Wednesday, March 2, 2011

When should empty plates be cleared by your server?

Posted By on Wed, Mar 2, 2011 at 8:15 AM

What's the right time for a server to clear your plate?
  • What's the right time for a server to clear your plate?

I had just given up trying to best my falafel sandwich at Zaina earlier this week when a server approached the table and asked if my wife and I were done.

"Yes," I replied.

"Great. We're running out of plates," he said, glancing around the full dining room before clearing the table.

Even with a slammed lunch hour, the server waited until every member of a table had finished their meals before asking if he could take their plates. I appreciated the gesture. But I know that not everyone agrees with what I learned as a high-school waiter.

If my patch of table cloth is the only one that's empty, I feel like my fellow diners are being rushed, that they're being told to hurry up, even if I just happened to eat like Brendan Fraser in Encino Man. I firmly stand in the camp that all plates should leave at the same time, just as they arrived.

But I have talked to waiters and diners who believe that you should clear as you go, that taking empty dishes and glasses is a sign of attentiveness and good service. Plus, who really wants to spend extra time with a half-empty plate of a burrito that is drowning in hardening queso rico.

Should a server grab your plate regardless of whether your dining companions are still eating, or should she wait until everyone is done?

[Image via Flickr: sashaw]

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