Finance & Operations

7 Types of Restaurant Table Service to Know

By Katherine Pendrill

Restaurant server serving a table their food.

When you’re opening a new restaurant, there are more decisions to make than there are toppings on a loaded pizza. One important consideration is the type of service you want to offer – for instance, counter service, buffet-style, or table service. If your goal is to provide a personal dining experience that’s heavy on hospitality, you may opt for the latter. But what you might not know is that there are actually many styles of table service that you can offer.

In this guide to table service, we’ll explore:

  • A table service definition
  • The importance of table service
  • 7 different types of table service
  • 8 elements of great table service

What is Table Service?

Restaurant table service refers to a type of dining where guests are seated at tables in your venue, place their orders with a server, and receive their drinks and food at the table from the server. 

During table service, the server stops by the table to ask how the guests are enjoying their food, fill up their water glasses, clear away empty dishes, and ask the diners if they need anything else. At the end of the meal, the server brings the bill to the table and takes payment there or processes it away from the table.

What is the Importance of Table Service?

Table service is a widely-used type of restaurant service for good reason. It’s crucial to delivering an exceptional dining experience – the kind that turns first-time visitors into loyal regulars who rave about your restaurant to their friends.

In contrast to a counter service experience, table service allows guests to settle in, knowing they’ll be taken care of by a friendly and attentive server. This gives them a chance to relax and time to focus on making conversation and making memories.

Table service also gives customers an opportunity to ask the server any questions they may have about the menu and get recommendations from an expert who knows your food well. Plus, if your guests need anything during their meal, like an extra napkin or a drink refill, they don’t have to go hunting for it – the server’s got their back.

The bottom line is, a lot of restaurants can serve top-notch cuisine. However, having service staff who anticipate, understand, and surpass their customers’ needs and expectations can set your venue apart from similar restaurants. This is why it pays to get table service right!

Restaurant server taking a man and woman's order.

7 Different Types of Table Service

Now that we’ve covered a basic table service definition and why this kind of service is a fan favorite, let’s explore various styles of table service. 

Informal Silver Service

Informal silver service is a casual yet inviting style of service that creates a relaxed atmosphere for your guests. It’s a versatile option, suitable for breakfast, lunch, and dinner. 

Whether you provide a fixed menu or an à la carte menu, informal silver service encourages a friendly rapport between your staff and guests, enhancing the overall dining experience. 

Formal Silver Service

Introducing formal silver service at your restaurant can be a strategic move to boost your brand’s prestige. Typically reserved for fine dining venues, this is one of the most elaborate and skillful types of table service, and it presents an excellent opportunity to wow your guests.

In a formal silver service setting, diners don’t just have one server. Instead, they’re waited on by numerous staff members who bring each course to the table on an individual plate, ensuring every aspect of the dining experience is meticulously catered to. For instance, a restaurant sommelier might partake in the service, expertly pairing wines with every course and explaining the reasoning behind their choices.

French Service

Another formal and elegant style of service, French service adds an element of interactivity to the dining experience. It’s not only about exceptional food, it’s also about leaving a lasting impression of an elevated culinary journey.

There are two main types of French service: cart style, which involves preparing food tableside, and banquet style, which involves preparing food in the kitchen. Both types of table service feature entrees like fish, poultry, and red meat. During cart style service, the food is presented on a platter to your guests, taken to a sideboard for carving and portioning, then served.

Russian Service

Did someone say “luxury”? That’s exactly what Russian service evokes. This formal type of table service is similar to French, except all food is served on the diners’ left side. Another key difference is that food is timed to be served steaming hot straight from the kitchen.

In a Russian service, staff constantly deliver new courses to the table, clearing away dirty dishes as they go. The hallmark of this style is skill, and offering a Russian service at your restaurant can not only set you apart from competitors, but can also position your venue destination for those seeking a truly unique dining experience. 

American Service

American Service is your restaurant’s secret weapon for serving up meals with speed and style. It’s the go-to choice when you want to offer a laid-back buffet setting with a little extra attention. Rather than serving themselves, as guests walk down the buffet line, wait staff dish food from the trays onto their plates. This type of service is common at breakfast time.

Efficient and practical, American Service offers the best of both worlds – the convenience of a buffet with the personal touch of wait staff service, making every breakfast a memorable start to the day at your restaurant. 

English Service

English Service, also known as Host Service or Family Style, is the epitome of communal dining – think casual and relaxed. Picture a cozy table set with all of the delicious dishes dropped off by the server, placed right in the middle, and inviting everyone to dig in and help themselves. 

English Service is all about giving guests the opportunity to try a variety of menu items. Requesting that another guest pass food that’s out of reach isn’t a faux-pas here! The aim is to make every meal feel like a friendly gathering around the table.

Gueridon Service

Imagine a dining experience that’s not just a meal, but an interactive, theatrical show. That’s the idea behind Gueridon Service, named after the mobile cart that glides to guests’ tables, where skilled chefs bring their partially cooked dishes to life before their eyes.

Gueridon Service goes beyond satisfying diners’ appetites. The aim is to create an unforgettable dining experience that engages all of the senses. 

8 Elements of Great Table Service

Food is always a key factor in your restaurant’s success, but your servers can make or break the dining experience. For this reason, knowing how to be a good server is a critical element of table service. Here are a few points to keep in mind when it comes to your team’s table service:

  • Order Accuracy: Getting orders right is table stakes when it comes to table service. Whether it’s remembering dietary preferences, allergies, or special requests, accuracy helps ensure every guest feels attended to and leaves satisfied. 
  • Efficiency: We’ve all heard this before: “The food was great when it finally arrived.” You can avoid this scenario by promptly taking orders, delivering food, and clearing plates, ultimately delivering speedy service that keeps customers happy.
  • Customer Interaction: Accuracy and efficiency are key, but outstanding table service also comes down to creating meaningful connections with guests. Engaging in friendly conversation, offering recommendations, and anticipating customers’ needs all contribute to a positive dining experience guests will rave about. 
  • Staff Knowledge: Well-informed service staff can take table service from average to awesome. When your servers can provide valuable insights into the menu, ingredients, and preparation methods, they’ll surely impress your guests. So, make the investment in staff training to equip your team with the knowledge they need to shine.
  • Attention to Detail: The little things can make the biggest difference in table service. From refilling water glasses to promptly addressing any questions or issues, attention to detail demonstrates both care and professionalism. Bonus points if your servers can anticipate and fulfill guests’ needs before they even ask!
  • Flexibility: Flexibility is essential in the restaurant industry, where no two days are ever the same. Guests don’t want to feel like they’re putting you out, so accommodating special requests, adjusting seating arrangements, and handling unexpected situations with a smile goes a long way to making table service great.
  • Teamwork: Teamwork is important in any restaurant setting, but especially so if you offer a style of table service that involves multiple serving staff. Every service should feel like a well-oiled machine from the guest’s perspective. This means communication between staff members must be clear and supportive so every aspect of the dining experience runs smoothly.
  • Atmosphere: Your restaurant’s ambiance plays a major role in the overall dining experience. From lighting and music to decor and dinnerware, every detail contributes to table service. Your goal should be to create a welcoming environment customers want to return to again and again.

We’ve now answered the burning question, “What is table service?” and covered seven types of table service you can try at your restaurant. We’ve also walked through the key elements of great table service, like attention to detail, efficiency, and a genuine commitment to creating memorable experiences for your guests.

As with any new initiative you try, always keep your customers’ preferences in mind when selecting a type of table service to provide, and be sure that your offerings align with your restaurant’s brand, cuisine style, and atmosphere. Happy service!

Photo of Katherine Pendrill
by Katherine Pendrill

Katherine is the Content Marketing Manager at TouchBistro, where she writes about trending topics in food and restaurants. The opposite of a picky eater, she’ll try (almost) anything at least once. Whether it’s chowing down on camel burgers in Morocco or snacking on octopus dumplings in Japan, she’s always up for new food experiences.

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