Gung Ho Guest: When a nice gesture is rushing your dinner party

by epi on September 6, 2011

Q: When is the proper time to remove your guests dinner plates?  Is it after everyone is finished? I have a dear friend that insists on helping out at dinner parties, but she starts removing plates before all are finished. She also insists on putting away food from buffets within 15-20 minutes of the meal. I think it better to leave the food out and let people browse for a bit. And I don’t remove dinner plates for at least five minutes after the final course. This way no one is rushed and you can enjoy dinner conversation. I do appreciate her help but it sometimes stops the conversations and makes the slow eater feel uncomfortable.  Am I wrong in politely asking my friend to hold off?  What is correct?

A: You are not wrong at all. Explain that some people feel bad or rushed when their places are cleared before they are finished, or they are left with a plate when no one else has one. Tell her you love her help, but need her to please watch for a cue from you, not to start clearing without your OK, because you don’t want anyone to be hurried.  Let her know if she is still willing to help a little later it would be wonderful.

{ 4 comments… read them below or add one }

Shannon September 6, 2011 at 12:52 am

I am so pleased this question was raised – could you possibly elaborate on two fronts: 1) Would you address this with the guest as s/he was clearing (for example, if this guest were “new” to you and not someone with whom you would have a heart-to-heart? And 2) what about guests who “help” by stacking plates at the table? Of course, everyone is simply trying to be helpful, but how do I address this and nip it in the bud?


Country Girl September 6, 2011 at 12:10 pm

I agree with this advice, however I would add I don’t think it’s rude to begin to put buffet items in the fridge 15-20 minutes after service if you inform your guests that they may still help themselves to these items.

It is a safety no-no to leave many/most food items out for such a long period of time. And it is always good etiquette to watch out for the health and well being of your guests.


LC September 7, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Actually, according to several close friends who are chefs, the duration of time which food can be left out and still safely consumed is up to 4 hours. So there is no rush to put items away in the fridge from where many guests would feel uncomfortable helping themselves. This assumes, of course, that you are indoors, not outside in a blazing summer heat with a mayo-based potato salad, or something of that sort.


gardenlady November 4, 2011 at 12:31 pm

stacking plates at the table is really gross. remove the plates, with silverware 1 or 2 at a time, and do the scraping and stacking in the kitchen out of sight of your guests.


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