The art of table dressing. It's all in the preparation.
The art of table dressing. It’s all in the preparation
Dressing the table for dinner is an art form. Whilst the deckhands take care on deck polishing stainless and two parting the teak deck, and interior staff/chefs plan and prepare sumptuous dishes to wow owners and their guests, the main saloon is the steward/stewardess’s domain, and it’s just as important to present a beautiful table to draw diners into the space, relax knowing their every need will not only be catered for but has been thought of already!
For stewards and stewardesses, here are some great tips for ensuring your table looks beautiful and allows service to be the best it can be.
Thinking ahead is key, be creative, be resourceful, but ultimately plan ahead, be organised, with owners and guests on board you will need to plan a different table every night, think about creating the wow factor for your guests and ensuring they’re relaxed and catered for.
- Planning – this is your chance to ask questions. How many are you catering for? is it a lunch, dinner, buffet, light supper, diner’s preferences, what time of day will the meal be served, will the boat be anchored or at sea, where will your guests be dining, will there be children, will the guests want entertainment while they dine, is there a theme, what is the occasion?
- Communication – talk to the chef and his team, discuss the menu, courses, drinks, special dietary requirements, guests likes and dislikes, allergies etc. Which condiments will be required, are they refilled? What will guests be drinking with the meal? Cocktails, champagne, wine, who is tee total, etc, that way you can ensure you have the right glasses, crockery and cutlery polished and ready before service
- Serving Station – ensure you have an easily accessible station where you can keep spare napkins, glassware, cutlery and crockery, be prepared for accidents or spillages beforehand so you can replace smoothly and efficiently
Your guests comfort, enjoyment and ultimately safety is key!
- Table Access – inside or out, where will your table be positioned? Can the stewards manoeuvre around the table to serve and clear away discretely, the last thing you want is to have to reach over guests or risk spillages, the key is for guests to not even realise servers are there, so smooth is the service. Depending on where the table is where will the sun be, will diners require shade whilst they’re eating, if anchored is the table likely to be rocking or at an angle, will guests be overlooked by intrigued passers-by ashore, would guests rather be positioned away from the dock for improved privacy? Remember if guests are sitting in the glare of the sun, they will need to be well hydrated, especially if they’re drinking! Not forgetting preferred sun lotion.
- Dressing the table – you want your table to have the wow factor when guests see it, care and attention has been paid to their meal so be proud of your table, there is an art to dressing it and there are so many glorious accessories available, come up with creative ideas and themes to make your table stand out and memorable, using flowers, candles and glassware etc??
- Place table centrepieces or flower arrangements first, so you can easily work from the centre out
- Place your table mats, runner or table cloth
- Place your chargers for each diner, ensure they are spaced evenly by measuring the spaces between
- Cutlery – polish it all before laying, set the cutlery to suit the menu, laying it from the inside and working out, starting with main course cutlery, starters, soup, fish, desert, side plates, top cutlery and line up with either an imaginary line running along the bottom of the cutlery handles, across the top, at a diagonal or you could even tie them in an artistic bow or decorative rope
- Napkins – design your napkin style and place on each setting to suit the table
- Glassware – this will depend on how many courses, what the guests will be drinking when they dine, generally you’ll be laying a minimum of 2 glasses per place setting for water, wine (different glasses for red, white or rose) cocktails, desert wine, champagne – consider how much space you have for each setting and to avoid mishaps/spillages/cluttering your table perhaps keep glasses in reserve at your station ready to replace for different courses
- Place settings – will there be place names positioned and is there a table plan, would it help for the guests to peruse the table plan when they enter the salon and do you need to design and print a selection of mini menu cards
- Crockery – ensure you have the correct crockery to match the chef’s menu and enough for all the guests, with plenty of spares, polish all the crockery again prior to service
- Final check – check everything is evenly spaced and that you can easily access every place setting around the table
- Remember if you go for tall and intricate table displays it may be difficult to reach all the table places without leaning over and more importantly guests won’t be able to see other diners around the table.
Ultimately make for a memorable dining experience and enjoy being creative and resourceful!