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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 or the
    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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