Banquet Serving Etiquette

Updated July 19, 2017

Though banquet serving can seem easy for most experienced wait staff, serving etiquette at banquet events is especially important. Banquet catering is often used at the most important events of people's lives, from weddings and family reunions to bar mitzvahs and funerals. Following these simple rules for banquet serving etiquette will ensure that the guests' dining experience appropriately marks a memorable occasion.

Serve, Don't Socialize

Remember that while many banquets are lively with music, dancing, celebration and open bars, servers are there to staff the event, not to attend as guests. Never accept offers of food or drink from your patrons, and always remain polite and professional.

Serve Key Guests First

Generally, the guest of honour should be served first, followed by the women and then the men, to the host's right. Alternatively, guests can be served by order of influence and seniority with the least important individual receiving their meal last. In many modern banquet settings, servers will not have this information, or there may not be a host or guest of honour present. In this is the case and there are no specific instructions, serve women first.

Know Left From Right

Servers should approach each guest from the left side for presentation of platters of food and side dishes and for removing these items when guests have finished. Approach from the right to present and pour wine, and to serve and later clear pre-plated main courses.

Never Interrupt

Stay peripheral to guests' interactions. Part of the art of quality banquet serving is the servers' abilities to gracefully navigate any situation, from running children to distracted dancers, without drawing attention to themselves. Frequently a server will find that a table with lively conversation makes it difficult to communicate with guests. Be patient, and wait until you are sure you will not be a distraction when you refill a glass of water or remove a dirty plate.

Clean Carefully

Resist the temptation to remove dirty plates and glasses until you are sure the guest is completely finished. You will not only save yourself the hassle of answering to a confused or frustrated guest, but you will also save the time and energy it takes to replace the missing item. Proper etiquette dictates that plates should be removed from the entire table at the same time. This rule may vary according to the establishment or event at which you are serving.

Serve with a Smile

Though banquet serving can be challenging, it is ultimately one of the easiest and most enjoyable jobs in the hospitality industry. Enjoy what you do, take pride in your work, and demonstrate it with enthusiasm and a friendly demeanour. This will make the service experience most pleasant for you and for guests.

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About the Author

Sandra Phaneuf is a freelance writer with more than eight years of experience. She has been a contributing writer for "Voice of America," the "Informed Constituent" and the "Albany Student Press." Her focus is energy policy and Eastern European studies. Phaneuf has a B.A. in political science from the State University of New York and is pursuing a graduate degree in journalism.