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Silver Service Procedures | The Ultimate Guide for Restaurants | SOP


Silver service is a type of service that adds a certain amount of style to an occasion. If it is done well with flair, customers will be impressed and think very highly of your restaurant. In order to become proficient at silver service, you must practice, preferably not on customers. One of the best places to practice is at home. You can very easily silver serve dinner to your family every evening to become comfortable and efficient at this technique. This will ensure that you will not be nervous when you serve customers and that they can enjoy the ceremony of having the beautifully presented food on the service platter transferred to their own plate.


In a restaurant the food is taken to the customer’s table on a serving platter called a flat. You will already have placed hot dinner plates on the table. The food is then transferred from the presentation platter to the dinner plates with the use of a fork and spoon, two forks or even two spoons depending on the type of food that is being served.


Some restaurants may use a part silver service, where they may only serve particular items such as the bread or maybe the vegetables that accompany a main dish.


When providing silver service at a banquet, it is very important to work very quickly, as you will be serving 10 –12 people and the food must be served hot to all of them.


A variation of silver service is called Gueridon service. In this case, a trolley is placed next to the customer’s table and food is served onto plates from this trolley. Gueridon service also refers to cookery at the guest’ table. In this case the waiter will do the actual cooking of a dish next to the customer. Popular Gueridon dishes include Crepes Suzette and Steak Tartar.

It is extremely important to follow all relevant health and safety principles and food hygiene principles. You must also be comfortable with silver service techniques in order to provide service that meets customer’s expectation.


Developing Efficient and Organised Work Habits

Providing silver service in a restaurant calls for staff to be very organised and efficient in all work practices. You must have a work plan in order to work efficiently and ensure customer satisfaction at all times. All staff members must know all procedures and organisational requirements. You must be aware and have a good knowledge of all service procedures and be comfortable carrying them out.

Always work within specified areas to avoid disturbing the workflow of others.

Plan your work to avoid unnecessary movement. E.g. if you are going to the bar or kitchen, never go empty handed – there is always something that needs to be removed from the restaurant.

Organise your work area to establish an efficient workflow. Always have all service items and equipment ready for use to avoid unnecessary trips.

Always clean as you go and go as you clean, as this will avoid unnecessary cleaning and time wasting at the end of your shift.

All preparation areas should be kept clean at all times.

Smooth workflow and following of organisational requirements will ensure that customers are satisfied at all times. Customers expect efficient and organised work practices and good service at all times. This ensures that they will return and hopefully advertise the establishment through positive word of mouth advertising.

Remember that in restaurants there are sharp implements such as knives and waiter’s friends and hot and heavy service equipment which must all be treated with the utmost care at all times.

In the case of silver service, you must always take the greatest care in serving the customers to avoid spilling or dropping any of the food that you are serving on the customers.

It is also important to remember to cause the least amount of disturbance to customers, especially as you are working very close to them. Try not to lean on or over the customers or hover for too long.

The longer you take in silver serving the more chance there is of the food cooling down, so you must work quickly and efficiently at all times.


Getting Ready for Service

Tips: Before attempting to silver serve food to customers, you must be prepared. (mise-en-place) All your service items and equipment must be clean, undamaged and positioned ready for service.


Service items and equipment


  • Includes any type of dish that food will be served in such as bowls for soup or semi flat dishes for vegetables.


Service cutlery

  • This will be a fork and a spoon, two forks or two spoons, depending on the type of food you are serving.



  •  All types of dishes, cloches (domes to put over food to keep it warm), sauce boats etc.



  • This includes plates, bowls and other items that customers are served food upon.


Liners or flats

  • These are the large, generally oval dishes, usually stainless steel that the food is presented on to the customers.


Service cloths and other linen

  • This must all be clean and without holes or tears. You will use a service cloth under the flat or platter you are carrying to stop it from slipping and to protect your hands from the heat generated from the platter.


All service items and equipment must be inspected before use to check that:

  • they are clean
  • they are free from chips, cracks and other damage
  • they are polished, especially the silver that must not be tarnished. Silver must be cleaned properly on a regular basis in order to keep it shining
  • linen must not be torn, stained, frayed, or have holes in it.
  • linen is neatly pressed.


Placement of all service items and equipment is extremely important.

  • Most items will be stored on a sideboard or service station.
  • You must have enough of each item to last throughout service.
  • Items such as silver service cutlery may be kept in the kitchen close to where you will collect the food. You will need a new set of service cutlery each time you take a platter of food to the restaurant.
  • Hot plates will be brought from the kitchen or you may have a plate warmer situated next to your waiter’s station.
  • Waiter’s cloths must be folded and ready for use according to organisational requirements.


Meeting Customer Requirements

As in all hospitality establishments, we must remember that the customer is king and he/she expects to be treated accordingly. If he/she is not treated properly, he/she will not return, nor will he recommend the establishment to anyone else.


Most customers will always order from the menu they are presented with, but you will always come across someone who wants an item that is not on the menu for a variety of reasons:

  • Special dietary requirements
  • Vegetarian
  • Vegan
  • Lactose intolerant
  • Low fat diet
  • Gluten free diet
  • there is nothing the person likes on the menu
  • the customer has a craving for an item not on the menu
  • the customer is very fussy

At all times it is important to try and meet the special requirements that customers may have. Generally this will be possible, but it takes a little patience and time on the part of the waiting staff. It is important to make sure that you know exactly what the customer wants. If it is a special requirement, you do not want to get the order wrong. You will need to liase with your supervisor and also the chef in the kitchen. Your supervisor will need to be advised, especially if there is to be a price difference, due to an extra ordinary item being served. You will have to talk to the chef to determine whether he/she is able to meet the customer’s request.


Customers may have other requirements that are not food related:

  • a quiet table for a romantic dinner
  • a quiet area for a business meeting
  • a table where there is room for a wheelchair or pram
  • a birthday cake
  • a smoking/non smoking table
  • a window table
  • a round table.


When providing silver service to customers, it is important to take special note of customer’s requests, and listen to them as you work around the table serving. Not all the customers will want everything that you are serving – they may not want as much as has been portioned out to them. If they require more, then you may have to check with the kitchen about availability.


At all times we should try to satisfy the customer’s requirements, and if there is an extra cost involved, the customer must be informed at the time of the request.


Food Service

Types of food:

  • Soups

  • Bread rolls

  • Sliced meat, poultry or game
  • Rice
  • Tarts
  • Puddings
  • Desserts
  • Cheese
  • Vegetables
  • Gravies and sauces


Using service cutlery

  • Hold the spoon and fork in you right hand (left, if you are left-handed), with the fork in the spoon, both facing upwards
  • The palm of the hand and all the fingers must be over both handles. This must feel comfortable.
  • Insert your first finger halfway between the spoon and the fork handles. This will act as a lever so you can open and close the spoon bowl and the fork prongs.

how to use fork and spoon in silver service

To serve larger items such as bread rolls, stuffed tomatoes and roast potatoes, you should turn the fork around. This will give you a better grip. The cutlery will also curve around the food so it will be more secure when you are serving it.


If you are serving large soft items such as an omelette or large whole fish or fillet, then you should use two fish knives. Hold the fish knives the same as the spoon and fork, and splay them out to give you better support for the item.


Service procedure

Placing the plates

  • If the food served is hot, the plates must be hot. If the food served is cold, the plates should be cold.
  • Hold the pile of plates on the palm of your left hand, on a service cloth. This should have one end wrapped around and over the top of the plates.
  • As you approach the customer, take the plate by the rim and place it in front of the customer from the right hand side.
  • Do not put your thumb on the rim of the plate.
  • If there is a company logo, make sure it is at the top of the setting facing the customer.



  • Before you start serving, you must be aware of what the portion size is per customer. This will be determined before service by the chef according to organisational requirements.
  • There will be a set amount of each vegetable and meat per person, e.g.: 2 spoons of peas, 3 carrots, 2 slices of meat, and 1 roast potato per person.
  • The meat will generally be grouped probably with a piece of garnish.
  • You will get better at judging how much you should give people.
  • You should determine the customer’s requirements before you start serving.
  • Do not decrease portions as you move around the table.


Presenting the food

  • At the sideboard or waiter’s station you should remove the cloche (food cover), if there is one. Be careful to tilt it slightly so that any condensation caught under the lid will not drip on the tablecloth or the food.
  • Your service cloth should be folded and laid along your arm under the whole dish.
  • The platter is carried in your left hand, your service cutlery in your right hand.
  • Present the entire dish to the table of customers before serving, so that all the customers can admire the dish.
  • Always silver serve from the left. Step toward the customer with your left foot between the customers. Bend forward so that the platter just overlaps the customer’s plate. Do not touch the plate, keep it about 2 –3 centimetres above the plate. It is best to bend your knees, not your back.


Serving the food

  • Serve the guest to the host’s left first.
  • The main item is served first and placed closest to the customer, on the lower centre of the plate. The main item may be meat, fish, poultry or a vegetarian item.
  • The potatoes are served next to the top right of the plate.
  • The vegetables are then served at the top left.
  • Gravy or sauce is served last.
  • Gravy and sauce is usually served from a sauceboat.
  • The gravy boat rests on an underplate in your left hand with the lip of the sauceboat facing the customer.
  • Follow the service technique for food.
  • Hold the service spoon in your right hand.
  • Fill the spoon by moving it across the sauceboat towards you.
  • Pour the sauce over the food by moving the spoon away from you. Let the sauce glide over the food.
  • Do not cover the food more than 1/3.
  • Other accompaniments such as mustard and applesauce are served to the left of the main item.
  • Do not serve food onto the rim of the plate.
  • Positioning of food must be the same for all guests and must be worked out beforehand.
  • When you are serving a dish that has pastry, portion the pastry first, then spoon the filling onto the plate. Finally you place the pastry crust on the dish.
  • When serving sweet or savoury flans, always place the point of the flan towards the customer.
  • You should always ask the guest if they would like sauce, gravy, cream or any similar accompaniment. Do not assume they would like it.
  • Always keep the serving cutlery above the serving dish to avoid drips.
  • Move to the right around the table.
  • The host is always served last.


Serving the Soup

  • Soup is best served from a side table of Gueridon.
  • On the table make sure you have the soup tureen, soup ladle, enough soup plates and under plates to serve the table.
  • Hold the soup plate in your left hand; ladle in your right hand.
  • Gently spoon the soup into the plates and garnish as appropriate.
  • Gently place the soup plate with under plate in front of the customer.


Surplus Food and Used Equipment

When you have finished silver serving food, you may often have a surplus of food. This may be because more was on the platter than was actually required, or a guest did not wish to have the full portion allocated to them.


In the case of surplus food, you should return the food to the kitchen as soon as you have finished serving the table and then you must follow organisational requirements regarding the disposal of the surplus food. After the service of food, you will also have used service equipment. This equipment must be dealt with immediately by returning it to the kitchen or wash up area. You should not leave any dirty or other used dishes in the restaurant and in view of customers. Your sideboard or waiter’s station should always be clear of all used equipment. This will make the whole restaurant look neat and tidy. Remember that the overall appearance of an establishment is very important.


Clearing Finished Courses

Courses include:

  • Soup
  • Starter
  • Main course
  • Dessert


  • When the whole table has finished eating, it is time to clear the table. This will be apparent when all customers have placed their cutlery together on their plate. If you are in doubt, check with the customer if he/she has finished.
  • Start clearing with the person on the host’s left, moving around the table to the right, finishing with the host.
  • Stand to the guest’s right, lean forward and pick up the plate with your right hand.
  • Move away from the guest and transfer the plate to your left hand.
  • Grip the plate with your thumb on the rim and your first and second fingers underneath.


clearing procedure in silver service

  • Point your third and fourth finger upward to form a platform.
  • Prevent the cutlery sliding around by placing your thumb on the end of the fork handle.
  • Place the knife under the fork pointing in the opposite direction.
  • Move onto the next guest and pick up his/her plate with your right hand.
  • Transfer the plate to your left hand onto the platform created by your third and fourth fingers and forearm.
  • The fork is placed next to the fork.
  • Use the knife to scrape the food scraps onto the first plate. Then place the knife under the forks next to the other knife.

restaurant clearing procedure in silver service

  • Clear the rest of the table the same way.
  • When you have finished, take the dirty dishes to the kitchen or wash-up.


Clearing Side Plates

At the same time as the main plates:

  • Continue around the table a second time
  • Pick up the side plates and knives with your right hand
  • Place all the side plates on the pile of plates that are supported by your arm.
  • Use the knives to move left overs onto the first dinner plate.
  • Place the knives on the first plate with all the other knives.
  • Continue until you have finished clearing the table.
  • After you have cleared and taken all the dinner plates to the wash-up, return to the table with one clean dinner plate. Use this plate like the first clearing plate to put leftovers and knives onto this plate.
  • Collect all side plates in the same manner as dinner plates.
  • If you are clearing odd shaped plates, only clear what you can carry in two hands. Do not try to stack plates as they may fall.


Clearing Soup Bowls and Underplates

  • Soup bowls can be quite awkward to clear, due to their sometimes-unusual shape. If there is also an underplate, you must follow the procedure:
  • The first bowl and underplate are held like the dinner plate.
  • The next bowl and underplate are place on the platform created by your fingers and forearm.
  • Place the spoon from the first bowl into the second bowl.
  • Place the second bowl with the spoons into the first bowl.
  • The underplate from the second bowl stays on your forearm.


Clearing the Table

  • After clearing each course you must clear all the crockery and cutlery that the customer no longer needs.
  • After entrée remove the entrée cutlery that has not been used.
  • After the main course, make sure that all the side plates have been cleared.
  • Remove the cruets and other condiments.
  • Remove all other crockery that may have been used such as finger bowls, extra plates and butter plates.
  • Remove breadbaskets if they have been used.
  • Remove any main course cutlery that may not have been used.
  • If the dessert cutlery is not already on the table, you will have to set the table for dessert.
  • Carry the cutlery on a plate and place the cutlery on the table according to organisational requirements. The fork on the left and the spoon on the right.
  • Do not lean in front of guests when laying down the cutlery. Go to both sides of the customer to place the dessert cutlery.
  • Make sure that ashtrays are also changed when there are a maximum of 2 butts in the ashtray. This must be done continually during service. Some people may wish for you to take the ashtray away during the courses.
  • Once the dessert plates have been cleared you should remove everything from the table except for glasses that are being used, decorative items and ashtrays.
  • At this point you should ‘crumb down’. Use a folded napkin to brush all the crumbs from the table onto a plate. At this time you should also remove any other food debris and waste such as cigarette packets and wrappings from the table.
  • Coffee may be served after the dessert. You will then need to bring sugar, milk and all other items associated with the service of coffee, tea and hot chocolate.
  • All table clearing and removal of crockery, cutlery and service items should always be removed, replaced and checked according to organisational requirements.
  • Continue around the table until you have finished.


Do you offer silver service in your restaurant? Please leave us a comment on how you find it. If you would like training for your team, give us a shout. 


Warm Regards, 


Samkeliso Nkwnayane

Hospitality Coach, Speaker & Consultant