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How to properly set a table in a restaurant

As a waiter or waitress, one of your main responsibilities is to set the table. For customers, it’s important tables are set correctly and neatly. Sitting at a messy table suggests the restaurant doesn’t really care about the comfort and service of their customers. If you want happy customers and a restaurant that looks respectable, you need to learn how to set a restaurant table correctly.


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How to set a restaurant table

There are lots of things to consider when learning how to set a table in a restaurant. Here is what we will be covering:


  • Table Mats
  • Napkins
  • Plates
  • Cutlery
  • Glasses
  • Centrepieces

Some restaurants like to have their own variations on how they set their tables, but here is the standard process.

1) Table Mats

Before placing down any mats, make sure they are all clean and wiped down. Be sure there is no food markings or dust on them.

Table mats should be positioned straight and parallel to the edge of the table. Each diner should have plenty of space to move around.

2) Napkins

Normally, napkins are folded into a triangle. A standard size napkin (a small folded square) can be folded in half to achieve the triangle shape while a larger size napkin may need to be folded in half and then folded again. Make sure the napkin is neatly folded, if it looks scrunched and creased it will look untidy.

The folded napkin is then placed on the right side of the table mat.

Some restaurants prefer to place the napkin in a wine glass.

3) Plates

Plates should be placed in the middle of the table mat and the cutlery set around it. If you are setting a small bread plate, it will be placed on the top left of the table mat. The small bread knife is placed flat on the bread knife, parallel to the edge of the table.



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4) Cutlery

Most restaurants prefer to offer two sets of cutlery for guests (starter and main course), then provide cutlery for dessert if the customer decides to order something sweet.

The dinner knife and fork are placed parallel on either side of the table mat (forks on the left, knives on the right). Then the smaller knife and fork for the starter are placed on the outside of the dinner cutlery.

If you want to set the dessert cutlery down too, the dessert fork and spoon are placed at the top of the table mat. They lie parallel to the mat, the fork lies closest with the top facing right and the spoon lies above the fork, facing left.

5) Glasses

Wine glasses are set on the right-hand side of the place mat. The white wine glass is placed above the main course knife, the red wine glass and water glass are placed behind it to form a triangular shape.

Ensure all glasses are clean and polished before being placed. Seeing fingerprints on a wine glass is unappealing.

6) Centrepieces

Centrepieces are a great way to add a little extra care and attention to your table. They are usually placed at the centre of the table. A small vase of flowers is a popular choice for centrepieces. Make sure the flowers are healthy and replace when necessary.

Important note: check the centrepiece is not too big for the table, it can make it difficult for customers to talk to each other.


Why it’s important you learn how to set a table in a restaurant correctly

A well set table reflects the professionalism of the restaurant and the server. If a customer appreciates the efforts you’ve made to create a clean and tidy dining area, they will likely provide a larger tip and become a returning customer. You don’t want to have to deal with an unhappy customer because you failed to prepare the table properly.

Even informal cafes and burger bar customers will appreciate a basic version of the normal table setting etiquette being followed. The etiquette is something everybody is used to experiencing so it adds a sense of comfort.

And just like learning how to carry plates correctly, you have to set each table to the correct standard. Don’t be surprised if you’re asked in an interview to set the table.



Along with setting a table professionally, you should look professional too

Being a waiter means you’re vulnerable to different types of workplace hazards, such as; broken glass, slippery floors, uneven surfaces and falling objects. By wearing the correct footwear you can help stay safe at work.

At Shoes For Crews (Europe) Ltd., our slip-resistant server shoes are designed for servers. The smart, professional appearance and high quality safety features are everything you need (and more) when looking for shoes for work.




Why you shouldn’t wear your favourite high street shoes for work


You’ve got many problems working as a waiter, but sore feet doesn’t have to be one of them. By wearing the right shoes for your job role, you can reduce the risk of developing painful aches in your feet. Want to know the differences between our SFC shoes and shoes from the high street, get a free copy of our latest guide.



Tags: Life @ Work
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