Preparing for Service in Restaurant

  • Post last modified:5 May 2023
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The Importance of Food and Beverage Service

Serving food and beverage to anxiously waiting customer needs professional expertise. The service should follow a sequence and have a plan of action based on the practices of the professional catering industry. The service staff should be expert performers of certain tasks before, during, and after service. Diligent and courteous service would certainly transform a satisfied customer into a regular customer.

Preparation Before Service

The service staff should check the following before service:

  • The tables and linen are clean.

  • Tablecloths are evenly spread on the table.

  • Chairs are dusted and properly arranged.

  • The table setup is appropriate and pleasing.

  • The silver is polished and the china and crockery are spotlessly clean and befitting the occasion.

  • Cruet sets, sugar bowls, and flower vases are filled and placed on the table suitably.

  • The floor/carpet is clean and dry.

  • The restaurant and back area are in a state of readiness before the service session commences.

  • The side station is fully equipped for service and the following should be checked:
    • The condiments tray is cleaned and refilled.

    • Napkins are folded and kept handy for the particular session.

    • Salvers, extra linen, cutlery, and service equipment necessary for the session are stacked up.

    • Water jugs and ice buckets are filled and kept ready.

    • Coffee pots ready with freshly brewed coffee/tea.

    • Sugar cubes, butter, and butter plates ready.

Preparation During Service

  • When the guests arrive greet them warmly, by wishing them the time of the day.

  • Escort the guests to the table and seat them promptly by pulling the chairs out to ease seating. If need be, the table should be moved so that very little inconvenience is caused to guests when they seat themselves.

  • Ensure that children have high chairs and special attention is paid to the elderly.

  • Remove extra covers, if any.

  • Serve water and present the menu card, if the captain is busy.

  • If the order has to be taken, offer suggestions to the guests on the choice of food and beverages and repeat the final order to avoid possible errors.

  • Do not leave the station unattended, as nothing annoys a guest more than not being able to find a waiter when something is needed.

  • If the tablecloth has to be changed during service, the tabletop should not be exposed. Any articles on the table should be cleared to the side station and not placed on chairs or the next table. The soiled cloth should be brushed using a service cloth and a crumbing tray or plate.

  • Do not neglect little things such as lighting a guest’s cigarette, responding to a request, and showing interest in the guest’s needs.

  • Ensure that service is fast, efficient, and pleasant.

  • Before serving dessert, clear and crumb the table.

Preparation After Service

  • Pull out the chairs or the table to enable guests to move out comfortably.
  • Wish them warmly and request them to visit again, saying – Do visit again, sir/madam.
  • Clear the table immediately and reset it for the next guest.
  • Have the side station cleared and restacked for the next sitting.


Mise-en-scene, the French term means to prepare the environment of the outlet before service to make it pleasant, comfortable, safe, and hygienic. Before each service session, the restaurant should be made presentable enough to receive the guests. The supervisor or team of waiters should ensure the following mise-en-scene:

  • Carpets are well brushed or hovered.

  • All tables and chairs are serviceable.

  • Table lights or wall lights have functioning bulbs.

  • Menu cards are presentable and attractive.

  • Tent carts or other sales materials are presentable.

  • Doors and windows are thrown open for some time to air the restaurant. This should be followed by closing the windows and doors and setting the air-conditioning or heating to a comfortable temperature.

  • Exchange dirty linen for fresh linen.

  • Tablecloths and mats are laid on the tables.

  • Replace wilted flowers with fresh flowers.


Mise-en-place, the French term that means “putting in place” is attributed to the preparation of a workplace for ultimate smooth service. It is widely used in the food and beverage service department in everyday hotel operations. Before service commences, the staff should ensure that the station is in total readiness to receive guests.

A station comprises a given number of tables that are attended by a given team of waiters. Thus a restaurant may have several stations, each with a team of waiters. In a large restaurant, each station may be headed by a Chef-de-rang. Mise-en-place involves:

  • Side stations should be stacked with sufficient covers for resetting the restaurant after the first sitting is over. Extra linen, crockery, cutlery, glassware, and ashtrays should be kept handy so that they are readily available for use.

  • Cruet sets should be cleaned and filled daily.

  • Sauce bottles should be filled and the necks and tops of the bottles wiped clean.

  • Butter, condiments, and accompaniments for service should be kept ready for use when needed.

Table Setting

Table setting refers to the way to set a table with tableware – such as eating utensils and dishware – for serving and eating. The arrangement for a single diner is called a place setting. The arrangement varies across various cultures. The rules for laying a table are not rigid. They are followed to facilitate dining and make the table neat. The basic rules for laying the tables are given below:

  • Table Linens: Table linen has to be laid properly. A white cloth is preferred but not mandatory. The only rule is to make sure that linen patterns and china patterns don’t clash.

  • Chargers: Chargers or dinner plates should be placed on the table first. Chargers are decorative elements that are placed underneath plates to add color or texture to the table. Each plate should be set in the center of the place setting and each place setting on the table should be set equidistant. The rest of the components used to set a formal table will be set with the dinner plate in mind. If a charger is used, soup and melon bowls will be placed on top. The charger will generally be removed just before the main course.

  • Napkins: Linen napkins should be folded elegantly and placed in the center of the dinner plate.

  • Silverware: Silverware is to be placed in order of use. In other words, the diner will start at the end and work his way in. The first course will use silverware farthest from the dinner plate, while the last course will utilize the silverware closest. Place all silverware an inch from the table’s edge.

  • Knives: Set knives on the table to the right of the dinner plate. Technically, one should only use a knife if one is cutting meat; however, up to three knives can be placed on the table, in order of use. Blades should face inside, towards the table setting.

  • Forks: Forks are to be set to the left of the dinner plate in order of use. In most cases, there are three: one each for seafood, the main course, and the salad. When dining formally, salads are generally served at the end of the meal.

  • Spoons: Spoons are set to the right of the knives in order of use. If there is a melon course, this spoon will be set closest to the plate with the soup spoon on the end. If there is a dessert spoon, this will be set above the plate. Coffee spoons are set on the saucer when it’s time for dessert.

  • Glasses: Glasses are set above the plate to the right in order of use. From left to right: Water glass, red wine glass, white wine glass, champagne flute (if ordered).

  • Dessert: Dessert plates and coffee/tea cups will be set out after dinner. If a fork is to be used with dessert, this will be placed on the dessert plate. A dessert spoon should have already been set above the dinner plate. Coffee spoons should be placed on the saucer. Coffee/tea mugs aren’t used for a formal dinner.

Points to Remember When Laying a Table

  • The table on which a tablecloth is to be spread should be first covered with a baize base cloth, for the following reasons:
    • To protect the diner’s wrists and elbows from the table’s sharp edges.

    • To keep the tablecloth firmly in place.

    • To protect the surface of the table and prevent the rattling of crockery and cutlery. d. To absorb moisture in case liquid spills on the table.
  • Based on the size of the table, appropriate linen should be used. The central fold of the tablecloth should be in the middle of the table and all the four edges should just brush the seats of the chairs. Soiled or torn linen should not be used. Three types of tablecloths namely cotton, linen, and damask are used. Of these, damask is the best.

  • If a bud vase is used as a central decorative piece, it should not be very large or tall as that obstructs the view of guests sitting opposite each other. Heavily scented flowers should be avoided, as they affect the flavor of the food.

  • Each cover should be well-balanced. (A cover is a space required on a table for laying cutlery, crockery, glassware, and linen for one person to partake of a meal).

  • Only the required cutlery, crockery, and glassware should be placed on the table. On a normal dining table, the space required for one cover is 60 cm x 38 cm. The cover on the opposite side should be exactly similar, to give a well-balanced look.

  • Cutlery should always be laid from the inside to the outside of the cover since the order of sequence in which they are to be used is always from outside to inside.

  • Knives and soup spoons should be placed on the right-hand side of a cover, while forks should be placed on the left-hand side. Dessert spoons and forks should be placed on top of the cover. The side knife should be placed on a quarter plate and kept on the left side of the cover. The cutting edge of all knives should face to the left.

  • Water tumbler should be kept to the right of the cover, at the tip of the large knife.

  • Napkins should be placed in the center of the cover, in between the cutlery. Normally during a dinner session, napkins are arranged in empty water tumblers.

  • Cruet sets, a butter dish, an ashtray, meal accompaniments, and a bud vase should be placed in between the covers at the center of the table.

  • Crockery and cutlery should be spotlessly clean and the glassware well polished.

  • Chipped or cracked equipment should not be used. The hotel’s monogram should be visible to the guest.

  • All cutlery and crockery should be placed about an inch from the edge of the table so that they are not accidentally tipped over.
Article Reference
  • Ann Bulleid (1996), Serving Food and Drink: Table & Function: Student Guide, Nelson Thornes.

  • Axler, Bruce H., Litrides (1990), Carol Food and Beverage Service, John Wiley & Sons.

  • Casado, Matt A (1994), Food and Beverage Service Manual, John Wiley & Sons.

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