Busing tables

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Madeleine's picture
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What's your approach to busing tables? We have open seating, come when you want, 4 tables: a 4-top, 2- 2-tops and a 3-top. (The 3-top actually works well for us as we get a lot of parents with one kid.)

So, in re busing, do you:

  • Remove empty plates as they become empty
  • Clear only when everyone at the table is done
  • Clear at the end of breakfast so you don't have to reset a table

What I'm really interested in is the etiquette of partially clearing a table. Does that signal to the slow eater to hurry up or do most people not even think that way?

 

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Anon Inn's picture
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I was also taught the knife and fork set side by side on the plate to signal when you are finished.  There is a thread on this subject on Ch ow hou nd.

Our first course is a fruit salad, so on the rare occasions when we get an extreme dawdler, I bring out the hot course and there is room on the tables to just set the fruit plate aside. 

At the conclusion, I just ask: "Have you finished?"     I bring out the coffee on a cocktail waitress sized tray, so I can top off their coffees at the end of the meal (if they would like a bit more), and take the plates at the same time. 

Years ago when waitressing I was taught to always use a tray to carry items to and fro.  Very handy, and much nicer than the plates up the arms. (never could carry more than three that way reliably anyway)

We also have a four top, a three top and two deuces.

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We clear as they are finished.  We try not to be fussing over the diners any more than necessary and will clear what we can and then wait awhile before we make another pass.  We're asking if anyone wants seconds of juice or their coffee filled as we go around the room and definitely don't try to act like we are rushing anyone.  Personally, when I am out to eat, I like for people to be attentive to our table and clear away dishes or trash.  I don't want to spend my time talking over a table of empty dirty dishes.  

I was not aware of the standard "I'm Done" sign with the cutlery.  I will definitely be watching out for this in the future.  Our kitchen is attached to the dining room and often the conversations include us as we clean up the kitchen, bus tables and attend to them, so our friendly discourse with our guests makes it easier to be a non-intrusive presence in the dining area.  

As a child, we were not allowed to leave the table until the last person was finished eating.  It was family time and that was our stopwatch.  However, I think that a host clearing dishes is a different matter than a diner being respectful by not leaving their fellow diners before they are done.

Weaver's picture
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Cell phones at the table tears me apart.  I am sometimes guilty in that I have two new drivers one less than 6 months and one less than 6 days.  So I keep it on me, next to me silenced so in the event there is a crisis (and there was one - flat tire on the interstate, couldn't get the lug nuts loose - she only weighs 109 # and didn't have the strength or the weight to break them loose, even though she knew what to do).

I was out, I excused myself and took the call.

But my kids know, as do my close friends and family, no cell phones at the table.

My kids also know a text is not an emergency, a phone call is. 

Parents need to teach their children proper table manners, beyond using a fork and a napkin.  Without such manners how will they survive in the real world?....oh my bad the rest of the real world is just as ill mannered.

Nope, mine learned when a cell phone is proper and when it is not.  With that said, we do text and or call from within the house, but that is often an issue of trying not to disturb someone else in the house (and or get a dog barking).

Learn where the napkin goes, how to set a proper place setting, what fork to use for each course and where to put the utensils when done.  Just something you should know by the time you are old enough to go to a fine dining restaurant alone.   More parents should learn etiquette and teach it to their children.

 

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 I totally agree.  Although my parents pulled themselves up through the depression and WWII, they made sure that every Sunday we all sat down to a set table, elbows off, goin-to-church clothes on, manners-expected dinner.  I have always been grateful to have the self-confidence to sit down at any table, regardless of how many forks (and silverspoons) and glassess are set, to enjoy a meal without feeling out of place.  

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SIDETRACK ALERT (just following the sidetrack theme here):

This is a blogger I really enjoy, if you read this make sure to get to the final line. It's about his Granny Perdue who bought into the convenience generation where everything came in a can, and then about her homemade potato salad:


Tater salad can sure spark some powerful memories. http://therevivalist.info/tater-salad/

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Madeleine's picture
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Weaver wrote:

Learn where the napkin goes, how to set a proper place setting, what fork to use for each course and where to put the utensils when done.  Just something you should know by the time you are old enough to go to a fine dining restaurant alone.   More parents should learn etiquette and teach it to their children.

 

Again, a test I would not pass. If I ever eat at a 'fine dining' restaurant I will look up the etiquette before I go. I have never eaten in a restaurant where I needed to know what fork went with what course. One fork, that's all I've ever had except maybe for a wedding where there was also a salad fork.

 

 

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Madeleine wrote:

Weaver wrote:

Learn where the napkin goes, how to set a proper place setting, what fork to use for each course and where to put the utensils when done.  Just something you should know by the time you are old enough to go to a fine dining restaurant alone.   More parents should learn etiquette and teach it to their children.

 

Again, a test I would not pass. If I ever eat at a 'fine dining' restaurant I will look up the etiquette before I go. I have never eaten in a restaurant where I needed to know what fork went with what course. One fork, that's all I've ever had except maybe for a wedding where there was also a salad fork.

 

That is why we took our kids to lunch (could not afford dinner) at a restaurant in Philadelphia at a "towel over the arm" type fancy restaurant while in vacation. Our middle son had just graduated from high school and was dating a girl whose family was in the upper $$$ bracket. He thought it was education time. I did not want them embarrased in the future and also wanted them to see what good service should be.

Then when a cousin's daughter stated "This is a nice place!" - at Chi-Chi's! - I arranged to take her to a NICE restaurant for her birthday. We went to Sages Sages at the Raddison for a Sunday Brunch. We had an early reservation and it was nice that we were the only ones there. The waiter caught on quickly that this was a education run - when the salads were served, he presented a tray with forks tucked into napkins to her, saying, "Your fork, Miss." She did not feel that all eyes were on her so it was a time to learn what to do.

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Weaver wrote:

Parents need to teach their children proper table manners, beyond using a fork and a napkin. 

 

Ain't never gonna happen. It's too much work to discipline kids. Easier to just let them have their own way.

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If they are chatting with us and they appear to be finished, I will ask, "If you are finished, would you like me to take that plate out of your way so you can be more comfortable?"

I only have one table, but it is possible to have up to 3 sittings depending on the times chosen by the guests for breakfast. If they are close in time and 2 rooms, I set the table with the place settings at the ends (head and foot of table empty of course) with the center section of the table filled with the food/condiments/salsa etc so it can be reached by all.

Weaver's picture
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You're so right Maddie, young people are not taught the difference from resting to finished cutlery sign language.  There is some minor confusion as to tines up or tines down in the 4 o'clock position but that in some cases depends where you were raised and or by whom.

However tips of the utensils almost crossed at the top of the plate tines down is "resting" and knife and fork (tines up or down) parallel at 4 o'clock is "I'm finished".

Since most people are never taught this, and rarely expereince someone who was taught this, just asking would be best.

I would clear if someone appeared to be struggling for room, for maps, brouchures, etc.  Sure sign is they have pushed the plate to the side.  But.....then again maybe they are taking a break and just reading the map. 

Madeleine's picture
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Weaver wrote:

You're so right Maddie, young people are not taught the difference from resting to finished cutlery sign language.

Young people? Heck, I didn't know this until I read my son's restaurant service manual he got in college!

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 i just keep an eye on folks. If it looks like they are just sitting and not eating or their plate is clean, I just ask "may I take your plate?" That's it. Since we only had one seating, we could do that. I never totally cleared the table until everyone had left the table.

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Two trains of thought and I am caught in the middle.

Picture your table of three or four:

          In Australia it is rude to remove the plate of someone who has finished while the others are still eating, or even one person is still eating. This means the rest sit there and stare at the person who is still eating, making them uncomfortable and rushed.

           In America it is rude to leave a finished plate in front of a person who is obv done. Americans do not like dirty plates left on a table, and they might like to move their coffee cup or paper in front of them now.

Just as in Latin countries they will never offer the bill to you or deliver it to you, it is considered presumptious and forward, you are supposed to ask for the bill.  In America they get fed up when the bill is not delivered when they feel it should be, when they are ready to go and have to ask for it.

So all that to say - go for your life, whatever you feel is right with your people.  

Personally I remove the plates of the parties who are together, at the same time. So you know our layout one big table. I remove the couple over here when they are both done, and leave the other couple over there to continue eating.  This may also be a situation where one couple comes down later and eats later, the others should not have to wait for them, they are strangers anyway.  Some times our guests are too polite, they will not start or finish without the others, even though they don't know them...I have to have feelers out for this too.

 

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Joey Bloggs wrote:

Two trains of thought and I am caught in the middle.

Picture your table of three or four:

          In Australia it is rude to remove the plate of someone who has finished while the others are still eating, or even one person is still eating. This means the rest sit there and stare at the person who is still eating, making them uncomfortable and rushed.

           In America it is rude to leave a finished plate in front of a person who is obv done. Americans do not like dirty plates left on a table, and they might like to move their coffee cup or paper in front of them now.

Just as in Latin countries they will never offer the bill to you or deliver it to you, it is considered presumptious and forward, you are supposed to ask for the bill.  In America they get fed up when the bill is not delivered when they feel it should be, when they are ready to go and have to ask for it.

So all that to say - go for your life, whatever you feel is right with your people.  

Personally I remove the plates of the parties who are together, at the same time. So you know our layout one big table. I remove the couple over here when they are both done, and leave the other couple over there to continue eating.  This may also be a situation where one couple comes down later and eats later, the others should not have to wait for them, they are strangers anyway.  Some times our guests are too polite, they will not start or finish without the others, even though they don't know them...I have to have feelers out for this too.

 

But no one seems to think it's rude to be chatting on their cell phones during breakfast, or tapping away on their tablets, or, or, or... it's a conundrum, I tell ya.

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Penelope wrote:

Joey Bloggs wrote:

Two trains of thought and I am caught in the middle.

Picture your table of three or four:

          In Australia it is rude to remove the plate of someone who has finished while the others are still eating, or even one person is still eating. This means the rest sit there and stare at the person who is still eating, making them uncomfortable and rushed.

           In America it is rude to leave a finished plate in front of a person who is obv done. Americans do not like dirty plates left on a table, and they might like to move their coffee cup or paper in front of them now.

Just as in Latin countries they will never offer the bill to you or deliver it to you, it is considered presumptious and forward, you are supposed to ask for the bill.  In America they get fed up when the bill is not delivered when they feel it should be, when they are ready to go and have to ask for it.

So all that to say - go for your life, whatever you feel is right with your people.  

Personally I remove the plates of the parties who are together, at the same time. So you know our layout one big table. I remove the couple over here when they are both done, and leave the other couple over there to continue eating.  This may also be a situation where one couple comes down later and eats later, the others should not have to wait for them, they are strangers anyway.  Some times our guests are too polite, they will not start or finish without the others, even though they don't know them...I have to have feelers out for this too.

 

But no one seems to think it's rude to be chatting on their cell phones during breakfast, or tapping away on their tablets, or, or, or... it's a conundrum, I tell ya.

Conundrum 101 indeed

We went to Applebee's and across from us were Mom, Dad and two daughters. They had appetizers brought out first while waiting for main meal, that sat in the center of the table.  I could not help but tap DH on the table to look... Mom and Dad on one side, two girls on the other - one with cell phone on table as she texted like mad and was on FB, the other had it on her lap below the table, and texted like mad.

So picture the scene as both girls sat across from Mom and Dad and were entirely looking down the whole time.  Mom and Dad sat there and stared off in space. What did I want to do? SLAP THE MOM AND DAD. Honestly, they looked like the fools! They WERE fools.

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 I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!  I hate what we have become ...a nation hooked on cell phones. Yes, use them when needed, but who is paying the bill for those kids to just sit there and text. I blame the parents. Wants vs needs??? Whatever happened to that???  

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catlady wrote:

 I TOTALLY AGREE WITH YOU!  I hate what we have become ...a nation hooked on cell phones. Yes, use them when needed, but who is paying the bill for those kids to just sit there and text. I blame the parents. Wants vs needs??? Whatever happened to that???  

Part 2

Was in nearby city for appt.

A Grandmother is on phone and as all cell phone calls goes it is personal, and I get to hear all the details grandmother who has grandaughter there, is telling "mother" it was jusssssst loverly. So the no boundaries thing even means people speak aloud, in public, very private things. not good, not good at all. She is listening to the other end of the phone, doesn't care that everyone else can hear her, how can we not! 

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Have a friend who just told her kids she was cancelling the cell phone contract as it is too expensive. ($2000/year.) One of them castigated mother and said she should get another job if she couldn't afford a basic necessity like a phone. (Please JB, don't burst a blood vessel reading that. I'm STILL too upset to even talk to my friend about it after hearing that.)

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My mother would have said if you want a phone you pay for it yourself

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gillumhouse's picture
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I burst it FOR her!! WHAT? A kid telling a parent to get another job? Oh how things have deteriotated - I should not be surprised though as I remember kids of acquaintances (and I mean 4-5 year olds when I was early 20s) telling their parents NO! (and at the time I was visualizing me picking myself off the floor if I had said that to my Mother)

Madeleine's picture
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Joey Bloggs wrote:

Two trains of thought and I am caught in the middle.

Picture your table of three or four:

          In Australia it is rude to remove the plate of someone who has finished while the others are still eating, or even one person is still eating. This means the rest sit there and stare at the person who is still eating, making them uncomfortable and rushed.

           In America it is rude to leave a finished plate in front of a person who is obv done. Americans do not like dirty plates left on a table, and they might like to move their coffee cup or paper in front of them now.

Just as in Latin countries they will never offer the bill to you or deliver it to you, it is considered presumptious and forward, you are supposed to ask for the bill.  In America they get fed up when the bill is not delivered when they feel it should be, when they are ready to go and have to ask for it.

So all that to say - go for your life, whatever you feel is right with your people.  

Personally I remove the plates of the parties who are together, at the same time. So you know our layout one big table. I remove the couple over here when they are both done, and leave the other couple over there to continue eating.  This may also be a situation where one couple comes down later and eats later, the others should not have to wait for them, they are strangers anyway.  Some times our guests are too polite, they will not start or finish without the others, even though they don't know them...I have to have feelers out for this too.

 

One reason I asked is a friend of mine has told me on the occasions I've helped her to NEVER remove a plate from anyone if even one person at the table is still eating. She says it's rude to remove plates. I think it's a pain to have all the dirty plates on the table, especially when guests are trying to plan their day- elbows on the table, smartphones out, maps out, brochures everywhere.

But, when I remove plates, the laggard always apologizes and says, 'I know I'm so slow.' Of course I then feel I have to assuage that situation.

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It's very obvious for us when a guest has finished their fruit course, so we remove the dishes and flatware associated with the course without asking at the same time checking on their coffee, juice and water.   After the main course, when a guest appears to have finished,  we will ask if we can "get their plate out of their way".   Sometimes there is still food on the plate,  but you can usually tell who is "just resting" and who is finished.   At the begining of the meal, I will automatically remove any unused dishes or cutlery just to get it out of the way.  I also unobtrusively clean up coffee trash as I remove dishes.

What's so funny, being in the South,  is that a lot of people will start carrying their own dishes to the kitchen when their done.  We have to good-naturedly scold them and take it from them.   Momma taught 'em right!

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Proud Texan wrote:

 Sometimes there is still food on the plate,  but you can usually tell who is "just resting" and who is finished.  

No, for me it is not easy to tell with the 'ditherers'- the ones who eat a bite, go get more coffee, eat another bite, go check their email, eat another bite start talking to other guests. And there are the ones reading the paper. Are they still eating or is the plate in the way of the paper?

I know I cannot judge this properly based on the number of times I have removed the empty plate from one person who was done 10 minutes ago and have gone to remove the other plate that is not quite done and have had someone grab their fork or the last bit of something.

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As a guest (I'm only aspiring to be in your shoes!), I don't think you should worry about a guest feeling rushed if you are clearing tables.  Certainly, as you offer me and my party more coffee, milk, water, etc and engage in conversation, it would be clear that you're not rushing, but trying to make our experience more pleasant in that we don't have to look around at a dirty dining room.  If you appear frantic about getting tables cleared and are grumbling the whole time and ignoring me, I would have a different point of view.  Hope that makes sense.

Joey Camb's picture
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we clear the plate as it becomes empty or cutlery in the standard position this is for two reasons

(1) so I can get the diswaher full and loaded as we usually need to do at least 3 loads

(2) tables arn't huge so gives them more space if they are dallying over tea and toast.

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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

we clear the plate as it becomes empty or cutlery in the standard position

I do this for many a guest. I place them in the finished position after I ask if they are finished and they have a half plate of food and gawk at me like "Of course why the heck are you asking?" I then move them to the finished position and remove the plate. Yes, every guest who does not do this, I do it.

I remember the gal who kept pretending to eat each time I walked back into the dining room. Come on already, grow up!

For those who have no idea what we are talking about - knofe and fork together (whether you used the knife or not) preferably at 4 oclock. This means, I am finished you may take my plate.

Madeleine's picture
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camberleyhotelharrogate@yahoo.co.uk wrote:

we clear the plate as it becomes empty or cutlery in the standard position this is for two reasons

I wish this was taught in schools here as it is obviously not something kids learn at McD's! I used to go to clear a plate with cutlery at 4 PM only to have the guest grab for the toast or bacon or sausage. Now, if the plate is not empty I ask, 'May I clear that for you?'

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