On the Line / Training / How to Set a Table in a Restaurant

How to Set a Table in a Restaurant

Salad fork. Soup spoon. Charger. What does it all mean? Here, we examine all kinds of table settings and detail how to put together a table for all manner of restaurant-goers!

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Table setting

DISCLAIMER: This content is provided for informational purposes only and is not intended as legal, accounting, tax, HR, or other professional advice. You are responsible for your own compliance with laws and regulations. You should contact your attorney or other relevant advisor for advice specific to your circumstances.

As a busser, you’re an integral part of your restaurant’s “mood setting” team. Waitstaff act as the restaurant’s friendly face, cooks craft dishes that establish ambiance, and the food itself is a reflection of quality. Bussers are quite literally the placesetters. 

They know  how to set a table and undress one in record time. And in an industry where efficiency is valued, staffing bussers who are quick and competent table setters is an asset to your restaurant. 

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Training Manual Template
icon RESTAURANT RESOURCE

Training Manual Template

Use this restaurant training manual template, a customizable Word Doc, to provide your staff with the rules, guidelines, and clarity they need to do their jobs efficiently.

Download
You must have Javascript enabled in order to submit forms on our website. If you'd like to contact Toast please call us at:

(857) 301-6002
First and Last Name is required
Phone Number is required
Restaurant Name is required
What best describes your restaurant type? is required
Yes, I’d like a demo of Toast, a restaurant technology platform.
Yes, I'd like a demo of Toast is required
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What do you need to set a table in a restaurant?

Restaurant-goers see the finished product when they sit down. Here are all the pieces that contribute to a complete restaurant table.

  1. Forks

    1. Normal fork

    2. Dessert fork

  2. Knives

    1. Butter knife

    2. Normal knife

    3. Steak knife

  3. Plates

    1. Dinner plate

    2. Salad plate

    3. Appetizer plate

    4. Bread plate

    5. Saucers

    6. Dessert plate

  4. Water glasses

  5. Kid’s cups 

  6. Glasses

    1. Wine glass

    2. Beer glass

    3. Cocktail glass

  7. Napkins 

  8. Tablecloth 

  9. Placemats

  10. Condiments 

  11. Menus / QR codes

  12. Tablecloth holders if on a patio

How to set a table in any restaurant

No matter what kind of restaurant you’re running, the first few steps are always the same. 

  1. Lay the placemat

  2. Put the dinner plate in the middle

  3. Put the napkin left of the plate

  4. Put the fork on top of that

  5. To the right, put the knife (blade up) closest to the plate, then the spoon

  6. Place the cup above the napkin and on the upper right-hand corner of the plate

How does that change in a casual dining scenario? 

  1. Lay the placemat

  2. Put the dinner table in the middle

  3. Put the salad plate on top of the dinner plate

  4. If you’re having soup, put that bowl on top of salad plate

  5. Lay the napkin left of the charger

  6. Put the fork on the napkin

  7. Put the knife right of the plate and closest to it

  8. Put the water glass directly above the knife 

  9. Put the wine glass right and slightly above the water cup. 

The same structure is used for dine-in, communal, and family-style establishments, but with slight differences. Serving sizes will change and the table itself could go from a 2 to an 8-top setup. The layout will just need to shift to give each diner the room needed to eat comfortably. 

How to set a formal table

Ready to break out the fancy stuff? When diners patronize a formal establishment, they expect nothing less. Here’s how to set a formal table. 

  1. Iron the tablecloth and place it on the table

  2. Put the serving plate in the middle of the place setting

  3. Put the bread plate top left of the serving dish. Put the butter knife blade down on top of it and with the handle to the right

  4. Place silverware to the left of the serving plate. Working from the left, go salad fork, then dinner fork

  5. Right of the serving plate, place the silverware as follows left to right: dinner knife, salad knife, soup spoon, and teaspoon

  6. Line the flatwares with the bottoms lined up level of the serving plate

  7. Put the dessert spoon right above the serving plate horizontally and with the handle facing right

  8. Sit the water glass above the dinner knife

  9. Put the white wine glass under and to the right of the water glass

  10. Put the red wine glass above and to the right of the white wine glass

  11. Put a cup and saucer over and to the right of the soup spoon

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Different types of plates

All those plates at a formal setting aren’t just a flex! They serve a purpose. To start…

  • Serving plate: Duh. This is for the main course, the dish the customer has been looking forward to since they sat down. 

  • Bread plate: This is where eaters can sit all the assortment of rolls, toasts, and other bread bits they get while in between courses. 

  • Saucer: If someone asks for a hot cup of tea or coffee, this is the place to set it. 

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Different types of cutlery 

A fork is just a fork, right? Wrong. No two forks are alike, and here’s how to tell the difference: 

  • Salad fork: Used to polish off that delicious half or full caesar. 
  • Dinner fork: Used on the main course or anything else. 
  • Butter knife: For the bread or any other dish that needs butter. 
  • Dessert spoon/knife: To break out in case you coerce the guest into ordering something sweet
  • Dinner knife: The dinner fork’s partner in crime
  • Salad knife: In the event that a piece of lettuce needs to be cut down a peg 
  • Soup spoon: To enjoy that bowl  of chicken noodle, broccoli cheese, or tomato 
  • Teaspoon: To stir the tea or coffee

Ready, Set, Go. 

A busser that can confidently name all types of plates, cutlery, and glasses is already ahead of the game. Whether you’re dealing with a newbie or a seasoned pro, take the time to acquaint your bussers with the table-setting basics before introducing your own restaurant’s unique quirks. It could be the difference between a seating delay and a smooth transition!

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