Although the quality of food served remains an instrumental part of an enjoyable dining experience, the behaviour and appearance of waiting staff add to the ambience of a night out at a favourite restaurant.

Waiter etiquette is a vital aspect of the food service industry and the standards set by staff frequently reflect the overall standards of the restaurant itself. By adhering to high service levels, good table etiquette and polite manners, waiters add a positive aspect to the enjoyment of those they serve.

Appearance and hygiene

A smart appearance, good grooming and strong personal hygiene are essential qualities of a good waiter. Always wear a clean, well-pressed uniform for each serving and maintain clean hands, tidy nails and suitably styled hair. Remove jewellery or external body piercings, which can hide dirt or bacteria, and always cover arm tattoos with a long-sleeved shirt. A smart appearance isn’t about compromising your own personality; it simply shows deference and respect to clientele.

Politeness and sincerity

Be available as soon as diners enter the restaurant and greet them with a sincere but professional welcome. Always introduce yourself by name and confirm the reservation.

If a customer arrives without a reservation, suggest a drink at the bar while they wait and be helpful by taking a drinks order on their behalf.

Show your customers to their table, remembering to pull out chairs for female diners, and offer to take coats and jackets to the cloakroom yourself. Offer menus and ask permission to announce any specials on offer. Be respectful, avoid familiarity and remember to say “please” and “thank you” when addressing the customer.


Remain attentive to tables throughout each serving but not to the extent where your presence becomes an annoyance. After serving each course, return to the table once to ensure customers are happy with the quality of their food, refill glasses or take new drinks orders. Be vigilant of signals that indicate courses have ended. Always be prompt with after-dinner coffee and delivering the final bill.

Serving from the left

Etiquette demands that waiters serve food on platters from the left.

Usually, the waiter serves to the plate but in many restaurants, diners frequently take from the platter themselves so be aware of the protocol required for each individual establishment. Always serve rolls, side dishes and vegetable dishes from the same side and remove plates from the left when the diner leaves them there.

Serving from the right

Today, most chefs arrange food on plates in the kitchen area so when serving a complete meal instead of a platter, always approach the customer from the right. Present clean utensils, new plates and fresh beverages from the right but continue presenting side dishes from the left. Standard practice for clearing plates left centrally on a table is to do so from the right.