Service types

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‘Service’ is a term that is used to describe the manner and method in which food is served to
guests in foodservice operations. In former times this often constituted an elaborate and convoluted
protocol, much of which is no longer in vogue, notwithstanding that some technical terms
are still in use today, particularly in Europe.When food is placed directly on plates and
served to guests at the table this is referred to as service à l’assiette. When guests serve themselves
from the dish on the table with serving spoons this is referred to a service à la française. When
the waiter places the food onto the diner’s plate this is referred to as service in the à l’anglaise style. In
service à la russe, which is also known as au guéridon, the dish is first offered to the guest for
viewing or approval, and then the food is served onto the diner’s plate at a pedestal table or guéridon,
which is located close to or beside the dining table. There are essentially seven styles or methods
of service used in foodservice operations today. They are:
Plate service
Silver service
Guéridon service
Family service
Buffet service
Smorgasbord service
Cafeteria service.

Plate service (service à l’assiette)and silver service
For plate service the food is plated in the kitchen and served to the guest on the plate. (This is often
referred to as ‘American’ service.) For silver service the food is first presented on serving dishes
(which may or may not be silver nowadays) to the guest and is then portioned and transferred from
a serving dish onto the plate in front of the guest by using a service spoon and fork, which is commonly
referred to as the service gear. (This style. is also known as ‘Russian’ service if the portioning is
performed by the food server or ‘English’ service if the maître d’ hôtel assists.) Often, however, a
combination of the two techniques can be used.The main food item, e.g. meat, can be portioned
onto a plate in the kitchen and served using the plate service method and the accompaniment
can then be served at the table using the silver service technique. Interestingly, in formal Chinese
dining and many oriental banquets a modified version of silver service is used throughout each of
the eight or twelve courses. The correct service technique in this instance is to present the dishes
within each course to the guest of honor, other guests, and the host, in that order. Once presented,
these are placed in the middle of the table on a carousel also known as a ‘lazy Susan.’ The
waiter then portions and serves the food for each guest from the carousel commencing with the
guest of honor, then other important guests, proceeding to the remaining guests and the host.
Once this is done, the carousel table is cleared of dishes. At less formal banquets, however, once the
guests have been served the remaining dishes are left at the carousel and guests are allowed to help
themselves from the dishes. This then becomes similar to the family service style. (see below).
It is worth noting that, traditionally, the plate service method and other forms of table service
required food to be served from the left of the guest, and removal of empty plates to be
done from the right of the guest. This can still be observed in more traditional restaurants and in
formal service situations, e.g. state banquets.However, modern practice increasingly demands
that plates be placed and cleared from the guest’s right because it is believed that this method
causes least disturbance to the guest.As noted, silver service or service à l’anglaise is
a method of transferring food from a service dish to the guest’s plate and serving from the guest’s
left by using service gear, which is normally comprised of the serving spoon and fork and at times
fish or carving knives. A waiter must be able to master the silver service technique using only one
hand to hold the service gear (spoon and fork)while the other hand holds the service dish. It is
also worth noting that very few foodservice operations offer full silver service to their guests
nowadays.

Guéridon service (service à la russe)
The actual term ‘guéridon’ denotes a side table or service trolley (in former times, especially in
Russia, a guéridon was a sideboard) which is used in the dining room in front of guests for the service
and preparation of foods. Normally guéridon service – also referred to as ‘French’ service –
requires food to be transferred from a serving dish onto the guest’s plate on the guéridon, which is
then served to the guest. In addition, a guéridon is often used to finish off certain dishes, e.g. to flame
(flambé) them or to prepare certain desserts, or to dress salads, before being portioned and served to
the guests.

Family service (service à la française)
Family service is a very simple method of serving
food in which serving dishes are placed on the
dining table (on a carousel in the middle of the
table for Chinese service and Chinese dim sum
service), allowing guests to select what they wish
and to serve themselves. Family service style. is
predominantly used in Oriental, Middle Eastern,
and Mediterranean countries.
Buffet service
For buffet and smorgasbord service, the food is usually artistically arranged on a display table
(possibly more than one) and guests select what they wish from a range of hot and cold foods,
soups, roasts, salads, and desserts. A proper buffet service requires service staff to serve the
foods, which the guest has selected, using the silver service technique. This differs from the smorgasbord
service where guests are allowed to help themselves from the smorgasbord table. It is not
unusual, though, for many modern foodservice operations to allow guests to help themselves
from the buffet table.
Smorgasbord service
As already noted, smorgasbord service is similar to buffet service except that the guests are allowed
to serve themselves from the smorgasbord. Also, a true smorgasbord is comprised of dishes from
Scandinavian countries and features hot and cold seafood delicacies, which are often smoked or
pickled.
Cafeteria service
In cafeteria-style. service, guests select their meals from food counters, the full length of which is
known as a ‘race,’ and place these on their meal tray. These meals might be pre-bought or paid for
at the end of the race at the cash desk prior to sitting down to consume the meal. Usually, cutlery,
napkins, additional crockery and beverages are collected at the end of the race before proceeding
to the cash desk. Cafeteria-style. service can be found in on-site foodservice, which – depending
on the venue – may also serve gourmet-style. food.

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