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waiter serving from right









The question of wait staff serving the guest from the left or from the right seems to be a bit controversial in the dining etiquette industry.  As many of the schools and consultants teach “service from the left” and “clearing from the right”,  the Culinary Institute of America, the Federation of Dining Room Professionals, IBGS (International Business and Gourmet Standard of Hospitality) and top culinary schools such as Johnson and Wales all subscribe to “service and clearing from the right”.  

Much of this controversy may have its roots in a flawed translation from the early 1900’s “French Service”, as you will see explained further in this post.

In a recent conversation with Bernard Martinage, Co-Founder of the Federation of Dining Room Professionals, I was enlightened by his very thorough answer to my inquiry regarding this subject.  The following is directly from Mr. Martinage and I thank him for shedding light on “the bottom line”.  After all, the bottom line truly is the guest’s comfort, but it makes sense to me that in most cases, this will be accomplished by “service and clearing from the right”.

Bottom line is . . .


  • If you are a traditionalist in service: you put down a plate by the right and pick it up by the right.
  • If you are a modern waiter with good common sense: you put down a plate by the right and pick it up by the right.
  • If you want to go by the flawed translation of “French Service” which is routed in a training manual written by Hilton in the early 1900’s, then you put down a plate by the left and pick it up by the right, which requires:

Waiters to be perfectly ambidextrous, which consequence is as follow:


  1. It is unnatural for 90% of the population to use the right hand as a support hand and the left had for complex manipulations.
  2. Common waiters end up service by the left with the right hand, sticking their elbow in customer’s face.
  3. Customers never know which way you are coming from. 


Just think about this:


  • Why do we serve wine by the right?  Because the glass is on the right side.
  • Why is the glass on the right side? Because people drink with the right hand.
  • Why do people drink with the right hand? Because the right hand is the operating hand.
  • Why do we serve plate by the right?  Because EVERY SINGLE book you will find shows how to stack plates on the left hand using the right hand . . . just as a beverage tray . . . just as you hold a pad in your left hand and write with your right hand . . . just as you hold a bottle with the left hand and operate the corkscrew with the right hand . . . just as you hold your steering wheel with the right hand and operate your stick-shift with the right hand . . . .etc . 


You will notice, easily, when going to establishments that require their staff to put down plates by the left, than more than half the time the waiters do it using the right hand . . . because it is so impractical.


The question you must ask yourself is . . . Why do it one way versus the other?  And if the answer is not clear and logical . . . then it probably is flawed.


Slowly but surely, the US is adjusting service to reflect international standards, because they make sense, are fast and smooth, and effective.


If you go to a restaurant in Paris, Montreal, Tokyo, London, Singapore, Caracas or Geneva, you will find that everyone put plates down by the right and picks them up by the right.


Because, however, the US suffers from that misinterpretation mentioned earlier, and because we respect the culture of all origins even when not justified (as long as they don’t interfere with the guest’s comfort) we Prefer that people serve by the right and clear by the right, and we Tolerate that people serve by the left, as long as they do it with the left hand in a smooth, elegant and balanced manner.  We, however, Require, that when someone takes our practical examination, that the technique is performed by the standard the world goes by (including top restaurants in the US such as The Bernardin in Manhattan or Commander’s Palace in New Orleans.

So…there you have it.


One Response to “Service From The Left or From The Right?”

  • Mwine vincent says:

    what is important is that, a waiter must be in good position to serve a guest. and a guest must happily receive what he/she needs in comfort way.
    a waiter also must be comfortable while serving a client like putting down plates or picking them up after a guest is done. therefore rules and convention of serving are important but also the arm that I waiter use is more crucial as physical factor.
    so am of the view that the answer given to the question is perfect

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