Service is often among planners' top site-selection criteria, yet it can be difficult to quantify. To help, I've created a list of typical banquet server duties, along with related questions to ask. Those who can answer these questions in the affirmative have the dedication to proper, technical service that you can be assured will result in outstanding service.

Must at all times present a favorable image of the hotel to the public.

  • Is there a staff member meeting guests at the door?

  • Does staff member make eye contact and smile within 10 feet of the guest?

  • Does staff member offer a warm “Welcome!” when the guest is within 5 feet?

  • Are staff members neatly groomed?

  • Are staff uniforms crisp and clean, with a visible name tag?

  • Is wait staff posture straight?

Maintain the cleanliness of function areas.

  • Is the reception area cleared of empty glasses, cocktail napkins, and old hors d'oeuvres plates?

  • Are bathrooms clean and odor-free?

  • Are back hallways clean?

  • Are kitchen surfaces clean?

  • If using tray stands, are dishes neatly stacked?

  • Have staff covered any unsightly piles of food and dishes on clearing trays with napkins to obscure them from view?

Knowledge of appropriate table settings and serviceware

  • Are tablecloths and napkins crisp, flat, and unwrinkled?

  • Are linens clean and free of stains, ragged edges, or stray threads?

  • Do bottom linens reach to the floor?

  • Do top linens have their primary crease facing the main entrance?

  • Are chairs mirrored (for tables with even number of guests) with the chairs across, or evenly spaced (for tables with an odd number of guests)?

  • Are table settings appropriate for the menu?

  • Is flatware mirrored with the place setting across the table?

  • Is flatware placed 1 inch from the edge of the place setting (for round tables) or from the edge of the table (for square or rectangular tables)?

Serve meals to patrons according to established rules of etiquette.

  • Are water glasses full? (They should never be less than half full.)

  • Are guests being served courses from the left, with the left hand?

  • Are guests being served clockwise around the table?

  • Are females being served first, according to age, then the men?

  • When carrying food items, is the staff carrying three entrées at a time, on level, with no fingers in the dish?

  • Are beverages being served from the right, with the right hand?

  • Does the server use a tray to clear beverages from the right?

  • Are dishes being cleared from the right with the right hand?

  • Is appropriate flatware removed prior to serving the next course?

  • When (re)placing flatware, does the server use a “marking plate” to bring silver to the table? Or do they carry by hand? (The latter is incorrect.)

  • Is salt and pepper replaced with sweetener and cream prior to coffee service?

Observe guests to fulfill any additional requests.

  • In down time during the function, are wait staff at post along the wall observing tables and the event floor and not chatting with each other?

  • Are servers knowledgeable about group's meeting schedule and locations for activities?

  • Are servers knowledgeable about other departments, locations of restrooms, etc.?

  • Do servers escort guests when directions are asked?

  • Are servers proactive about replacing silver and pouring beverages?

Must be knowledgeable of event menu items and their contents, and the correct preparation and garnishing methods.

  • Do the servers have a firm, concise grasp of the menu? Or do they answer menu questions with “beef or chicken entrées tonight”?

  • Do servers know answers to questions such as: Is the first course hot or cold? How is beef served — roasted, grilled, braised? At what temperature is it served?

Kelly Rush has honed his skills in the industry through banquet, catering, and conference services positions with upscale restaurants, hotels, and resorts, planning and executing events for groups of 10 to 200. He can be reached at rusheventservices@hotmail.com.