Author Topic: When should server begin clearing off the table?  (Read 10249 times)

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baconsmom

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #60 on: January 24, 2014, 12:25:07 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.

I was going to comment on reviews! In the US, in mid-level, chain restaurants run by a corporate office (as opposed to a family-owned or franchise restaurant), servers are trained that it is proper to take a plate as soon as it's empty. Leave the plates too long, and no matter what the customer wanted, it will show up on your performance reviews as a detriment - because you're not doing your job the way corporate has said you should. Period.

I'm in the don't-like-dishes camp, but since I rarely go anywhere nice, and since I've done the job, I always stack empties at the edge of the table. It's an obvious signal to the server when she comes by, and it's a way to get the plates out of my way.
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Sneezy

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #61 on: January 24, 2014, 04:35:57 PM »
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.

So true. Often, the rules I had to follow as an employee contradicted good service since I was not allowed to deviate from these rules even if the customer requested it or common sense would dictate it. This led to silly reprimands for silly things, such as not offering dessert to a customer who ordered a blueberry waffle with extra whipped cream for dinner. Or the time I got written up for not trying to upsell someone who finished his order with, "And that will be all, go away until you bring me my food." Or not keeping someone's glass full when they flat out stated, "I don't want any refills."

SiotehCat

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #62 on: January 24, 2014, 05:24:41 PM »
I'm a very slow eater, so I'm always finished last. We prefer the sever to take dirty dishes away immediately.

I've also never had a server try to take my plate before I was done.

TootsNYC

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #63 on: January 24, 2014, 07:47:55 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.

I hate having dirty plates sitting in front of me but I do mind my manners. If I came to your house for dinner and was left sat there with a dirty plate for an hour you'd never know I was screaming on the inside. I do know how to behave, for the most part... ;-)

Goodness--it shouldn't be an hour!

Only until the last person eating has finished. If that person is taking too long, then everyone else needs to stop asking them questions, and let them eat!

And if you find that it happens to you a lot, maybe you could slow down a little.

In *most* situations, people ought to finish within, oh, 10 or 15 minutes of one another.

I think in a restaurant, you could set your plate off to the side, and a server might take that as a cue that you'd like to get rid of it.

Likewise at someone's home, you can push the plate to a slightly different position.

MommySloth

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #64 on: January 24, 2014, 11:39:47 PM »
I work in a restaurant where the atmosphere is half casual and half fast food, so there aren't "servers" per se. However, if I am in charge of the dining room and it is a really busy time, I am supposed to go around and "pre-bus" tables, which essentially means I go up to people who appear to be finished with their dishes. I always say "Can I get anything out of your way for you?" so that they are free to say no, or to keep anything they still want. The reason I'm supposed to do this is essentially to save some time by avoiding the guests having to clear the table themselves (which is what is expected during normal non-rush times), and so that the person doing the dishes can get through them more efficiently. I wouldn't take someone's dishes without asking first, but that's at least partly because they don't expect anyone to be coming around to do that.

Raintree

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #65 on: January 25, 2014, 12:44:45 AM »
I hate having dirty plates sitting in front of me but I do mind my manners. If I came to your house for dinner and was left sat there with a dirty plate for an hour you'd never know I was screaming on the inside. I do know how to behave, for the most part... ;-)

But if you went to someone's house for dinner with 5 other people, and three of you were finished, and the other three were still eating, surely you would expect to sit there with your plate until everyone was done and the host/ess got up to clear the plates and prepare for the next part of the meal. I'd wager most people would be pretty surprised if dessert was served to some of the guests while some were still eating the main course. (At a sit-down dinner, that is...not potluck, or a BBQ). And I'd think there'd be at least a few minutes to breathe after everyone had taken their last bite.

And if you were hosting, surely you wouldn't leap up and take away plates if a couple of your guests were still eating?

The taking away of plates signals to me, "This part of the meal is over" and if I'm not finished yet, that makes me feel rushed and I can't enjoy the rest.

KenveeB

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #66 on: January 25, 2014, 09:14:21 AM »
The angriest I have ever been at a restaurant was when I, a slow eater, had my fork half way up to my mouth.  The waitress said, "Are you done eating?" I set my fork down and said, in an icy voice, "I am now." If I had been in charge of the tip, there would not have been one! She was lucky that my DH was in charge or the tip. I did manage to get him to not leave his usual generous tip, but to leave a more moderate tip.

I get the annoyance, but why, oh why would you stop eating at a restaurant just because of a comment? I don't like to pull this out often, but the people at restaurants are "servers". Their job is to serve you. You get to decide what to eat and how to eat it.

I agree, that seems bizarre. It's not like the server was left thinking "oh no, she didn't finish because of me, my night is ruined!" She thought "okay", bussed your table, and did the rest of her job. I don't understand people trying to "punish" their servers by doing something that only hurts themselves. If you'd replied in the same tone "Of course not, I was in the middle of a bite," then you would've conveyed your message better and actually been able to finish your meal.

123sandy

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #67 on: January 25, 2014, 09:31:11 AM »
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.

I hate having dirty plates sitting in front of me but I do mind my manners. If I came to your house for dinner and was left sat there with a dirty plate for an hour you'd never know I was screaming on the inside. I do know how to behave, for the most part... ;-)

Goodness--it shouldn't be an hour!

Only until the last person eating has finished. If that person is taking too long, then everyone else needs to stop asking them questions, and let them eat!

And if you find that it happens to you a lot, maybe you could slow down a little.

In *most* situations, people ought to finish within, oh, 10 or 15 minutes of one another.

I think in a restaurant, you could set your plate off to the side, and a server might take that as a cue that you'd like to get rid of it.

Likewise at someone's home, you can push the plate to a slightly different position.

Seriously? I was being sarcastic about it being a hour...

123sandy

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #68 on: January 25, 2014, 09:33:16 AM »
I hate having dirty plates sitting in front of me but I do mind my manners. If I came to your house for dinner and was left sat there with a dirty plate for an hour you'd never know I was screaming on the inside. I do know how to behave, for the most part... ;-)

But if you went to someone's house for dinner with 5 other people, and three of you were finished, and the other three were still eating, surely you would expect to sit there with your plate until everyone was done and the host/ess got up to clear the plates and prepare for the next part of the meal. I'd wager most people would be pretty surprised if dessert was served to some of the guests while some were still eating the main course. (At a sit-down dinner, that is...not potluck, or a BBQ). And I'd think there'd be at least a few minutes to breathe after everyone had taken their last bite.

And if you were hosting, surely you wouldn't leap up and take away plates if a couple of your guests were still eating?

The taking away of plates signals to me, "This part of the meal is over" and if I'm not finished yet, that makes me feel rushed and I can't enjoy the rest.

I'm not sure what you're saying. I said I would sit with the plate in front of me and not say anything even though it really bothers me!

m2kbug

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #69 on: January 25, 2014, 10:06:13 AM »
For me in home settings, plates get cleared all at once.  Everyone typically finishes at about the same time, though some that finish first will have a plate in front of them for a short while.  I can't say I have ever seen a host clear a plate the second their guest is finished.  We have had some slow eaters that are left to finish eating while the table gets cleared,  leftovers put away, and get coffee and dessert ready.  They're usually done by the time dessert is ready.  How long do you wait for the exceptionally slow eater? 
« Last Edit: January 25, 2014, 10:48:22 AM by m2kbug »

Hmmmmm

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #70 on: January 25, 2014, 10:25:33 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.

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.

I was going to comment on reviews! In the US, in mid-level, chain restaurants run by a corporate office (as opposed to a family-owned or franchise restaurant), servers are trained that it is proper to take a plate as soon as it's empty. Leave the plates too long, and no matter what the customer wanted, it will show up on your performance reviews as a detriment - because you're not doing your job the way corporate has said you should. Period.

I'm in the don't-like-dishes camp, but since I rarely go anywhere nice, and since I've done the job, I always stack empties at the edge of the table. It's an obvious signal to the server when she comes by, and it's a way to get the plates out of my way.

But I think even in this guideline the assumption is that all diners at a table will be finished with each course in within a reasonable time frame. I doubt a server often finds one diner finishing their main course 15 min before the last one. So leaving all plates till all diners are done with that course unless asked to remove would still seem to be within the company guidelines.

I've eaten out an average of 2 times per week at full service restaurants my entire adult life. I have never had a plate taken before I was finished and only once did my wine glass get picked up before I was finished and once alerted the waiter brought me a fresh one.

Peregrine

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #71 on: January 25, 2014, 12:18:03 PM »
Apparently, I'm in the minority of Ehellions....I cannot stand lingering over dinner, I'm there to eat.  Bring me my food, my drink, let me eat it while it's hot, and I would generally prefer to have my check paid before I'm finished with dinner. 

My husband usually starts digging for his credit card when the server comes back to ask how our meal is and if we want anything else.  This is even more our tendency now that we have a young child.  We travel frequently as a family for work and need to eat out a lot, so often we are eating at common chain restaurants with a tired and cranky kid.  I don't want to be chasing down my server or waiting 20 minutes after the meal is over to get my check when my kiddo is antsy.  One of the biggest social challenges I have ever had is trying to eat with another family who had a younger kid and wanted to linger....A case of totally differing expectations.  My preference is to be in and out in under an hour, usually we are done in 45 minutes at most.

I am not going to punish a server for asking if they can take my plate if I seem to be done.  I am fully able to tell them that I'm still nibbling. 

Jones

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #72 on: January 25, 2014, 12:51:24 PM »
Apparently, I'm in the minority of Ehellions....I cannot stand lingering over dinner, I'm there to eat.  Bring me my food, my drink, let me eat it while it's hot, and I would generally prefer to have my check paid before I'm finished with dinner. 

My husband usually starts digging for his credit card when the server comes back to ask how our meal is and if we want anything else.  This is even more our tendency now that we have a young child.  We travel frequently as a family for work and need to eat out a lot, so often we are eating at common chain restaurants with a tired and cranky kid.  I don't want to be chasing down my server or waiting 20 minutes after the meal is over to get my check when my kiddo is antsy.  One of the biggest social challenges I have ever had is trying to eat with another family who had a younger kid and wanted to linger....A case of totally differing expectations.  My preference is to be in and out in under an hour, usually we are done in 45 minutes at most.

I am not going to punish a server for asking if they can take my plate if I seem to be done.  I am fully able to tell them that I'm still nibbling.

I'll eat out with you sometime, our styles match  ;D

I asked DH, who has worked kitchens of multiple varieties most of his adult life, and he agreed that the types of places where we usually eat (small town diners, family eateries, chain low-cost restaurants) it's expected to clear empty plates as they empty. However, he has also worked high class places twice, and woe betide any server or busser who took dishes before a course was completed by all.

Tabby Uprising

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #73 on: January 25, 2014, 01:02:30 PM »
Servers can do whatever they like with my plates so long as they don't take food away from me... or my wine!  Especially since I'm a "save the best for last" kind of eater.  I love tomatoes so if I'm eating a salad I'll leave them last.  If a server takes my plate away before I have finished then I'm not only missing out on the rest of my meal, but also probably my favorite part too.  I'm sure there's a metaphor in there somewhere....

It has happened a couple of times, but mostly I've always had the server either leave the plate or ask if I'm finished with it.  I never have an issue telling them I'm still working on something and I never hold it against them. 

Also, am I super weird for leaving my favorite bits for last?

rose red

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Re: When should server begin clearing off the table?
« Reply #74 on: January 25, 2014, 01:23:07 PM »
Also, am I super weird for leaving my favorite bits for last?

No.  I do the same ever since I was little.  The last thing eaten should be the favorite.  I think my sister is weird ;) because she eat her favorite first to make sure there's room to eat it all.  I can't understand why she would leave her taste buds lingering on her least favorite since that's eaten last.   

I also have a friend who save the best for last.  One time she left the best part of her meat on the side of her plate and her boyfriend (now husband) reached over and ate it without asking because he assumed she set it aside because she didn't like that part.  First and only time that happened >:D.
« Last Edit: January 25, 2014, 01:24:50 PM by rose red »