american service

Table of Contents

The dining experience is a crucial aspect of culture and social interactions, with various styles of service reflecting the customs and values of societies around the world. One widely adopted and influential service style is the American Service, which emphasizes efficiency and practicality. In this article, we will explore the origins, characteristics, advantages and disadvantages of American Service, along with table setting procedures and guidance on how to effectively serve using this approach. By understanding the nuances of American Service, both hospitality professionals and diners can enhance their dining experience and better appreciate the influence of this style in contemporary restaurants and events.

What is American Service?

American Service, also known as Plated Service, is a popular dining style in restaurants and establishments around the world. This method involves serving guests with their food individually plated in the kitchen, with each dish pre-arranged by the kitchen staff. When the plate is ready, servers bring the dish to the guest’s table and place it on their right-hand side.

The focus of American Service is to provide a quick and simple dining experience, with an emphasis on efficiency and practicality. This style of service stands in contrast to other styles, such as French and English Service, which offer a more formal and elaborate dining experience.

The History of American Service

The American Service dining style has its roots in the rapid growth of the restaurant industry in the United States during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. As urbanization and industrialization transformed American society, a demand for quick and efficient dining options emerged. Traditional European service styles, such as the Silver Service, were considered too time-consuming and labor-intensive for the fast-paced American lifestyle.

To meet the changing needs of the dining public, restaurant owners and managers began to look for ways to simplify and streamline the service process. The American Service style was born out of this need for efficiency, with the kitchen staff plating the food before it reached the guest. This approach allowed for faster service and reduced the number of staff required to serve guests.

By the mid-20th century, the American Service style had become the dominant mode of table service in the United States and beyond. Its popularity grew as diners came to appreciate the speed and simplicity of the dining experience it offered. Today, American Service remains a popular choice in a wide range of dining establishments across the globe, from casual eateries to upscale restaurants.

Characteristics of American Service Style

1. Efficiency and Speed

One of the most defining features of the American Service style is its focus on efficiency and speed. Food is pre-plated in the kitchen, ensuring a quicker and more streamlined service. This characteristic is particularly appealing in fast paced environments like restaurants and coffee shops, where guests value prompt service.

2. Simplicity

Another key aspect of American Service is its simplicity. Unlike other service styles that require elaborate table settings and multiple courses, American Service emphasizes a more straightforward dining experience. Servers typically bring each course directly to the guest’s table, with minimal tableside preparation.

3. Informality

While American Service can be found in upscale restaurants, it is often associated with a more casual and informal dining atmosphere. This style allows for a more relaxed and comfortable experience for both guests and servers.

4. Limited Server Interaction

With American Service, there is less interaction between servers and guests compared to other styles. This can be an advantage in establishments where high turnover is a priority, but may be less appealing for diners who enjoy a more personalized and engaging service.

5. Consistency and Presentation

Since dishes are pre-plated in the kitchen, the American Service style allows for greater consistency and control over presentation. Kitchen staff can ensure that each plate is skillfully arranged before it reaches the guest, creating a visually appealing and uniform dining experience.

6. Flexibility

Finally, the American Service style offers flexibility in menu design and execution. Chefs can experiment with a wide range of dishes and presentations, while servers can focus on delivering the food efficiently and promptly.

Advantages and Disadvantages of American Service

Advantages of American Service

  1. Efficiency: American Service is known for its efficiency, as dishes are pre-plated in the kitchen, allowing for faster service. This is particularly beneficial for busy restaurants and events, where prompt service is essential.

  2. Simplicity: The straightforward nature of American Service makes it easy for both staff and guests to navigate the dining experience. Servers can learn the procedures quickly, while diners can enjoy a hassle-free meal.

  3. Consistency and Presentation: With each dish plated in the kitchen, chefs have control over the presentation, ensuring that every plate is visually appealing and consistent in quality.

  4. Flexibility in Menu Design: American Service allows for a wide range of menu options, including table d’hôte, à la carte, and prix fixe menus, providing establishments with the opportunity to cater to diverse guest preferences.

Disadvantages of American Service

  1. Limited Personalization: Due to its focus on efficiency, American Service offers limited opportunities for personalization and customization. Guests may have fewer options for making adjustments to their dishes, compared to other service styles.

  2. Less Interaction with Servers: The streamlined nature of American Service means that servers spend less time at each table, potentially leading to a less personalized and engaging experience for diners.

  3. Increased Pressure on Kitchen Staff: As dishes are pre-plated in the kitchen, the workload for kitchen staff can be high, especially during busy periods. This may result in longer wait times for guests if the kitchen becomes overwhelmed.

  4. Less Formality: American Service may not be suitable for formal events or establishments where a more traditional, elaborate dining experience is desired. In such settings, alternative service styles, like French or Russian Service, may be more appropriate.

  5. Placement Challenges: With American Service, servers must place the dish on the guest’s right-hand side. In crowded settings or with limited table space, this can be challenging and may result in spills or other mishaps.

Table Setting Procedures of American Service

Basic Table Setting

The table setting is designed to be simple and functional. The following steps outline the basic table setting procedure:

  1. Dinner Plate: Place the dinner plate at the center of each guest’s place setting.
  2. Flatware: Arrange the flatware on either side of the dinner plate. Forks should be placed to the left, while knives and spoons are set to the right. The knife blade should face the plate.
  3. Soup Spoon: If soup is being served, place the soup spoon to the right of the knives.
  4. Napkin: The napkin can be placed either to the left of the forks or on the dinner plate.
  5. Glassware: Position the water glass above the dinner knife, with any additional glassware (wine, etc.) placed to the right in a clockwise formation.

Additional Table Setting Elements

For a more elaborate American Service table setting, the following elements may be added:

  1. Bread Plate: Position the bread plate above the forks on the left-hand side of the table.
  2. Butter Knife: Place the butter knife horizontally across the bread plate, with the blade facing the guest.
  3. Salad Plate: If a salad course is being served, place the salad plate to the left of the forks, next to the dinner plate.
  4. Dessert Flatware: Set dessert forks and spoons above the dinner plate, with the fork tines facing right and the spoon bowl facing left.

While American Service table settings prioritize simplicity and functionality, they can still be tailored to suit the specific needs and preferences of each restaurant or establishment.

How to serve American Service?

Preparation and Timing

To successfully serve American Service, it is crucial to ensure that dishes are prepared and plated in a timely manner. Kitchen staff should work efficiently to complete each course, while servers must be attentive to the needs of their guests and the pacing of the meal.

Serving Techniques

  1. Approach the Table: When approaching a guest’s table, servers should carry the plated dish in their left hand, with the thumb resting on the plate’s edge for stability. They should approach the table from the guest’s right hand side.

  2. Place the Dish: Servers should place the dish on the table using their right hand, setting it down gently and quickly to avoid disrupting the guest. The dish should be positioned with the main focal point facing the guest.

  3. Clearing the Table: After each course, servers should clear the table promptly, starting from the guest’s right-hand side. Used dishes and flatware should be removed and carried to the kitchen or service area.

Adapting to Different Settings

While American Service is often associated with fast-paced, casual dining establishments, the principles of efficient and attentive service can be applied to a wide range of settings, from formal restaurants to catered events. The key is to adapt the service style to suit the specific requirements of each situation, while maintaining the core principles of speed, simplicity, and guest satisfaction.

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The American Service style offers a practical and efficient dining experience that caters to the fast-paced demands of modern society. With its emphasis on simplicity and functionality, this service style has become a popular choice in restaurants and establishments around the world. While there are certain disadvantages, such as limited personalization and formality, the American Service style remains a versatile option for various dining settings. By understanding the nuances of American Service, hospitality professionals can create a pleasant dining experience for guests, while diners can better appreciate the unique aspects of this widespread dining style.