Thursday, February 28, 2008


Bussers are usually the first people who come to your table, pouring water and providing bread and butter. They also clear dishes and reset tables. If something is missing at the table, such as a water glass or a piece of flatware, let the busser know. Although the goal of all restaurant employees is to produce a gracious and satisfied customer who returns regularly, each employee is motivated by different needs. The maître d’ wants everything to run smoothly, efficiently, and profitably. Servers, bartenders, and bussers are motivated by anticipated tips and recognition for a job well done.

Chefs are motivated by praise for their taste and creativity. If you visit one restaurant regularly, it pays to praise the chef when warranted. You can ask for the chef, in order to give personal congratulations, or send your message of appreciation through a server.

Bartenders and Servers

These restaurant employees are the ones you have the most direct contact with, and they are under the supervision of the maître d’ or manager in most restaurants. Servers are also called by the horrible—but gender-free and thus politically correct—term waitron.


Some restaurants have a sommelier, or wine steward. He or she is the one to ask which wine goes with the beef bordelaise and which with the lobster. Sometimes the sommelier will present and pour the wine as well.

Sunday, February 24, 2008


King of the kitchen, the chef controls how food is prepared, presented, and served. Consult the chef if you have a special request concerning food. Your server can handle communicating a simple request such as serving sauce on the side. For something complicated like a sugar-free, salt-free, or wheat-free meal, you might want to make the request in advance through the maître d’.

Captain/Head Waiter

The terms are interchangeable—captains and head waiters—and not all restaurants have one. If one person takes your order and another serves, the first is generally your captain or head waiter. The second person in this instance is the server, whose duties are explained shortly. The captain is the one to consult if you have a problem with the food or service.

Maître d’/Host

The maître d’ is often the person who seats you. He or she may also be the general manager or the owner, especially in a smaller establishment. The maître d’ is in charge of all floor service, including staffing, coordinating reservations with seating, timing the flow of patrons with the pace of the kitchen staff, and handling special requests—such as presenting an engagement ring or a birthday surprise.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Manners at Fast Food Restaurant

The fast-food eatery is about as informal as it gets on the restaurant scene. But informal does not mean sloppy. Avoid sprawl. Keep your wrappers, condiment containers, and other objects under control. Don’t intrude on another person’s space. Use napkins to wipe the table when you are finished. Make sure your trash goes in the trash receptacle.
Although dining circumstances vary, you can handle them with more confidence by remembering the basics. Approach the experience with a positive attitude and a cheerful demeanor. Keep pace with the others. Watch your posture. Smile. When in doubt, do what your host does, or pick out the classiest person at the table and copy him or her

Meeting Eating

When food is ordered in to be eaten at a business meeting, the overriding rule is to keep it simple.

If a knife and fork are provided, use them. However, feel free to use your fingers for foods such as pizza or sandwiches. In fact, you may be better off using your fingers than those flimsy plastic forks. Keep the area around you clean and tidy. Use plenty of napkins or, even better, those dampened, packaged wipes. Stack the plastic mustard and ketchup wrappers. Put bones and scraps on the side of your plate, not on the table. Keys, purses, and everything else not related to the work at hand or the meal should be off the table.

The Business Meal

Business adds a new dimension to the dining experience, and dining adds a new dimension to the business experience. In other words, a business meal is not just a meeting with food.

What happens around the dining table can form or harden opinions, dampen or heighten expectations, and remove or deepen doubts. For instance, during a lunch meeting with a colleague, you might be thinking:
  • Can I work comfortably with this guy?
  • She should have better sense than that.
  • If he can’t organize a lunch meeting, how can he run a department?
Setting up a business lunch or dinner requires careful planning and attention to detail. Everything from picking a restaurant to seating, ordering, and tipping must be carefully considered in advance.

Seventh Course: Coffee

Be careful not to overload your beverage with cream and sugar. Avoid swirling your coffee around too much, making a splash and puddle on your saucer. Don’t slurp, but sip gently. If your coffee is too hot, let it sit for a while—don’t blow on it. Finally, don’t leave your spoon in the cup. Place it on your saucer.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

Sixth Course: Dessert

When dessert is served with both fork and spoon, the fork is the pusher and the spoon is used for eating. Hold the fork in your left hand, tines down, and push the dessert onto the spoon in your right hand. Pie or cake requires only a fork. Ice cream and pudding require only a spoon. Leave the other utensil on the table.

Sixth Course: Dessert

As with the fish course, you will use the salad fork and knife for this course, leaving the knife on the table if you don’t need to cut anything. If cheese is served with the salad, place a small portion of cheese on your salad plate together with crackers or bread. Use the salad knife to put cheese on the crackers or bread.

Fourth Course: Meat and Fowl

Here you get more serious with the use of your knife than you did during the fish course. But you should still try to use it more like a surgeon than a lumberjack would. Place your index finger about an inch down from the handle, on the back of the blade, to help you press down firmly. Hold the fork in your left hand, prongs down. Spear the meat and hold it firmly in place with the fork while you cut. Only cut enough food for each mouthful. It’s okay to put a small amount of potatoes and vegetables on the fork along with the meat.

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Third Course: Sorbet

Although the serving of sorbet dates back to the Roman Empire when hosts served packed snow brought down from the mountains to clear the palates of the guests, sorbetto did not emerge until the middle of the sixteenth century in Italy. These days a sorbet is served only between the fish and meat courses, but it was once served to clear the palate of the distinctive flavors of each course and get it ready for the next.
If the sorbet is served with a garnish, go ahead and eat the mint leaves, fresh herbs, or flower petals.

Second Course: Fish

Watch out. In fine restaurants the fish course is often served with special fish knives and forks. In that case, hold the fish fork in your left hand, prongs down, as in the continental style of dining.

Use the fish knife to break the fish and push it onto the fork. You hold the fish knife differently than you do a dinner knife because you’re not actually cutting the fish but merely breaking it apart. Hold the knife between your thumb and your index and middle fingers.

If the fish is soft and boneless, you need use only the fork. In this case, leave the fish knife on the table. Hold the fork in your right hand, prongs up. The prongs can be either up or down when the fork is resting on the plate after you’re finished. Remove fish bones with your thumb and index finger and place the bones on the side of the plate.

First Course: Soup

When eating soup, tilt the spoon away from you (dip the outer edge of the spoon, rather than the edge closest to you, into the soup first). This technique diminishes dribble danger and looks more appealing. Sip from the side (not the front) of the spoon, making no more noise than a spider. Yes, you may tilt the soup plate (often, inaccurately, called the soup bowl) away from you to access the last of the soup. Leave your spoon on the soup plate. However, if the soup is served in a two-handled bowl or bouillon cup, leave the spoon on the underlying saucer.

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Seven Course Dining

Once again, the number of pieces of silverware will indicate the number of courses you can expect, and the general rule is to start from the outside. You may expect the formal dinner to consist of seven courses, in this order: soup, fish, sorbet (or other palate cleanser), a meat or fowl dish, salad (often served with cheese), dessert, and coffee.

Courses are served from the left, removed from the right. Wine is poured from the right. (It helps to know from which direction they will be coming at you.) Try to finish each course at about the same time as others around you. When you are finished with a course, hoist out the “I am finished” pennant.

Here’s how: Visualize a clock face on your plate. Place both the knife and fork in about the 10:20 position with the points at 10 and the handles at 20. The prongs of the fork should be down, and the blade of the knife should face you. If you have been eating the course with the fork only, place it prongs up in the same position as the knife when finished. Placing flatware in the finished position facilitates the server clearing from the right. He or she can secure the handles with the thumb, thus reducing the risk of dropping them in the diner’s lap.

Hoist out the “I am resting” pennant when you want to pause during a course and don’t want the server to snatch your plate away. In this case, the knife and fork are crossed on the plate with the fork over the knife and the prongs pointing down. The knife should be in the 10:20 position, as on the face of a clock; the fork prongs should be at two o’clock, and the handle at eight o’clock, forming an inverted V. It is also correct to form the inverted V without crossing fork over knife. Servers in fine restaurants are usually trained to recognize the I-am-finished and the I-am-resting signals. Now let’s look at how to deal with each course.

Etiquette with Wine

Wine will be served during a formal dinner. If you don’t want wine, place your fingertips lightly on the rim of the glass when the server approaches to pour. (Never turn your glass upside down.) Say, “I’m not having any today” (or this evening or tonight). The today sends a message: You don’t disapprove of wine, and the others should feel no compunction about enjoying their wine if they choose.

Wine is offered with the first course (soup) and will be poured from the right. Red wine (and brandy) glasses are held by the bowl because the warmth of the hand releases the bouquet. Red wine glasses may also be held by the stem, but white wine and champagne glasses are always held by the stem, so as not to diminish the chill. Wait until your host has lifted his or her glass before you drink.

Facing the Formal Dinner

Now that you’ve solved the mysteries of the banquet hall and the buffet table, you are ready to move on to that most daunting dining dilemma—the formal dinner. You’ll be able to handle this challenge with grace and confidence if you know what to expect and how to react.

Before Sitting Down
A lipstick trail is the red badge of discourtesy. Take precautions before you reach the table. This is also the time to visit the restroom for hair repair and other finishing touches. Remember to greet everyone before sitting down. Gentlemen must rise to greet latecomers. They may also rise when ladies leave and return to the table, although today’s woman should not expect this behavior. A server will draw the chair for you. Enter from your left.

After you are seated, wait for your host to make the first napkin move. When the host places the napkin on his or her lap, the guests should follow suit. Similarly, at the end of the meal, the host should be the first to place the napkin on the table to signal that the meal is over, having made certain that everyone at the table has finished. Large dinner napkins should remain folded in half and placed across your lap with the fold facing your waist. Never “flap” the napkin to unfold it. If you leave the table during the meal, place the napkin on your chair. If the server does not push the chair back under the table, you should do so. The server may also refold your napkin and place it on the arm of your chair during your absence. At the end of the meal, do not refold the napkin. Pick it up from its center and place it loosely on the table to the left of your plate.

Sunday, February 3, 2008

Buffet Tips #3 : Sitting Down and Standing Up

Sitting Down
If people invite you to join their table as you leave the buffet line, either accept graciously or find a way to decline just as graciously. For instance, you could say, “I’m sorry, but I promised Tom and his family that I’d eat with them.” Even though people at your table will be sitting down to eat at different times, it’s still a good idea to generally keep pace with others at the table and engage them in conversation. If you need to leave the table temporarily, be sure to place your napkin on the seat or arm of your chair.

Standing Up
If you’re eating while standing up, it’s even more important to avoid overloading your plate. That way you can circulate a bit. Indeed, one of the few—maybe the only—advantages of a stand-up buffet is that you can drift around and chat with a lot of people. For example, food at cocktail parties is often consumed while standing. When you settle on a place to stand, make sure you are not blocking a path to the buffet table or anything else.

Buffet Tips #2 : Serving Station and Plates

Serving Stations
When various dishes are served at serving stations, as at a brunch buffet, remember that the attendants are limited in what they can provide. Special requests are okay if they are easily accomplished. For example, you can ask for scrambled eggs at the omelet station, but don’t ask for “over easy” if no whole eggs are in sight. And only ask for ingredients in your omelet that are in sight and readily available. Similarly, don’t ask for an end cut of beef if you don’t see one.

In a restaurant, plenty of clean, freshly polished plates should be available, which means you should not have to reuse a plate. When you’re going back to the buffet for seconds, don’t hesitate to ask a server to replace a plate or silverware or retrieve what you need at the buffet table.
In a private home, use common sense to determine whether you should retain your plate or ask for a new one. In any case, never scrape and stack your plates when you’re finished.

Buffet Tips #1 : Approaching Buffet and Dishing

Before piling food on your plate, look at the dining tables. If utensils and/or plates are already there, you don’t need to look for them at the buffet table. Remember, if place cards are on the tables, do not shift them around to suit yourself. Then take a look to see whether the buffet has one or two lines. If two lines are moving, you will find serving utensils on both sides of the table. Take your place in line. Gender and status privileges do not apply in the buffet line, so don’t try to get ahead of anyone and don’t break up a couple or a group going through the line together.

If one item is in short supply, go easy on it. At a restaurant or hotel, it is fine to ask to have a dish replenished. At a private party, don’t ask. Use the serving spoon or fork provided for a particular dish and put the serving piece next to the platter or chafing dish when you are finished. A hot metal spoon in a chafing dish could burn the fingers of another diner. Don’t overload your dish. Going back for seconds or thirds is perfectly acceptable. Don’t take platefuls of food for the table. That defeats the whole idea of a buffet, which is offering a multitude of choices for a variety of tastes and appetites.