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What is the Serving Etiquette

Priyanka Kosta Sonkushre Nov 23, 2018
Following proper etiquette while serving helps in creating an impression on guests and makes them feel comfortable at the dining table.
Serving etiquette is a set of rules that must be followed while serving food at a formal or informal setting. Serving food at parties and restaurants have a different set of rules than serving food at home.
Proper serving etiquette vary with cultural differences, for example, it is a wrong etiquette to serve food with the left hand in the Middle East. Observing the right etiquette becomes necessary so as provide a comfortable atmosphere to the guests and make them feel welcomed.
A formal dinner service is quite different from an informal one. There are different sets of etiquette to be observed in each type of setting. Take a look at the rules to be followed while serving food to guests.

The Serving Order

Serving order is one of the aspects of serving. In general, the order followed is:
● The guest of honor
● Female guests
● Male guests
● Hostess
● Host

Formal Dinner Serving Etiquette

In formal settings, the meal served is minimum 4-course which can be increased to 5, 6 or 7-course. It's usually on time with cocktails served around 8-8:30 PM, after which the dinner takes place after 30-45 mins.
This gives enough time to the guests to sip-in their cocktails and enjoy brief discussions. Etiquette to be followed for a formal setting includes the following:
● Food must be served in fine porcelain dishes and drinks in crystal glasses.
● Dishes must be laid before the guests arrive at the dining table. In no case, the space before a guest at the table should remain empty.
● Placing and clearing tables should not cause noise as it can become a hindrance to an ongoing conversation.
● A server should make sure not to touch food in the plate. This can be ensured by holding the plate on the palm while serving.
● Food is served counterclockwise and beverages served clockwise, starting from the guest of honor. In case, there is no clear division regarding the guest of honor, food and drinks are served to the oldest person among the guests.
● Food items that need to be served as portions are individually portioned prior to placing them on the platter. This is to facilitate easy serving of food.
● Risk of spilling can be avoided by carefully lifting the platter over the guest's shoulder rather than lifting it over the head.
● Formal dinners do not serve second helpings. Once the serving dish is taken away, it is not brought back again. This is because such dinners are several course meals and the guests are expected to enjoy every delicacy.
● Plates are served and cleared from the left side and at one go. Similarly, drinks are served from right side only.
● Wine glasses accompany the guest during the entire course of meal and wine is served in the same glass whenever it is offered.
● Food items which tend to release fluids on the plate are served on folded napkins.
● Chocolates and fruits, served as sweet offerings at the end of the meal are presented in compotes, which are placed on the table, right at the beginning of the meal.

Informal Dinner Serving Etiquette

Informal dinners are not served at a fixed time. It's on the host to decide at what time to serve. Some keep a brief period for cocktails to serve dinner early, while some prefer long cocktail sessions with late dinner.
Usually, the host informs the guests around fifteen minutes before serving the food so that, they can finish their cocktails and get ready for dinner. Etiquette to be followed for an informal setting includes the following:
● An informal meal is generally 2-course or 4-course.
● Meal can be served at the dining table or in the living room.
● Salad is served as the first course. To reduce work, salad can be incorporated as a side dish along with the main course.
● Food is served at the table by the hostess. To avoid cluttering on the table, food is served by the hostess through a buffet arrangement made on the table.
● Wine is served by the host by walking around the table to fill every guest's glass.
● Water is not served except for people who do not drink wine.
● Second helpings are offered to guests in an informal setting.
● Right side is used for serving and left side is used for clearing the plates. When the number of guests are less, the table is cleared after the last person has finished his meal.
● Table is cleared before serving dessert to the guests.
● Coffee is served after dinner, at the dining table or in another room.
Serving etiquette along with the proper table etiquette makes dining experience more enjoyable and hassle-free. If we serve our guests in a good manner, we are bound to get compliments, as the main idea of a gathering is to make people feel comfortable, happy and satisfied. Hope this has provided you with ample tips to have a pleasurable dining experience!