HOW TO WAIT AT TABLE
ORDER AND ROUTINE.
The waiting commences from the head of the table, and there must be assistants, outside the door, to bring the dishes and remove them entirely from the room. When the dinner is served on the table the attendant must stand at the left-hand side of the carver, and remove the covers. As the soup comes first, a plateful is carried to each person, unless they signify they do not wish for any, and commences from the one on the right of the host. The sherry or claret is then handed round. At a large gathering the moment a person's plate is empty, or finished with, it must be quietly taken away, spoon and all, but when the party is only a small one, the plates are usually left until all have finished the course. In any case, the plates of the host and hostess are always left till last. At informal parties guests should be asked if they wish for a second helping, but not at formal gatherings. Never remove a dish which is being served until all have finished that course. The fish is carried round in the same manner as the soup, the attendant having in the left hand the sauce-boat, or being followed by another servant carrying it. All plates are placed by the attendant at the left-hand side of the person being served, and when used removed from the left or right. Entrées are invariably handed even when the joints are carved upon the table. When the joint comes on, and the meat has been taken to the guests as before, the vegetables (which are usually placed upon the sideboard, and not on the table) are handed about, together with a sauce-boat of gravy for fowls or birds. As soon as all have been served with the meat course the wines are again handed round. The meat course finished, the soiled plates are removed, and the sweet course, followed by the savoury, is brought in. Dinner over, the unused cutlery, the glass, cruets and carving cloth are brushed away from the guests' left-hand side; the dessert-plates, finger bowls and port glasses are arranged upon the table; and after everything is in proper order, the port and a few dishes are handed round by the attendants. who then leave the room. In handing aerated waters, lemonade, etc., the attendant takes the small tray or salver in the left hand and, standing on the left side of the guest who places his or her glass upon it, pours out the required liquid with the right hand. When clean knives and forks are required, they must be placed on the table and not handed on the salver.
At hospitality school we learnt to serve from the right and clear from the left... I wonder which is the more "correct" way or if it has changed over the years?
Dishes should be handed at a convenient level: they are usually served too high and not far enough forward. They should be served with the left hand, the body turned a little to the right. If the right hand be free do not rest it on the back of the chair.
Heaven forbid your wait staff should get overly familiar with your guests and dare to touch their chair.