Metro-East Living

Clear table after everyone is finished eating

Q: When a group of us eat out, the waiters/waitresses constantly try to clear the table while others are still eating. Some of us are slow eaters while others eat more quickly. We are constantly being interrupted with “may I take your plate?” When you politely say “no,” there are others at the table still eating (hint), they keep coming back to the point that it becomes rude. I was taught that the table should not be cleared until everyone has finished. Is there some new rule that permits the table to be cleared while people are still eating that course or does the staff get extra pay for a quick clear? This is not an issue of turning the table because it also happens at a private club.

A: You were taught correctly. The proper etiquette rule remains in effect: The table should not be cleared until everyone at the table has finished. However, you are not the only person who has brought this to my attention. I, too, witness this occurring in all levels of restaurants and private clubs as well. It appears there are more and more restaurant managers and private club managers as well, who either:

▪  want to keep the dishwasher busy;

▪  keep the waiters/waitresses busy, busy, busy;

▪  do not have enough dishes and silverware and thus have to get the dishes back to the kitchen in order to have them washed and ready for the next table of guests;

▪  do not know the etiquette rule exists or choose to ignore it;

▪  do not understand how rude it is to interrupt table discussions and the process of “dining” by dictating all plates be removed as soon as any diner at the table is finished,

▪  or just “don’t get it!!!”

Regardless of why it is suddenly occurring more and more, it is time to do something about it. For example: Your quiet and polite comment to the waiter’s request to remove your plate is very appropriate: “No, please wait until the other diners at my table have finished.”

If the waiter/waitress returns a second time with a second request, your response remains the same. There should not be a third attempt. If there is, or even if there is not: after you and the members of your table get up and are about to leave the restaurant, quietly excuse yourself from your table mates and ask the hostess if you could please speak with the manager. Ask him or her if you might have a moment. Then politely explain what occurred at your table and emphasize how rude and disruptive the experience was to you and everyone at your table. Relay to her/him the etiquette rule for the proper removal of dishes and ask him/her to instruct the wait staff to follow the correct procedures in the future.

If this occurs at a private club of which you are a member, then definitely bring this to the attention of the club manager in the same manner. If the club manager is not available, then make a phone call to the manager as soon as possible. If the procedure is not corrected, then elevate your concern to the next higher echelon within the club’s management. After all, private clubs should provide, and are expected to provide, a much higher quality of service. If that quality of service is not being provided, the club manager should fix it.

Q: Is it right for a person to interfere when parents and grandparents are doing their best to discipline a child?

A: Unless the child is being abused in some manner, it is improper for anyone else to interfere when parents and grandparents are disciplining a child. This situation falls into the “Mind Your Own Business” category. Even if, unfortunately, the disciplining of this child is taking place in public and in such a manner as to draw attention to the situation, it remains very improper to interfere or say anything.

Dianne Isbell is a local contributing writer. Send your etiquette questions to Lifestyle Editor Maureen Houston, Belleville News-Democrat, P.O. Box 427, 120 S. Illinois St., Belleville, IL 62222-0427, or email them to