Stunning superyacht service standards and standardised table settings
Last updated: 27/03/2020
As a superyacht stew, it's perhaps not unusual to report for work only to find that the superyacht owner may have suddenly announced that his/her pre-planned, casual family dinner has now escalated into a silver-service dinner for 12. Among the guest list there will, of course be important VIPs to impress, meaning there's absolutely no room for service mistakes.
We look into international superyacht service standards and standardised table settings for the nationalities you might encounter on board, helping stews to understand the types of dining service and tableware expected for each and every occasion.
Superyacht service standards: Adjusting to life on board
As an experienced five-star shore-side waiter or waitress, you may think that you have dinner service down to a fine art, but rest assured that dining, like most things, is often very different aboard a superyacht. Alternatively, just as you think you have superyacht service standards in hand, expectations may suddenly change as you move aboard a private yacht where the owner has his own preferred service style.
Regardless, in addition to customary service standards, any stew/stewardess should be sure to know or have:
- Flexible service know-how, adapting to the nationality/demands of guests and occasion in hand
- Clear communication with the crew, and the host or his/her team if in a senior position
- Knowledge of the food and drinks to be served
As a good stew, you will also observe the general rules of etiquette:
- Good service is polite and unobtrusive
- Good service is prompt and efficient
- Good service doesn’t allow for interruption
Furthermore, you should always ensure that your fingers hold only the rim of all plates served, far away from the food presented. Service standards and table setting are regularly taught by crew training schools, search for a local course here.
International table settings
Kylie O’Brien, a former chief stewardess and author of The Stewardess Bible, spoke to Dockwalk magazine about international table service, summarising the expected service standards in its Table Service Part One and Part Two guides:
American-style service: Plated service
Also known as ‘plated service’, American-style service is considered to be less formal than French, Russian or English service, but there's a standard none-the-less.
Dinner service starts with the ‘lady of honour’, who normally sits to the left of the host, and continues round the table clockwise, with drinks served from the right. Food is typically prepared, portioned and plated in the galley and served to guests in the dining room from the left. Empty plates are removed from the right allowing for that all-important unobtrusive service.
The required flatware, glasses, cutlery, as well as salt, pepper and condiments are already found on the table.
Buffet-style service: Informal service
In theory, buffet-style service is the simplest of service styles. In practice, this is not the case – especially when taking place aboard a superyacht!
In buffet-style service, the service team will present a selection of food elegantly along a long table. The challenge comes in ensuring that all dishes are kept well presented, and fully loaded throughout the service - no mean feat with the limited resources on board.
To execute excellent buffet service, a stew must be in regular communication with the galley over supply and demand, all the while replacing dirty plates and topping up empty drinks as they go.
English-style service: Family service
English-style service is a service steeped in social traditions, and the English are known for their appreciation of good manners.
Known also as ‘family-style service’, the meat is prepared in the kitchen or galley before being carved and served up in front of the guests, with accompanying dishes being passed among the guests who serve themselves. Alternatively to this, the plated meat would be served from the right, before the stew serves accompanying dishes clockwise around the table from the right. Dishes are typically left on the table or service station.
French-style service: Synchronised service
French-style service is all about synchronicity, opulence and abundance. As such a complicated service style, this is not a service used regularly on board, as it requires all interior crew to be available at the same time for swift service.
In French service, each menu is broken down into three distinct services: Entrée, main and dessert. Each of which has a few dishes to be served at the same time. For example, the chef may present the meat for carving or fish for fileting in front of the guests, while simultaneously the second/sous chef may be preparing the salad or vegetables.
Service crew, usually lead by the chief stew, will then serve guests the platters clockwise, starting at the head of the table. Second and third stewardesses will simultaneously serve accompanying dishes around the table behind, resulting in a flourish of activity.
Russian-style service: A service of toasts!
Russian service is much simpler to execute than French service, in that courses are instead brought to the table plated sequentially, one after the other. If a chef does decide to serve food on a platter, this is served to the guests from the left in silver-service style with accompanying dishes to follow.
Kylie informed Dockwalk that you can easily manage this style of service with just two service crew, as it's a lot less labour intensive. However, she warned, “I would always recommend having a lot of clean plates on hand, because you’ll need to oblige the guests if they want more of the course that was previously served.
“You will also need to take into account your Russian guests’ love affair with the toast. In general, Russian guests like to offer a toast at the beginning, during and at the end of the meal, so make sure you have plenty of appropriate glasses and beverages of their choice on hand.”
Silver service: Formal service
Butler service is a modern adaptation of silver service, which sees staff wearing white gloves or using a service cloth to eliminate fingerprints on, and burns from, hot plates.
A silver spoon and fork is used in the right hand as a tong to serve food, moving food from the service platter to the guest’s plates, always from the left-hand-side. Drinks are always served from the right. Staff will present accompanying dishes from the left-hand side for guests to serve themselves, with empty plates removed from the right.
Tableware and table linens for superyacht dining occasions
With bespoke designs, there's a different table linen and dinnerware set available for every dinner service on board – if there's the space to store them! Discover our top 10 luxury tableware designers here.
Tatjana Jarkovoj of Jet & Yacht Comfort advised on the table linens for all meals served aboard in the day. She said, “Usually it's expected that heavy-cotton table linens are used for breakfast and lunch, while a fine linen such as Egyptian cotton or heavy satin is better placed for dinner and formal occasions. My favourite designs are natural colours and pure Egyptian cottons. I also like satin linens, which give the table setting a real shine. Jacquard tablecloths are however very popular for their detail.
“I recommend that any superyacht has a minimum of two sets of table linens on board, but three is perfect to welcome any and all occasions.”