2/22/2012 11:23:00 AM

Controversial Restaurant Policies: When Should The Table Be Cleared?

Many times, the difference between an excellent dining experience and a certified disaster comes down to the small stuff. And a lot of those little details are left up to the server. How to approach the table? What's the line between being too aggressive and not paying enough attention? This week, our two editors sweat the small stuff, sussing out the best way for restaurant staff to clear tables. Is it more annoying to have them constantly swiping plates, or to have dirty flatware piling up while the staff waits for everyone to finish. Check out the debate below:

James: When I was out the other night - I noticed a problem that reminded me of your complaint about the overzealous wine pours trend. Overzealous table clearing.

Kelly: Lol. What do you mean?

James: Everytime anyone at the table finished anything, the service staff would swoop in and take their share plates / silverware. They should have waited until everyone was finished....

Kelly: So? It's better that way. I get grossed out staring at my dirty plate for 20 minutes.

James: But then they end up swooping in every three seconds - besides, you shouldn't finish 20 minutes before everyone when you're eating.

Kelly: So you propose they wait until everyone is finished to clear? Very proper of you. Sorry that's a little too "Downton Abbey" old-school for me. Basically, you're Lady Mary.

James: They bring out all the dishes together - it creates a feeling of community at the table. They should clear them all together. When she's dining with Lord Grantham and Granny, they staff isn't lurking around the table looking for slightly dirty cutlery. I hate seeing them doing their vulture-like dance.

Kelly: OMG - you're officially OCD.

James: And then, when they start to clear and one person is left with their dish, the "are you still working on that" brigade starts.

Kelly: Honestly never even notice when they do that or not. Also, tables must be turned, my friend. This you know.

James: Yeah, but they should be turned in an orderly way. It's like, the less dishes on the table, the more people come up to you and try to clear it.

Kelly: OK, so before each meal starts you can have a one-on-one with the bussers to let them know your feelings about proper clearing policy.

James: You may be onto something...


  1. I want my place setting cleared as soon as I place my silverware in the internationally recognized "I'm done" position." Don't try to take it sooner, don't ask if I'm still working on it, and definitely don't ask if I'm still working on it if it is perfectly obvious there's nothing edible left on the plate.

    1. I'm agree !!! the problem is, that in US is not recognised position "I'm don"

  2. Only one problem....that which looks like it might be done, may not. As a restaurant owner, I have actually seen plates that look done (napkins and silverware in the plate, virtually nothing on the plate), yet the person is not finished "picking."

    So, it's always important to ask.

  3. I work at Culver's Restaurant and we bring food to the tables; I work in the dinning room and I can tell when someone is done to take their tray; it is when I see the tray pushed aside and they are eating their custard; bust most of all I ask to take it from the table in a polite way