Last week I stumbled on a story on The Washington Post, written by a disgruntled diner. The author had enough of restaurant employees with twitching fingers, snapping up plates the moment a fork hit the porcelain in defeat. He's right. Cleared plates are a good thing — nobody wants to look at steak drippings and a broken béarnaise sauce — but a plate cleared before the remainder of a table finishes dining is a problem to be addressed.
I posted a link to my article and received comments from friends who agreed. "How hard is it to get through to staff that you do not clear plates until all diners are finished?" asked one, prompting my fist pump as I jumped to the next. "I despise this," wrote another, adding that the practice was happening with increasing frequency.
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But it wasn't long before restaurant workers chimed in to the contrary. Vanessa Chambless, a booze broker at the Cock and Bull, said many customers hand her their plates regardless of whether or not their friends have finished their meals. If you think that's just bar behavior, TJ's Seafood owner Jon Alexis says his customers also seem split on the rules of plate clearing. "Lots of guests get pissed if you don't bus their empty plate when the other person is still eating," he wrote.
Dear Dallas diners, where have our table manners gone?
That every customer arrives with their own set of preferences will certainly make the duty of a restaurant staff a delicate matter, but I think with this issue, it's best to default to basic rules of etiquette and wait for rude diners to point themselves out. Sure, times are changing. We can surf Instagram on a date, and our elbows are almost welcomed on the table, but rushing through your meal in a way that makes others feel compelled to power-shovel their own potatoes is a practice that should be frowned upon. Anything a waitstaff does to facilitate hurried eating should also be shunned.
Personally, I've decided to start dining with a ruler. Notice to Dallas' waitstaff: If you try to grab my plate too early, watch your knuckles. Our dinner plates are expected to arrive at the table together, and they should leave it that way, too.