6 Steps of Service for Fine Dining: Make Your Guests Feel Royal

Marketing 21 minute read 14th September 2023

Fine dining is a staple in both celebrating happy moments and business. People want to feel like royalty when enjoying birthdays, achievements, weddings, and anniversaries. Other times, people just want an upscale place to eat occasionally. However, you can’t provide this experience by following the casual restaurant routine. That’s why you need to learn the steps of service, fine dining edition.

You don’t want your customers to have a bad experience at your restaurant, especially if you offer fine dining. Therefore, your presentation must be impeccable from start to finish.

This type of serving may seem complicated, but you do not have to worry. In this article, we’ll cover the fine dining steps of service so you can easily understand them. Before we discuss the steps, let’s cover the basics. Knowing proper service etiquette ensures your fine dining establishment provides the best guest experience. Let’s get started.

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Fine Dining Etiquette for Servers: How Should You Behave With Guests

It goes without saying, but casual and fine-dining establishments are not the same. Guests don’t enter a fine dining venue just for the food. They’re there for business or to celebrate and enjoy a special experience. Not realizing this difference can ruin your guests’ experience. That’s why understanding fine dining etiquette for servers is crucial.

Fine-dining restaurants are among the most popular types of restaurants. They are more formal and pay strict attention to every detail. As its name suggests, casual dining is informal and more open to relaxed eating. Let’s see how you should act in a refined dining atmosphere.

Fine dining restaurant service starts from the moment the customer walks in. Exceptional restaurant customer service is fundamental to fulfilling your customers’ expectations, so you should have the right attitude. Greet each person warmly and politely with a phrase like, “Good evening, welcome to (name of restaurant).”

Always ask for special orders in advance, such as drinks and cakes or anything else they would like tableside. Ask your customers if they are celebrating a special occasion and go the extra mile. For example, you should offer birthday well wishes and perhaps a dessert on the house for a birthday celebration.

Alternatively, if you have a table of serious businessmen and women, your table service should be equally professional. Pay close attention to context clues to determine whether you should be more reserved so as not to interrupt their meeting. Knowing your audience or customer base is key to providing the best fine dining service experience.

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Fine Dining Service: How To Set the Table for Guests

In many fine dining establishments, preparing dining tables is a crucial step in adding to your elegant ambiance. You may have tasty food, but a well-set table in your dining room goes a long way. Your restaurant’s server station must also have all the essential items and knowledge for superior customer service.

Here’s everything you need to dress your table:

  1. Table covers: A good setup begins with the perfect base, so let’s start with table covers. Your tablecloth must be large enough to cover all sides of the table evenly. Make sure your linens are fresh, clean, and pressed before the start of every service shift. When it’s time to turn over your table, make sure you leave it spotless for the next customer.
  2. Placing the dishes: Place the dinner plate in the center of the setting and the bread plate on its top left side. You can also place the soup bowl on top of the serving plate.
  3. Placing the utensils: Now place the forks on the left side of the plate and knives and spoons on the right side. The soup spoon comes at the far right, while the dessert fork and spoon come horizontally above the plates. Also, set the dessert fork at the top of the dessert spoon.
  4. Placing the glassware: Arrange the glassware above the knives and keep it close to the plates.
  5. Placing napkins and centerpiece: Fold the napkins neatly and put them on the plate. You can also add a small centerpiece to the table. We recommend keeping it minimal so it acts as the cherry on top, not a distraction.

A well-set table contributes to the overall dining experience, so don’t overlook these detailed touches.

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Six Steps of Service for Servers: How To Serve in a Fine Dining Restaurant

After understanding the basics of table settings, let’s move on to learning how to serve in a fine-dining restaurant.

Paying more always comes with expecting more. Therefore, you need to give your guests an unforgettable experience. Avoid making the wrong serving moves if you work in the formal or fine dining restaurant industry.

These six steps of service for servers ensure your guests are satisfied and feel like royalty.

1. Warmly Greet Your Guests

Your first interaction with the guest will set the tone for the rest of the dining. Therefore, greeting is the most influential step of service in fine dining.

First, a server must attend to the guests with a warm smile and professional gestures. Do your best to have good posture and look confident yet friendly. Greeting with “Good evening, ma’am, or sir” is a common practice. Then, ask them about their day, but don’t get too clingy. Read the signs, whether the guest is interacting warmly or formally, and proceed accordingly.

Tell them about the day’s specials and drinks, and answer any questions swiftly. The best fine dining servers know that you’ll need a thorough knowledge of the menu to make dining suggestions.

2. Take Orders in the Correct Order

Good listening skills are essential when taking orders. After you have explained the menu to the guests, wait for a moment and let them decide. Answer any questions they have about the ingredients or a particular dish.

Servers take orders in various ways, so you’ll want to check with your manager for any rules they prefer you follow. The key here is consistency. For example, start taking orders from the same seat position every time someone sits at your table. Then, go clockwise around the table until all orders are taken.

Be patient; don’t interrupt the guest, and always repeat what the guest is ordering, as it reduces the chance of mistakes. Additionally, asking for food allergies or dietary restrictions shows your dedication to their enjoyment and safety.

In addition to seating orders, you should also take orders by course. For example, ask your customers if they want hors d’oeuvres. Then, follow with appetizer, salad, main course, and dessert orders. Depending on your establishment you can take orders for all courses at once. Or take orders for the first four courses and then ask for dessert when you clear dinner plates. Some guests enjoy dessert after dinner, while others fill up and have no room for extras.

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3. Consistently Check In With Your Guests

Be attentive and return regularly to check if your guests need anything. Don’t skimp here—this is one of the most essential fine dining service steps.

Properly time your appearances. Don’t come by too frequently, but if your guests call, make sure to get there in a timely manner. Follow the minute rule here and respond to the customer within a minute of any request. Additionally, you or the busser should remove used dishes and place new ones after every course.

In case of mishaps, such as the guest not liking the dish, try to resolve the issue confidently. If the guest asks for a replacement, do it with a sincere apology.

Of course, sometimes you’ll encounter a difficult customer or someone who is unhappy with an aspect of their experience outside of your control. If anything like this happens, address it calmly and politely. Never raise your voice or respond with anger, even if it feels warranted. Involving the restaurant manager in the worst scenario will maintain the restaurant’s decorum.

4. Present the Check Promptly

Wait a few minutes after your guests have finished their meal and remove their dishes. Then you can present the bill. This slight wait may seem unimportant, but it allows your guests to settle post-meal and not feel rushed.

Hand the check holder politely to your guests. You can also let them know you are leaving it on their table and to take their time. If you hand the check holder directly to your customer, do so with two hands, as this gesture conveys respect.

Assist guests with any concerns regarding the cost and respectfully answer their questions. If you use a digital payment format like QR codes, ask if your guest needs assistance.

5. Thank Your Guests

After collecting payment, thank your guests for dining with you. Again, this will show your professional attitude and dedication. It also encourages the guest to return for another visit.

If you want to ask for feedback, now is the time to do so. Ask your guests, “How was your dining experience in our restaurant?” Or, you can ask if the experience met their expectations.

You want to ensure your customers have the best experience possible. Plus, a positive experience is the best kind of restaurant marketing. If your guests have a five-star experience, they are likely to recommend your restaurant to their friends and family.

6. Clean and Reset the Table Before the Next Guest Arrival

The last step of service in fine dining is cleaning the table. Although it may seem simple, it requires proper handling.

Start by clearing the table of any plates or glassware remaining. Remove the dishes and other cutlery quietly and quickly without disturbing other diners.

Try not to drop anything, and also check the tablecloths for stains. If you find any, replace the tablecloth and wipe and sanitize the table underneath. Last, check the floor to ensure there’s no leftover food or dirt.

Fine Dining Server Tips for Top-Notch Service

Behavior and manners are building blocks of professionalism, especially in fine dining service. Correctly approaching the guest speaks volumes about your restaurant’s service. Want to know more? Let’s cover fine dining server tips to ensure your service is always bar none.

Make Sure to Take Orders Correctly

We covered the order to take food requests earlier. However, it goes without saying that you want to make sure you get those orders to the kitchen correctly, too. Repeating orders back ensures you wrote your customer’s order accurately. If your restaurant is equipped with handheld POS systems, it’s an additional way to get orders right. Take advantage of technology when available.

What Side Do You Serve From in Fine Dining?

As a rule, you never want to reach across your guests to serve the table. If you’re wondering what side you serve from in fine dining, always operate from the guest’s left side. This avoids interruption if your guest is right-handed.

However, if you notice someone eating with their left hand, flip this rule and serve from the opposite side.

There are exceptions based on service style. For example, if your establishment offers French or Russian service dishes, they are presented tableside and served from the guests’ left.

If you’re still unsure, it’s best practice to ask a manager about your establishment’s serving preferences.

Be Mindful of How You Handle Glassware

Drinking glasses easily show fingerprints, so remember to hold glasses with caution. Serve stemmed glassware by the stem and other non-stemmed glassware towards the bottom of the glass. Additionally, when you serve meals, hold plates from the corners to avoid fingerprints.

It’s also smart to familiarize yourself with standard practices. For example, if you serve wine, pour a small amount for the person who ordered the bottle or glass. Allow them to taste it. After they let you know that they enjoy it, present a full serving.

You should also know nuances like the differences between a red wine glass, a white wine glass, stemmed water glasses, etc.

Exercise Patience But Stay Attentive

Sometimes, fine dining service is a waiting game. Especially if your establishment offers multiple courses. It’s best practice for your guests to complete one course before serving the next one. Also, you don’t want your guests dining at different times. In multiple guest gatherings, serve all the guests simultaneously if possible.

Offer an Explanation

Have you ever ordered a meal, and when it arrived, it didn’t look like what you expected? Sometimes, this happens, so you should mention each dish out loud as you serve it. This ensures the order is correct. You can also go the extra mile by highlighting the primary ingredients of a dish and explaining why it’s a specialty.

Always Exude Gratefulness

At the end of the day, your customers have the option to dine anywhere. Their patronage means tips in your pocket. Excellent service conveys that you are thankful for their business. Additionally, as previously mentioned, offering the best fine dining experience means your guests are likely to return.

Improve Your Reputation by Mastering the Steps of Service – Fine Dining Edition

We hope you know feel confident about carrying out the steps of service of fine dining. You should pay attention to every detail, from when your guests sit at your table to when they leave. This level of service sets a fine dining experience apart from a casual one.

Remember, don’t lose your confidence if you are struggling at any point. Take a deep breath and refocus on these rules. Remember, a satisfied customer means repeat patronage and positive word-of-mouth advertising for increased footfall.

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