Restaurant Protocol

Photo: The Compleat Traveller

I always feel like I am the only one that complains about things. When there was no Internet in my New York coop, I was the only one who complained to the doorman. When we had no hot water, I was the only to call the super. When there was no heat, I was the only to call the handyman. I often wondered if the people in my building took showers, used computers, and wore their winter coats inside. 

Why was I the only one complaining? After 40 years, I never got the answer.

The same thing is happening to me in the world of restaurants. Why am I the only one complaining about busboy service? I wrote about this a year ago, and here I go again.

Every time we go out to eat, the bus boys are removing plates from our table before we finish eating. They pop out of nowhere. If you are three quarters of the way through your meal, you’d better stay alert. The minute the busboys appear, put up your hand and say “no.” If you don’t, they will clear the table before you get a chance to finish.

This has happened to us in every restaurant, and in every city. This is not an isolated situation. It’s as if there was a nationwide edict that said, “Grab those dishes as fast as possible because we are running short in the kitchen.” 

This is not my imagination. I have literally seen wait staff prematurely take plates, glasses and silverware from other patrons as well. They scream “stop,” and it ends there.  No one seems to be taking this situation up with higher authorities, like restaurant owners or associations.

This week we went to Prime Fish and Smith and Wollensky on Miami Beach. It happened at these establishments as well.  Last night the bread was removed before the dinner was over, and tonight they wanted to take away the side dishes before we completed our meal. 

I am not sure what is going on, but I would like some answers. Does anyone have a clue? 

7 thoughts on “Restaurant Protocol

  1. One of my pet peeves is stopping the waiter or bus boys from clearing the table before EVERYONE at the table is finished eating. My family knows it’s a cardinal rule at my house.
    No clearing until everyone is done eating.
    First off at a restaurant it’s very uncomfortable to be the only one left with a plate in front of you. Removing plates unbalances the table.

    The bottom line it’s a matter of training and education on good manners. Most people don’t know the difference.
    Next time someone approachs your table while someone is still eating, raise your hand and say stop! We aren’t finished.

  2. Lois, That’s funny because I always say the same thing about complaining about no hot water, TV service, internet service etc. in our bldg. I also can’t stand when they begin clearing dishes before we are finished eating. Years ago, especially in upscale restaurants ,waiters were trained not to begin clearing dishes until everyone at the table was finished eating. This protocol seems to have vanished in recent years in all restaurants. It’s so rude!

  3. Possibly the folks who abhor dirty dishes in front of them have been complaining more loudly . . . I’ve been at dinner enjoying the conversation and company only to have others at the table lean over and tell me how bothered they were no one had cleared the table . . . mind you some folks were still eating.

  4. I, too, find the clearing of plates before everyone is finished really rude! You and I may have discussed this during dinner out. I’m a slow eater (possibly I’m talking too much) and more times than not, I’m the only one left at the table with my plate in front me. Now I feel awkward, pressured to wrap it up so that they can clear my plate. It’s very annoying! When I was going to college and I worked part time as a waiter in Santa Barbara—it was one of the first things I learned as a waiter. Do not clear the table until everyone is finished. It’s one of my biggest pet peeves and I still stand my ground—at least with my plate. I think alot of people have become accustomed to it and really don’t mind—until I get on my soapbox! Can you tell you touched a nerve?

  5. PS. I think the establishment wants to “turn’ the table. If they can “turn” a table 2-3 times a night,
    they make more of a profit.

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