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Table Service

By Butler Academy


The way the table is set depends on the occasion and the type of food being served.  The convention is to place forks to the left of the plate and knives and spoons to the right.  The forks are laid with tines pointing up and the spoons have bowls up.  The base of each is about 2 ½cm  from the table edge.  Spoons and forks for dessert are sometimes laid across the top of the plate, along with the knife for cheese.  A bread plate is placed on the left side and the napkin is usually laid across it.  The napkin may also be folded decoratively and placed in the middle of the setting.

Napkins are never placed in glasses for formal settings.


Buffet tables provide the perfect excuse for impressive settings, perhaps with swags, flowers or ribbons and posies as well as a large main decoration.  All the food should be decorative too and it must be arranged for ease of access when guests serve themselves.  The buffet may be placed against a wall so that guests move along in front of the table and serve themselves, or it may be situated in the middle of a room (or with a space all around) so that the guests move around the table.  Whichever system is used, there should be an obvious starting point for serving and this is indicated by a pile of plates.  On a large table, plates may be piled at both ends so that guests can work from both directions.

If the buffet is set against a wall, then the main decoration should be at the rear and positioned in the centre.  If guests walk around the table, then a centrepiece should be placed on the table.  Make sure all the dishes are easy to reach and there are serving spoons nearby.  If there is a ham or other food which need carving, set it in a position to one side of the table so that guests do not obstruct access to other dishes while they carve.  It may be the butler’s duty to help with the carving if necessary.  It is the butler’s task to check the availability of foods, topping dishes up and tidying the buffet occasionally.

Set napkins and cutlery separately on a side table.  Large paper napkins are usually used for informal buffets.  Never use paper or plastic plates, unless it is for a children’s party.  It is also preferable to use cloth napkins than paper napkins.

One Response

  1. El-marie says:

    thanks for this information, now I know where I did wrong on my table settings. It was bothering me till now.

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