Monday, June 6, 2011

Service Etiquette and Protocol

The Proper serving etiquette is a list of rules created by early European Nobles who had servants in their charge and a large group of guests to serve at dinner or at special events and occasions. Coordinating the servants by the means of a protocol to who was served first and who was next to be served and so on and so on till the last person was served was critical to the flow of the service. Working in this fashion allowed several servants to work without crashing into each other.

In most cases food service starts from the left and is taken away from the right. This is the same for beverages. If there are obstacles in the way like a wall or guests are leaning into each other in conversation then common sense is used and the service is maintained through the best and safest way possible whether it being either right or left but never over guests heads.

In formal dinners or in formal parties and even in restaurants, there is always a detailed serving etiquette. This serving etiquette can be changed depending on the host requirements or cultural ideas and attitudes.

Guests are traditionally served first. The guest of honour being served first. Then followed by the women (with the oldest first), then the men (with the oldest first) and then the hostess and finally the host. Order tanking is done with the same protocol. Clearing the plates are done all at once if possible prior to everyone finishing their meals. The service moves on in the same fashion with the different courses providing what is to be a seamless service.

The changes occur with service when there is a priest at the table or a head of state and his or her entourage. The priest is always served first as is the head of state. The higher the position in the order of power determines the sequence of the service etiquette. Thus, a bishop would be served before a priest. In the case of state dinners servers usually are not sure of the sequence of political service etiquette. There is usually an assistant from the political party who assists in the protocol sequence of service etiquette.

Just as in politics there is service etiquette in a wedding party. The bride is served first with the groom second. Then the bridal party at the head table. The parents’ of the bride and groom which are usually on one table and are next to be served.  Any table once food service is started is finished before other tables are served. The tables in weddings are numbered for the sequence of service. There are many servers at large events like weddings so it may look seamless with the rest of the service while other tables are served 2 or even 3 at a time.

The whole service etiquette can be overwhelming, but when orchestrated well it provides a safe and smooth transition between courses. The guests see organization and feel calm and at ease with the service etiquette.

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