How to Signal to the Waitstaff That You are Done Eating


Fork and knife placement signaling the end of the meal – American style.

Miss Meredith Sweetpea had the rare pleasure of dining out this past weekend with a dear friend. We went to a local Italian restaurant, of the mid-range variety, nothing fancy.

This friend had plenty to talk about, and we were settling into a wonderful conversation as the courses began to arrive, but began to become annoyed by the constant interruption of the server. It seemed whenever we paused and put down our forks, and even while we were eating,  someone came over to grab the plate away–even though we obviously were not finished.

At first, the servers reached down to grab the plates and began to remove them without asking. We had to grab our plates back as they swooped past. After a few times of this, they at least began to ask if we were done yet. In addition, at two times, the managers stopped by our table to see how things were going. They too, grabbed at our plates.

At first, we laughed about the constant interruptions. Then they began to irritate us. What then should have been an enjoyable time out together, was spoiled. We took the rest of our meals to go.

We did not linger in the restaurant, and it was not busy, so there should not have been such a sense of urgency to “clear us out.” We understand that servers are often trained in this manner of instant response, but we were there to enjoy our dinner and our conversation and not be interrupted every 3 minutes with the same question…”Are you done?”

In addition, Miss Meredith Sweetpea likes to enjoy her salad at the end of the meal, rather than as a beginning course. This often leads to her having to guard her salad plate lest it be forcefully removed without her notice. Many times it has been swept away without an inquiry, as was attempted here.

Use Your Utensils to Signal You are Finished With Your Meal

It might be better to remind readers, and train staff, that there is a silent signal for alerting the waitstaff that you are done with your meal. The placement of your eating utensils.


Fork and knife placement signal – Continental style.

In proper dining, the knife and fork should be laid across the plate, either straight up and down or at a 10:00-4:00 angle if you were looking at a clock face, in American style, with the tines pointing up and the knife blade pointing in. In European or Continental style, the fork is placed with the tines pointing down.

The napkin should be slightly crumpled and placed on the table to the left of the plate once you are ready to leave, but not beforehand.

This meal, and the time spent with a friend could have been so much more enjoyable, if the staff weren’t quite as attentive as to be annoying.


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