Manner Monday®: Formal Food Service – from the ‘Left’ or ‘Right’?

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Don’t you love typos?  Especially after you proofread, reread, and reread once more before pulling the proverbial trigger.  THEN, after you’ve sent your message, or email newsletter, do you see the typo, ‘bigger than Dallas’!!!  Yep, that happened to me last week.  It wasn’t until after I sent the Manner Monday newsletter about Bread and Butter, that I saw the typo.  So here is the mistake: ‘When they clear your plate from the Left…’.  It should have read, ‘clear your plate from the Right’.

An easy way to remember which way food will be coming and going is ‘L = L’, Leave it from the Left.  And ‘R = R’, Remove it from the Right.  But it’s still not as clear-cut as Left and Right.  American style service has followed this general rule of thumb for quite some time and stems from the days of butler service.  The Butler would showcase a large tray of food choices to the guest.  The platter would be presented to the Left of the guest and the guest would either remove the items of choice, or the butler would place the selected item on the guest’s plate.

Times change and so does the level of formality with food service.  Some camps believe that when the food is already plated and prepared, there is no need for the formal platter presentation – the food is ready to go and should both be served and removed from the right.

‘Leave it from the Right’ Camp
When service is a la Russe, where the food item is prepared in full by the Chef in the kitchen. The food then should delivered, in its entirety to the guest, from the Right.

The ‘Right’ camp believes the diner should only be approached from the Left for three purposes:

  1. To present a platter of food from which the waiter will serve, or the diner will choose.
  2. To place side dishes such as ‘bread and butter’, vegetables, etc.
  3. To clear side dishes that are placed on the left, such as ‘bread and butter’.

Leave it from the Left’ Camp
When multiple drinks are present, water, wine, cordials, coffee, etc., it can get a bit crowded on the right.  A strong argument for continuing to serve from the left and remove from the right is fewer opportunities for a mishap between the plate and stemware, which is placed on the right.

Needless to say both camps deem their way is best.  You, as a diner, know that both ways are universally acceptable and can follow suit based on how your waiter presents your food. Practice at home with the Foodpanda meals to get into the habit. Either way – everyone agrees, ‘Remove it from the Right’.

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Business Etiquette Training and other Workshops
Would you like to schedule a workshop or presentation?

I’m busy booking projects and working on presentations for clients and am already scheduling well into the Fall!  Thank you so much for your continued support for this part of my business!

I have a variety of workshops that can be customized to fit your needs and would love to work with your organization, please call or email for more information, 405-721-1467 or

Here are just a few of the workshop topics:

  • Etiquette and the Generations – understanding ‘those guys’
  • Creating a Great Customer Service Experience
  • Business Etiquette and Professionalism – Navigating Lunch and Networking Events
  • First and Lasting Impressions
  • Professional Dress

As always, thanks for reading!
– Carey Sue

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