Entertaining Etiquette – How to Use Silver Service

Silver Service is a way in which you serve food to guests/customers. The term itself comes out of England and you may have heard it by its other name ‘English Service’. Thought to be of high etiquette standards, silver service is most often found in sophisticated restaurants as opposed to your local breakfast cafe. However, whether you are looking for new ways to serve your food in a restaurant or if you are hosting a more formal event in the home – silver service can really set the right atmosphere.

All that being said, silver service doesn’t just have to be used at formal events or more exclusive restaurants – it is a good habit to learn for any time that you are serving food to guests or customers. How to set the table and lay out the cutlery is one of the key elements of silver service, followed by the actual serving of the food.

As well as being good etiquette, silver service also makes an event (especially when you are catering for a large group) far more simple and organized as you keep to a certain set of rules. Using silver service could take a little time to learn and get used to – but at the end of the day it will rescue you from a multitude of entertaining disasters!

The first rule which you will need to learn is how the food is served and how empty plates are later cleared from the table. Try to remember that the food is served to the left hand side of the guest and cleared from the right. Imagine that you are holding a plate of carrots to serve on to the guests plate. Hold that plate in your left hand and use your right hand to serve from their left side. “Serve to the left, clear from the right”. If you run that through your head a couple of times it will soon sink in!

Furthermore, when serving you must never make contact with the customer (such as an elbow in the face!) – it is very rude to lean over a customer and if you absolutely must then first make it known by excusing yourself beforehand.

The next lesson in silver service is the use of cutlery when serving. For most, this will be the hardest part to do – but as with everything, practice does make perfect! It is perfectly acceptable to use either a spoon and a fork together or two forks – whichever you find the easiest. With one hand you will be grasping the piece of food between your chosen cutlery and placing it neatly on to their plate. As with chopsticks, there is a certain position to hold your fingers so that the spoon and fork open and close with ease – you might want to watch some videos or diagrams to see how it is done.

Once you have these essential skills you can begin to set the table for your first attempt at silver service. It is always important that all glasses and dinnerware are thoroughly clean before proceeding.

One rule of setting out the cutlery is to have the first course at the outer side and the final course will be closest to the plate. Wine and water glasses are always above and to the right hand side of the dinner plate – it is usually a set of three glasses in a triangle shape. The water glass will be at the front and the two wine glasses set behind.

Final touches could include a fabric napkin folded into the glass or on the plate – there are many fancy ways of folding, so you might want to look into those methods further.

It might sound like a big effort to make – but it will be worth it and your guests will feel extra special, appreciative of your efforts and perhaps even jealous of your skills!