Serving Food Properly – An
Often Misunderstood Practice
Most people in the US think that all food should be served from
the left and removed from the right. This is a misconception and
stems from the fact that long ago, all food was served in large
trays and each guest was served individually tableside from this
large tray. If you still do this, then yes, by all means, your
guests should be served from the left. But if you are like most
people today and have the plates presented to your guests with
the food already on it, nicely displayed and decorated, then it
should be served from the right, and it is incorrect to serve it
from the left. Below is detail of when to serve from the left
and when to serve from the right.
From the Left
In general, the diner is approached from the left for three
purposes and three purposes only:
1. To present platters of food from which the waiter will serve
diner will help himself.
2. To place side dishes such as vegetables or dinner rolls
3. To clear the side dishes that were placed from the left.
The reason most often given for this is that most people are
right handed. So, for example, when a waiter must use his right
hand to serve from a platter, it is least intrusive if he stands
to the left. This way, the platter can be held safely away from
the guest as the waiter leans forward to reach his/her plate.
And, in the case of placing side dishes, it makes most sense to
put them to the side that is less in focus, leaving the right
side free for the main dish.
From the Right
These days it is nearly universal practice, even in very formal
circumstances, for food to arrive already arranged on the plate,
rather than to be presented on a platter. Preplated food (except
for side dishes), as well as empty plates and clean utensils
brought in preparation for upcoming courses, are always placed
from the guest's right side. At the end of the course, these
plates are also cleared from the right.
Wine and all other beverages are presented and poured from the
right. This is a logical, since glasses are placed above and to
the right of the guest's plate, and trying to pour from the left
would force the server to reach in front of the guest.
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