware signal is if you're at a pretty nice restaurant. Otherwise, just tell them politely not to take plates until you're both done.


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Harriet Jones

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #16 on: January 23, 2014, 11:26:49 AM »
The only time I've minded when a server tried to take my plate was when it was still at least half-full *and* my fork was in motion towards my mouth. 

MrTango

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #17 on: January 23, 2014, 11:28:19 AM »
This is one of those things where servers can't win. If you wait for the signal (which most people don't know), you're going to have irate customers wondering why you're not taking their dirty plates. If you always ask, some people will be mad for how intrusive you are. If you take them without asking, some people will be mad that you took them too soon, or didn't wait for the signal. The only mostly-sure way to know if people want their plates taken is to look for the ones put on the end of the table. Usually that means you're supposed to take them. Usually. I did that once (there was a lettuce leaf pushed of to the side, but it was otherwise empty), and the lady slapped my hand and said, "No, no, no, no. NOT DONE." Seriously. It was so mean that it was hilarious.

I think the only time you can really expect servers to go by the silverware signal is if you're at a pretty nice restaurant. Otherwise, just tell them politely not to take plates until you're both done.

Agreed.  My personal preference is for the server to ask before removing anything from the table, and if they do try to take something that I'm not done with, I'll ask them to leave it (assuming I don't have a mouth full of food at that moment).

Teenyweeny

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #18 on: January 23, 2014, 11:34:27 AM »
I'd find that terribly rude of them.

But I've only heard of it happening in the USA.

In the UK, they'll wait till everyone is finished and then ask if they can clear the table. Also they don't bring the bill until you ask for it.

Yup, it's considered rude to take away dishes until everybody is finished. The idea being, I imagine, that you don't want the slower eaters feeling like they need to rush, and you don't want the whole party to have the feeling of being 'hovered over' the entire time.

I also hated it in the US when they would bring the bill unprompted. Stop trying to hustle us out of the door! I understand if there's a queue for tables, but even then, in the UK you'd have to have sat there for a good 10-15 minutes after everybody is done before a waiter might casually ask if they can bring you the bill.

I think it's a difference in the idea of what constitutes good service. I was always told "nobody notices good waiters", whereas I always feel that US waiters try to make a distinct impression. I understand that it's because they are so much more dependent on tips, which I suppose accounts for it.



Jones

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #19 on: January 23, 2014, 11:57:28 AM »
What happens with multiple course meals, if dishes aren't taken until everyone is done? Do they just keep stacking until the meal is over?

Also I stated I prefer them to drop off the check. I then know that I can pay at any time, now or in a half hour, but either way I get to say the meal is done, rather than waiting at the end of a meal until I can flag someone down to bring me a bill. One memorable meal we asked 3 different people, including our server, and waited 45 minutes after eating before we could get our bill, pay, and leave! I definitely would prefer a bill to be left at the table early on, to be paid whenever, or added to (we've done that as well, once when we suddenly decided we wanted dessert after all).

Teenyweeny

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #20 on: January 23, 2014, 12:02:10 PM »
What happens with multiple course meals, if dishes aren't taken until everyone is done? Do they just keep stacking until the meal is over?

Also I stated I prefer them to drop off the check. I then know that I can pay at any time, now or in a half hour, but either way I get to say the meal is done, rather than waiting at the end of a meal until I can flag someone down to bring me a bill. One memorable meal we asked 3 different people, including our server, and waited 45 minutes after eating before we could get our bill, pay, and leave! I definitely would prefer a bill to be left at the table early on, to be paid whenever, or added to (we've done that as well, once when we suddenly decided we wanted dessert after all).

Sorry, I should have said, the dishes are removed when everybody has finished each course. So the waiters bring the starters (and these should arrive as close together as humanly possible), and when the last person is finished theirs, the plates are cleared. Then everybody moves on to the main course, after a decent pause.



m2kbug

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #21 on: January 23, 2014, 12:27:37 PM »
What happens with multiple course meals, if dishes aren't taken until everyone is done? Do they just keep stacking until the meal is over?

Also I stated I prefer them to drop off the check. I then know that I can pay at any time, now or in a half hour, but either way I get to say the meal is done, rather than waiting at the end of a meal until I can flag someone down to bring me a bill. One memorable meal we asked 3 different people, including our server, and waited 45 minutes after eating before we could get our bill, pay, and leave! I definitely would prefer a bill to be left at the table early on, to be paid whenever, or added to (we've done that as well, once when we suddenly decided we wanted dessert after all).

Sorry, I should have said, the dishes are removed when everybody has finished each course. So the waiters bring the starters (and these should arrive as close together as humanly possible), and when the last person is finished theirs, the plates are cleared. Then everybody moves on to the main course, after a decent pause.

This is what I would expect and what typically happens.  Even if some people are still working on their meal, the server usually asks if they can clear up any plates, instead of just grabbing.  Often times, we'll put the used plates off to the edge of the table, just for some ease for the server, rather than them having to reach over the table to collect the dirties or squish around chairs and people.  It's also a pretty clear indication we're done, please take them. 

I don't mind the bill being dropped off right away and prefer it.  The worst situation is when the server drops off the check, meaning they're done with you at this point.  You have to flag someone down to get a cup of coffee or some creamers because your server is finished with you...you need to leave now, no more service for you.  Usually they make sure everyone is finished, coffee, dessert and leave the check, which doesn't mean you need to be rushed, it's just a convenience. 

Mrs. Tilney

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #22 on: January 23, 2014, 12:34:41 PM »
I'd find that terribly rude of them.

But I've only heard of it happening in the USA.

In the UK, they'll wait till everyone is finished and then ask if they can clear the table. Also they don't bring the bill until you ask for it.

Yup, it's considered rude to take away dishes until everybody is finished. The idea being, I imagine, that you don't want the slower eaters feeling like they need to rush, and you don't want the whole party to have the feeling of being 'hovered over' the entire time.

I also hated it in the US when they would bring the bill unprompted. Stop trying to hustle us out of the door! I understand if there's a queue for tables, but even then, in the UK you'd have to have sat there for a good 10-15 minutes after everybody is done before a waiter might casually ask if they can bring you the bill.

I think it's a difference in the idea of what constitutes good service. I was always told "nobody notices good waiters", whereas I always feel that US waiters try to make a distinct impression. I understand that it's because they are so much more dependent on tips, which I suppose accounts for it.

I was out to dinner with some friends in the UK one night and we needed to leave to make it to a concert. We could not find the waiter to get our bill. It got to the point that it seemed like they were actively avoiding us. It was incredibly frustrating. At lunch at another UK restaurant, we were on a tight schedule, and again couldn't find a waiter to provide us with a check. We knew how much the meals were, so we wound up simply putting down the correct amount of money and leaving without ever getting a bill.

Teenyweeny

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #23 on: January 23, 2014, 12:36:54 PM »
I'd find that terribly rude of them.

But I've only heard of it happening in the USA.

In the UK, they'll wait till everyone is finished and then ask if they can clear the table. Also they don't bring the bill until you ask for it.

Yup, it's considered rude to take away dishes until everybody is finished. The idea being, I imagine, that you don't want the slower eaters feeling like they need to rush, and you don't want the whole party to have the feeling of being 'hovered over' the entire time.

I also hated it in the US when they would bring the bill unprompted. Stop trying to hustle us out of the door! I understand if there's a queue for tables, but even then, in the UK you'd have to have sat there for a good 10-15 minutes after everybody is done before a waiter might casually ask if they can bring you the bill.

I think it's a difference in the idea of what constitutes good service. I was always told "nobody notices good waiters", whereas I always feel that US waiters try to make a distinct impression. I understand that it's because they are so much more dependent on tips, which I suppose accounts for it.

I was out to dinner with some friends in the UK one night and we needed to leave to make it to a concert. We could not find the waiter to get our bill. It got to the point that it seemed like they were actively avoiding us. It was incredibly frustrating. At lunch at another UK restaurant, we were on a tight schedule, and again couldn't find a waiter to provide us with a check. We knew how much the meals were, so we wound up simply putting down the correct amount of money and leaving without ever getting a bill.

That's just bad service. With good service, the point is for the staff to go virtually unnoticed.



lowspark

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #24 on: January 23, 2014, 12:53:27 PM »
I'm one who prefers all dishes to be cleared at the same time, after everyone has finished eating. However, I realize most people do not feel that way and I've stopped worrying about it. As long as they ask before clearing my plate, I'm ok with it. If they start to clear without asking, and it does happen, then that is reflected in their tip. It's plain rude. I've actually had to say, "I'm not done yet" before.

I've also stopped servers from clearing things like bread & chips/salsa when I'm still eating. It's one thing to clear others' plates away, but the communal food shouldn't be cleared till everyone is done. Now, this doesn't happen all that often but I think it's more common with inexperienced servers.

I want my plate gone as son as I lay my cutlery down on it. I hate being left with dirty plates in front of me.

Just curious about people who prefer to have their plates cleared as soon as they're done, even though others are still eating. How does that work at home? At a dinner party, for example, as hostess, I'm not going to clear plates until everyone's done. Especially if I'm still eating.


misha412

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #25 on: January 23, 2014, 01:46:43 PM »
I don't like a table full of empties and I don't like servers who swoop in and grab plates without asking. So, I guess that puts me in the middle.

Casual dining in the U.S. can mean chips or bread at the beginning. Everyone has a drink (maybe two if they have a glass of water too). Maybe one or two have a salad before the main meal. Then the entrees coming out. Some may be on multiple plates. I don't like to have to move empty plates around just to have my entree in front of me. I also don't like an overcrowded table or a pile of dirty dishes on it.

On the other end of the spectrum, I have thought about putting a fork into a server hand for swooping in to take plates without asking. (Evil Misha appears at bad times.) I am sitting there eating, maybe conversing a bit. This hand appears in front of my face as the server reaches over to grab a dirty dish on the other side. Do it once, it is irritating. Do it twice, it is aggravating. Do it a third time and you have an angry red head on your hands.

My happy medium - The server waits until the end of a course and asks if we want the plates removed. Yes, please remove the salad plates before the entrees arrive. Take the empty bread basket away please. That empty drink glass, yes please take it. It gets the plates off but I am not watching my plate being lifted away as I am lifting a fork full of food off of it.

As to the check issue, I actually like the check at the table before we end the last course. That way, I am not hunting down a server because I am in a hurry to get to a show and the server took a powder.

MrsJWine

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #26 on: January 23, 2014, 01:51:20 PM »
Different countries do things differently. I really don't think that "I'm not used to this" means, "This is a terrible system." They're just different. In the US, unless you're in a nice restaurant (where there's a reasonable chance that both the patrons and the servers will know and use the formal signals and etiquette), it's really best to just communicate with your server what you want. No need to become enraged if they do things differently than you like. It's possible that the table before you just reamed them out for not doing exactly what you are getting angry at them for.


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jaxsue

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #27 on: January 23, 2014, 01:58:12 PM »
:-[
What you describe is pretty much what I want my server to do when I eat out. Please don't let the tabletop be cluttered with empties... And don't make me ask for my check. A little weird to take a plate whole you 're still eating but if there are a lot of dishes on the table I can see it. I also thought bread left when apps come out. I've never done the pointing silverware thing.

You can put your hand palm down between the server and your dish (table?) and, with a smile, say you'd rather they come back in a bit, I suppose. That's what we do when a server wants to refill a drink but we don't want to fill up on soda.


This is how I feel when I dine out too.   I prefer the empty dishes to be cleared rather quickly, and if the check comes quickly too, that's even better.  I hate having to sit there and wait and wait for the check.

ITA. I hate it when the waitstaff doesn't take the empty, dirty dishes. Ditto with the check. I don't want to have to chase down my waiter to get it.

jaxsue

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #28 on: January 23, 2014, 02:02:33 PM »
This is one of those things where servers can't win. If you wait for the signal (which most people don't know), you're going to have irate customers wondering why you're not taking their dirty plates. If you always ask, some people will be mad for how intrusive you are. If you take them without asking, some people will be mad that you took them too soon, or didn't wait for the signal. The only mostly-sure way to know if people want their plates taken is to look for the ones put on the end of the table. Usually that means you're supposed to take them. Usually. I did that once (there was a lettuce leaf pushed of to the side, but it was otherwise empty), and the lady slapped my hand and said, "No, no, no, no. NOT DONE." Seriously. It was so mean that it was hilarious.

I think the only time you can really expect servers to go by the silverware signal is if you're at a pretty nice restaurant. Otherwise, just tell them politely not to take plates until you're both done.

I couldn't agree more! Having waited tables back in high school and college, I can speak from experience as both a diner and a restaurant employee. There are so many opinions out there, and if you, as a waiter, don't do what they think you should, there goes a certain % of your tip. And if you don't do what your boss thinks you should, there goes a good employee review.

menley

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #29 on: January 23, 2014, 02:04:06 PM »
Different countries do things differently. I really don't think that "I'm not used to this" means, "This is a terrible system." They're just different. In the US, unless you're in a nice restaurant (where there's a reasonable chance that both the patrons and the servers will know and use the formal signals and etiquette), it's really best to just communicate with your server what you want. No need to become enraged if they do things differently than you like. It's possible that the table before you just reamed them out for not doing exactly what you are getting angry at them for.

I agree with this. We now live in central Europe (having grown up in USA) and where we live now, you basically have to catch a waiter's eye and ask the waitstaff for everything. It really frustrated me when we first moved here because I wasn't used to it at all, and now I'm more accustomed to the leisurely pace and it doesn't bother me.