Lookin' Good at 58

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

How Do You Clear Your Table Where You Work?

Now the standard procedure for fine dining is to wait for everyone to finish eating before you begin to clear the dirty plates away off the table. But as most often the case in fine dining you have a busser or someone else to help you clear off those big tables. That busser or food runner may also at this point be able to take the dessert order and serve coffee afterwards to free you up to take care of other tables that may have been just seated.

But nowadays the waiter is usually the one on their own when having to clear a big table. They are also responsible for just about everything else excluding resetting the table for the next guest to be seated. At least where I work the busser does that part. Even then in some places the waiter may not even have a busser to do that so they have to clear , change the tablecloth , reset putting the side plates , cutlery , wine glasses , napkins etc so that the table is ready for the next group of people to come in.

On top of that I have worked in some really nice places that required me to do the bartending as well.

So any way I could I would be trying to stay ahead of the game. On a table of more than 4 people I would start clearing when just about everyone was finished. In other words if let's say 4 out of 6 were done and their plates off to the side I would start clearing so that by the time I cleared theirs' the other 2 would be putting their cutlery down and done with dinner. On real big tables I would just start clearing when I saw half were done. On a 12 for instance. Because if you ask for help there will be a strong chance everyone else would be busy doing the same thing. So why bother asking. Just start clearing.

What I have noticed is people really don't care what the rules are. In fact , even on deuces I have had one person who will be eating and the finished person will ask for the dessert menu handing me their finished plate at the same time. This shows no consideration at all.

I can only think of really high end places I have worked where the Maitre'd would tackle you if you started to clear before the complete table was finished. Those places are few and far between though and cater to a guest that is used to eating slow and enjoying a nice bottle of wine and is there for the evening. They are paying top dollar.

As for most places though it is eat and run and out in less than an hour. So clearing early and getting them onto dessert and out the door is expected not only of management because of the wait but also of the guest who is used to getting everything done pronto.

So my question to you is what is the policy where you work? Do you wait till everyone is finished eating before clearing or do you start clearing beforehand to save yourself some time or because the guest might expect it?

Your answer will tell me what kind of dining room you work in.

14 comments:

Confessions of a Waitress said...

My busser and manager to a lesser degree are incredible at clearing. It's taken awhile but I even trust my busser to tell me when he's cleared or about to clear a course so that I can keep courses fired accordingly. But, when my particular busser isn't working I have a steadfast rule and I will break your fingers if you start clearing away appetizers or salads without making me aware of it. I have a lot to do. It's not unusual for me to be stuck at one table for five minutes with wine presentations or walking them through a pretty original menu. Original meaning my chef is a bit of an eclectic. He has Italian inspired entrees right next to french I am very used to having to break down and explain my menu several times a night. So, if i'm not aware a busser has just cleared salads and i'm going through what bacon lardon lentils are they can be sitting without a fire call to the kitchen. So, my solution is to not let other people clear for me. With one or two exceptions of individual people. As for bussing tables at the end of the meal I like for everyone to be done. If the table itself has bad manners I will 'ignore' a plate until everyone is finished if a cover isn't willing to wait and gives me no choice I will clear them away but dessert menus are absolutely not delivered until everything is cleared from the table. Glassware is the only thing left on the table.

BB said...

lol I think you know what kind of a place I worked in.. as long as I kept the drinks flowing nobody cared when dishes were cleared. We were responsible for everything from greeting to sitting to clearing and cleaning tables in addition to serving duties.

Waitersfriend said...

Where I am it is always wait for everyone on the table to finish, regardless of the size of the table. As you say, most of our guests come in and pay top dollar and sit for a good two or three hours so there is no real urgency to push them out. Of course there is always the person who will begin stacking their plates up for you when only half of the table have finished - if this is the case I will remove the stacked plates immediately for fear of the restaurant starting to look like a pizza hut all you can eat buffet.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Confessions of a Waitress...yes you are in the upper echelons of fine dining. Be nice if that busser who cleared the tables knew how to fire the next course for you while you were explaining things to the guest. If I was busy I had the busser clear and fire just to keep the flow going if I was tied up and couldn't do it right away. Sounds really nice your dining room.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

BB....yes I know that feeling. Just do anything you can to stay ahead before the next people walk in.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Waitersfriend...it is nice when people can eat and enjoy themselves and each others company and pay top dollar and sit for 2-3 hours. No rush there. Nice dining room that must be.

megaphon said...

Dear Extraordinaire, thanks for answering my question on bussing tables! I did inspire you to do a full post on it, huh? ;)

Well, where I work I do everything from greeting, taking orders, answering questions on the menu, fixing all the drinks myself, whether it is coffee, soft drinks, beer or cocktails; plus I do cook the food myself, arrange it; I serve everything, bring the bill and cash it, clear the tables, do the dishes, am responsible for the music - and let's not forget sidework! We even count the money and pay ourselves at the end of the shift.

I am alone from 5pm to 8pm, then a second person comes and stays until closing, which can be at 4am (because we're considered a hip student's place). We can seat just over 70 people, so you can imagine that its a frenzy sometimes and clearing tables is a minor task, which I just have to do whenever I can. My boss says we should not take anything away unless the customers leave or order sth else. But sometimes I do not freakin care and just do it when I get to it. As most guests are relaxed, they don't mind. I consider bussers to be a gift from heaven...!

LW said...

I work in a casual sports bar with a casual dining restaurant attached.
In the bar area I clear plates as soon as the person is finished eating.
In the dining room I tend to wait for all or most of the people at the table to finish unless they have stacked the plates, have then pushed to the side, or have piled all the soiled napkins and silverware on the plate.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Megaphon...you are a one woman show for sure. It was your comment that made me think of this post so thanks for that. I have worked in places like yours where you do everything and you clear when you can. The clientele being students certainly wouldn't mind if you cleared when people started finishing.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

LW...a sports bar is fun to work as it is not formal. People just want to chill and relax. Not too worried about how the service is done just whether they get their draft beer and shots quick enough. Kind be busy like you say though. Super busy at the bar.

Confessions of a Waitress said...

It would be nice if other people could fire. But, my chef has a policy against it. He doesn't trust other servers to pace tables that aren't their own. And unfortunately my busser isn't quite ready to help with that. He could very well clear an appetizer course and trying to be helpful fire entrees without my salads being brought out. So, for now it's up to me. And, I am a bit of a control freak so I like it that way. I'm kind of conditioned to that internal clock in my head. I need to push the start and stop buttons myself.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Confessions of a Waitress..you know that is okay if you are comfortable with that. I just wanted to make sure the next course was fired. I wasn't so much a control freak as to delegate. My runner became a captain shortly thereafter in one spot. Did 38 covers and over $4,000 in one instance. But hey I got you. I just wanted to make sure there was 100% communication between me and the runner.

Elyse said...

If you ask my GM, we are to clear plates as soon as they're empty, but never rush guests. I've worked here for over a year, and still don't understand what he wants. On some days, he's angry if they put their silver down and are done and you're not on top of them pre-bussing it, on others he's scolded me for clearing tables too soon.

Usually, I clear just simply when I can. I *know* management wants to pretend we're high-class 5-star awesomeness, but we're barbecue. No one comes in to order a bottle of wine to sit and enjoy with a pulled pork sandwich. They expect the same style service that they get at Ruby Tuesday's or The Olive Garden, because that's the same price range. So I give what they want, make my money, and avoid management's beady little death-stares for cleaning too quickly.

Waiter Extraordinaire said...

Elyse...you have the right thought. If the guests come in expecting their dishes to be cleared pronto when they are done and never mind the others at the table just do that. Management sometimes are just trying to play the rules when in fact they know differently anyway. Welcome and thank you for the comment.