Does It Bother You When Restaurants Quickly Clear Your Plates?
Back in 2009, The New York Times ran a two-part list, written by restaurateur Bruce Buschel, of “100 Things Restaurant Staffers Should Never Do.” Included on it were these three instructive items:
17. Do not take an empty plate from one guest while others are still eating the same course. Wait, wait, wait.
75. Do not ask if someone is finished when others are still eating that course.
76. Do not ask if a guest is finished the very second the guest is finished. Let guests digest, savor, reflect.
Solid advice, but Roberto A. Ferdman, a writer for the Washington Post’s Wonkblog who has a knack for keeping his finger on the zeitgeist, has noted an unfortunate recent trend, one he (or his clever headline writer) has dubbed “ the most annoying restaurant trend happening today”: the premature clearing away of plates, especially removing one diner’s dish from the table before his or her fellow diners have finished eating theirs.
Ferdman bemoans this abandonment of “a classic tenet of service etiquette”: “Rather than clear plates once everyone at the table has finished the meal, which has long been the custom, servers instead hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork,” he writes. “Like vultures, they then promptly snatch up the silverware — along with everything else in front of the customer. If you're lucky, they might ask permission before stealing your plate.”
The trend makes for discomfort all around, he contends. Diners whose plates are cleared feel self-conscious about their eating speed, as do the ones whose plates have not been cleared.
Are restaurants deliberately rushing diners in order to make room for other diners? Is the wait staff simply clueless? Or are servers and restaurants operating under the belief that diners want their plates cleared tout de suite, even if others at their table are still eating?
Whatever the reason, here’s hoping restaurants get the message — loud and clear — that premature plate clearing is a drag.