Dining Services ~ A Guide To Student Employment


The customer’s menu selection will determine the type of service that will be provided. There are two typical styles: “SERVED” means the catering crew will serve all of the meal to the guests and “BUFFET” means the guests will serve themselves through the buffet line. Serving instructions and table assignments will be given before the event starts.


Upon clocking in, the supervisor will give you a Gather Sheet. You are to get everything that is on this Gather Sheet and bring it to the location of the event. After all equipment has been gathered and delivered to the location of the event, we begin to set the tables. Sometimes, you will be asked to do other jobs while the room is being set up. These include such things as filling water glasses, setting up the servery area, or brewing coffee. Always check with a supervisor or manager if you are unsure of what to do or need a task.


The first thing that goes on the tables is the linen. We have two main types of linen tablecloths, “banquets” and “rounds.” The “banquets” are rectangular and are used for beverage tables, buffet tables, and any other rectangular tables. The “rounds” are used for the round tables that are most commonly where our guests will dine. When placing linen, pay close attention to how centered they are as well as any tags that may be sticking out.

Along with linen, there are “drapers.” Drapers are also sometimes referred to as “table skirts” that clip onto a table and hang down to keep the underside of the table from being seen. These are used mostly on rectangular tables like buffet and beverage tables.

Place Settings

A place setting consists of silverware, cups, glasses, plates, and napkins. There are many slight variations of settings that you will encounter, however, all are very similar. Set up consists of a wave-like pattern where we all start at one end of the room and place a certain item(s) on the tables as others follow with other items.

  • Silverware: Silverware is the first thing placed for a place setting. The usual setting has a knife, spoon, salad fork, dinner fork, and dessert fork or spoon. The knife is placed to the right of where the plate will be with the knife’s blade facing towards the plate. Both the salad and dinner forks go to the left of the plate with the dinner fork inside the salad fork. All three pieces of silverware must be parallel and have their bottom ends 1 inch from the table edge. The final pieces of silverware, the spoon and the dessert fork or spoon, go above the dinner plate, parallel to its top edge. The spoon is on the top facing to the left, and the dessert fork/spoon is on the bottom facing to the right. Some extra pieces of silverware, like steak knives, bouillon spoons, etc. will occasionally be added.
  • Bread & Butter Plates: Bread and butter plates are placed about one inch above the salad and dinner forks. Two butter balls are placed at the “2 o’clock” position on the plate.
  • Coffee Saucers and Cups: The coffee saucer is placed directly to the right of the knife with its bottom edge matching up with the knife’s. The cup is placed right-side up on the saucer with its handle at the “5 o’clock” position. Sometimes these are placed on the beverage table.
  • Napkins: (See diagram on page 7) The most common folds of napkins are as follows:
    “Diaper” or “Pyramid” is placed over the forks.
    “Stand-up Fan” is placed in the middle of the setting.
    “Lily-in-the-Glass” is placed in the wine glass.
    “Candle Stick” is placed in the wine glass.
  • Water Glasses: One of the last things placed on the table. It is placed directly above the knife.
  • Iced tea, Wine Glasses and Juice Glasses: Are placed to the right of the water glass directly over the spoon.

Procedures for Preparation

  • Water Glasses : Are filled full with ice and then filled with water to ½ inch from the brim. Servers are required to refill all ice tea and coffee cups when they are ½ empty.
  • Rolls : Servers should place roll baskets on each table before the guests are served their salads. The number of rolls placed in a basket usually coincides with the amount of settings at the table. When baskets are empty refill with ½ the starting number (3 or 4).
  • Beverages : Are served during the time the guests are eating their salads. Which kind of beverages and any special instructions will be given before service.
  • Pre-placed : These are items that must be placed prior to the arrival of the guest. These items may include salads or desserts.

Procedures for Serving Hot Beverages

With the coffee pot in your right hand and your left arm bent behind your back, carefully “free-pour” the coffee or hot water into their coffee cups. Leave 1/4 inch from the brim. For hot tea, the customer will select from our tea box collection. Offer tea choice BEFORE pouring the hot water. If you are uncomfortable with free-pouring you may pick the cup up by the saucer and pour.

Procedures for Serving Cold Beverages

After receiving the customer’s beverage request, place the glass on their right side next to their ice water. When a glass is ½ empty, refill by carefully pouring the beverage into the glass while it sits on the table, to 1/2 inch from the brim.

Pouring Wine

  • Obtain an extra linen napkin for bottle drippings.
  • Allow the guest to see the label of the bottle when announcing the wine being served.
  • Pour the wine into the wine glass slowly to prevent splatters and spills; fill the glass 3/4 full. When pulling the wine bottle away from the glass, turn the bottle slowly to catch the drips. Wipe the bottle opening clean of drippings. Do not allow the bottle to cling the wine glass.

Serving The Meal

  • Know how may people are seated at each table and what type of meal they have ordered.
  • When you have a table that is completely finished with their salads, clear the salads & silverware form the right side, no more than two at a time. Place plates and silverware QUIETLY in your bus tub. It is important to keep things organized in your tub. Scrape leftovers into a pile, stack the plates in one corner and the silverware in another. Also, clear all salad dressing that is on the table.
  • When all salad plates have been cleared, go to the servery switch out your full bus tub for an empty one and collect the needed meals. BE SURE TO KNOW HOW MANY PEOPLE YOU ARE SERVING AND WHAT TYPE OF MEAL THEY HAVE ORDERED. Do not stack the meals more than five high on your cart. THE HEAD TABLE ALWAYS GETS SERVED FIRST. To serve take the lids off 2 meals, leaving the lids at your cart. Place the dinner from your left hand in front of the guest, with the main entree facing the guest. Place the second dinner in your left hand, and move to the next guest, placing the dinner in front of the guest with the entree facing him/her. Remember to serve on the customer’s left side and ladies first.
  • After the entire table is completely finished with their dinner, remove the dinner plate from the right side. Clear no more than 2 dinner plates at a time. Additionally take Bread & Butter plates, Bread Basket, all silverware accept spoon and dessert fork or spoon and any additional items used only for the entrée. At times we may not wait for the entire table to be finished. Your Supervisor or Manager will let you know of this exception.
  • Return dirty plates to your cart. Place all silverware QUIETLY in the bus tub. Replace the lid on the dinner plates, and stack them on your cart again no more than five high. All other dishes should, also be placed in the bus tub in separate piles, but not to exceed the rim of the bus tub. When clearing dinner places also clear the bread and butter plates and the break basket.
  • Bus tubs are to be placed on the lower shelf of the black cart. Organized bus tubs provide a more efficient clean-up. Remember to stack items together (i.e.: soup cups, silverware, etc.) Do not throw the dirty dishes into the bus tub; this limits the breakage and the loud noise. It is our goal to be seen but not heard in this respect. Never place your black cart directly behind the guest. Be sure to change bus tubs when the dirty dishes reach the rim.
  • After your dinners have been cleared return your cart to the servery to unload the dirty dinner plates and replace the full bus tub with a clean bus tub.
  • The last served course is dessert followed by coffee service. This course is served in the same manor as the two previous courses. If dessert is in the shape of a pie the point is toward the guest.
  • After serving dessert and coffee, it is important to remember that you are not through with serving your guests. Return to the table to check if your guests need refills on coffee, tea or water or if they need anything else prior to their departure.

Order of Service

  • Beverage
  • Rolls
  • Serve salads and dressing
  • Offer beverages or wine
  • Serve entrees, announce the entrée name
  • Refill beverages/rolls
  • Serve dessert
  • Offer or refill coffee

***Always serve ladies first!***

Buffet Service

With buffet service, the food is prepared in the kitchen, then arranged on trays or chafing dishes and placed on long tables. The guests line up, take a plate, and help themselves to whatever food they may like.

Employees are assigned to stock and/or carve the meat at a buffet. It is important to follow the procedures of buffet stocking when you are assigned. See sample drawings.

Employee’s are assigned to clear tables the same as they do for a served meal.

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