Restaurant servers putting stuff on your plate

Something of a “pet peeve” of mine, which I don’t think I have raised on SDMB before (if I have, apologies). Would be interested to know whether this strikes any chord with anyone here.

A thing which happens “more than seldom” at restaurants (by no means “palatial 5-star” ones), where I live. One’s main meal is brought, as ordered: with one’s plate(s) put in front of one, the “waitperson” then proceeds to serve helpings of the different dishes of the main meal, onto one’s plate.

I personally hate this to the point of fury – I feel that it’s being implied that I am incompetent / unqualified to, myself, put on my plate elements of the meal, in amounts which are appropriate. I want to yell at the server, “I’m not bloody three years old – I’m able to do this for myself – damn-well put the containers and serving spoons in front of me, and leave me to do it for myself !” That would, obviously, not go down well: the server, who honestly feels that they are acting in order to please and to render a service, would be hurt – and I probably would, rightly, be removed from the premises for out-of-order and unacceptable tantrum-throwing. According to mood and circumstances, I either accept the indignity, and – sometimes – inwardly seethe; or politely inform the server that I would prefer to serve myself – which seems in itself, to cause hurt and puzzlement to said person.

I’m an (English) resident and citizen of the UK; the above-described happens here mostly, though not exclusively, in Indian restaurants (food of which country, purveyed in such establishments, I truly like). I’m able to see (not wishing to come across here, as racist – just, factually, there are different cultures in different parts of the world, whose meetings are not always totally harmonious) that there is an element here, of different cultures and their attached world-views. What the sub-continent sees as attentive and conscientious service, the individualist Brits see and feel as insulting infantilising. On a good day, there should be a chance for those with these differing points of view, to express them to each other and achieve some degree of mutual understanding and acceptance; but it isn’t always a good day.

Is this above-described restaurant scene, an in whatever way “clash-of-cultures” thing anywhere else in the world, and recognisably an experience of anyone from elsewhere – or am I, and possibly my country and that other part of the world concerned, strange / unusual / “if that’s all you’ve got to worry about…” in this matter?

I’ve never encountered that, but that wouldn’t upset me, either. I’d consider it part of the service. In most places they put your food on the plate in the kitchen, so what’s the difference if they do it in the kitchen or on the table in front of you?

It’s all part of the drama that is going out to eat. No waitstaff is going to be upset if you say “I’ll take care of that” and dismiss them. But it’s nothing personal, it’s all part of the dining dance. It has nothing to do with you, really.

I have never encountered this. I think it’s very presumptuous of the wait staff to think they know how you want your food served or combined on your plate. I don’t know if it would bother me too much at first, but on repeat visits I’d have no problem saying “It’s OK. I’ll get that.”

I’ve never encountered that but yes, it would grind my gears too (I hate that really posh restaurant thing they do where they unfold your serviette and put it on your lap. Not a barbarian! Do know how these things work!)

I recommend the proactive approach. Grab the spoon before they can get to it. “Oh, this looks really tasty, thanks so much. Anything else coming, or is this it?” Big smile all the way so it’s not offensive.

I honestly can’t think of when I’ve had this happen. My favorite steak house does have the server put the condiments on the baked potato, but that’s because they don’t leave the serving piece on the table. And you can totally let them know if you want more or less or none of one of the choices.

This certainly doesn’t happen at Indian restaurants here in Panama, or any other Indian restaurant I’ve experienced, including ones in India. Servers bring what you order to the table, and leave it to you what to take.

I’ve having trouble envisioning how this happens, in fact. Does everyone at the table order the same thing, and then the server dishes out the main course, the rice, and whatever else?

In any case, I’d say it wouldn’t particularly bother me, if that was the tradition way of serving that kind of food.

I haven’t experienced this either, which makes me wonder if it’s a UK thing. Or at least a UK Indian restaurant thing.

I too am having trouble picturing exactly what is happening here. Typically in restaurants here everybody orders their individual meals, and it comes from the kitchen already on your plate, and the server simply sets it in front of you. Are these dishes being served what we’d call “family style” in the US, where they leave a big plate of food in the middle of the table for everyone to share, and dish it out onto individual plates?

Every Indian restaurant, and Chinese restaurant I’ve been in will bring the individual dishes to your table, and then it’s up to the table how to dish it out.
Some people may not want beef vindaloo, and others may not want curried shrimp, for example.
It’s so individual that I can’t even imagine how else it would work.

I’ve experienced it before, but it is not common. Perhaps it was even in the UK that it happened to me. I may have been annoyed at the time, but it is rare enough that I haven’t thought much about it.

A related practice is bringing a bottle of beer and pouring it into a glass at the table. Usually it’s not a problem, but if the server doesn’t know how to properly pour a beer, then I’m left with a glass of foam and a mostly full bottle. I blame management.

…thats called silver service. I remember getting taught it in Hospitality school and it wouldn’t surprise me if it was taught as standard at hospo schools around the world, however the only place we ever actually used it was when I worked at Parliament. (And bread rolls! Almost everywhere I worked we used the fork-and-spoon methods to deliver bread rolls to guests.) I would think its a Commonwealth thing, so it doesn’t surprise me that its common place in Indian restaurants. More here.

I’ve seen this in Chinese restaurants when ordering collective dishes from a set menu.

We have a small preference for doing taking care of ourselves, and it’s never been a problem to simply tell the server “we’ll take care of it thanks”

A million years ago, when Mr VOW was SGT VOW and we lived in Germany, my mother and my sister came over for a visit. We traveled as much as we could, and while staying in AFRC Garmisch, we went out to eat at a restaurant nearby. SGT VOW and I ordered our favorite schnitzel. I don’t remember what my sister ordered, and my mother wanted to try the knockwuerst.

After waiting a bit, our meal was served. My husband and I received our schnitzel plates which also contained whatever accompaniments came with them. The plates were set before us in a standard, straight forward way

My mother got her knockwuerst. To everyone’s surprise, the grilled wuerst was longer than the diameter of her plate. And she received nothing else.

Then the server brings this great domed dish. He lifts the cloche, then proceeds to serve my sister with two huge silver, real silver, serving spoons. He carefully removed the entree and put it on her plate. Her two sides were peas and potatoes. The potatoes were cut like krinkle-cut potato chips, and they had been fried.

The server was a very young man, and I don’t think he had been serving very long. He wasn’t proficient with the two serving spoons. He ended up serving almost each pea and each potato chip, because he couldn’t seem to scoop up anything but small pieces. I will confess that the peas were most uncooperative for they kept rolling away from him.

My husband and I weren’t paying too much attention to the server. We were busy looking at my mother. Momma felt slighted, because the rest of us had full plates of food, and she had…a knockwuerst. Momma would glance at her plate, turn and watch the poor server delivering indivual peas to my sister, and then she would look down at her single weenie, and glance at us, almost looking like she could cry for being so left out.

My husband and I were trying to stop the giggles, and failing badly. Momma amped up her little performance of looking at her plate, then watcging the server chase peas around the serving dish.

My sister was MORTIFIED, because it was HER meal getting this attention by the server. She knew what Momma was doing. She was embarrassed as only a teenager can be. She blushed and squirmed and looked like she wanted to crawl under the table.

The poor, poor server probably wanted to die. He could sense my sister’s discomfort, and thought it was his fault. He could hear my husband and me giggling and snorting, and thought we were laughing at him.

We were laughing at Momma.

Momma ordered a side of sauerkraut. (She said it was terrible, but the knockwuerst was beyond delicious.) I think my sister choked down a few bites. My husband and I straightened up and behaved, and ate our meals.

And we left that poor server a handsome tip

I’ve only experienced it a Brazilian steakhouses where they bring around skewers of meat and slice off a piece for you. But they always ask before dropping the filet mignon off on you.

Sides and salads are strictly on you to serve yourself.

I’ve encountered silver service before here in Canada. Only a few times, and always at high-end places. It’s an interesting experience, to say the least.

Silver service, otherwise known as table service, is common at some of the more expensive restaurants in Switzerland.

Typical dishes served this way would be an entire baked fish plus spinach and potatoes, as this would not all fit on a normal plate. The fish and sides are brought out on a cart and the waiter serves the person and then refills the plate as desired. The waiter ALWAYS asks what the person would like. This is also done if multiple people order the same dish.

. The Old Swiss House actually fries the wienerschnitzel at the table (Waitress Preparing Wiener Schnitzel at Table). Also common when ordering Zürcher Geschnetzeltes.

I’ve had it happen a few times at Thai or Chinese restaurants in the US. Those were often also places that would box up your leftovers for you rather than just giving you some boxes.

It never bothered me to be served. It has bothered me a tiny bit to have the server box the leftovers, because I might not want everything.

That when they do it in front of you, you have more control over it. You can ask for more of this or less of that.

The OP reminds me of that Doper who considered that plating your family’s food is “servile”. Definitely a culture clash.

I’d hate it. I don’t want that kind of attention focused on me, ever. If I was in the position of VOW’s sister in her post above, I would be fighting the urge to get up and leave.

UK person, big fan of all types of ethnic restaurants where communal eating is the rule, i.e. Chinese, Indian, Thai etc.

Never had anyone spoon stuff onto my plate and would stop them if they tried. Same with wine, water, beer etc. Bring the stuff to the table and I’ll take it from there.
I’ve been in posher restaurants where they’ve tried to take the wine away until refill time, that isn’t going to happen and I’ve had to tell them to leave it on the table.