Service Q&A


I recently received an email from a lovely Yacht Stewardess that is about to take on her first Head of Service Role! She had a few questions for me and I thought it would be great to share them with all of you!

When stepping into a Head of Department role for the first time, it can seem rather intimidating. So this is your reminder that we all started somewhere and you are NOT expected to know everything. Go into the role with a determination to learn as much as possible with the resources available to you and focus on training your team. You will have the occasional “oops”, but don’t let that defeat you. You’ve got this!! I wouldn’t be able to recognize the Chief Stewardess I was several years ago and I know through my countless “oops” moments, I’ve become stronger & more aware of what my job entails.

*Please note that as is the case with everything I publish, below is just my opinion & based on my past experience.
There are bound to be differing opinions.
 I welcome your experience & would love to hear from you in the comments if you have further experience on any of the topics we are about to cover:

Before we get into the questions, I wanted to touch base on two basic rules:

  1. Serve from the left
  2. Clear from the righT

Question 1:

Do you put a napkin on top of your charger plate and under your ‘bread/salad/starter plate?

In traditional English Silver Service, you can either place the napkin to the left of the fork or on top of the salad plate. I have always placed the napkin on top of the salad plate as it takes up a lot less space on the table & can then become a part of the table setting. 

Question 2:

Do you remove your charger after your main (with the plate when they’re done) or after the starter?


Chargers are used to assist in preventing spills, drips or crumbs from the pre-dessert courses. If there are any spills onto the charger plate during these courses, remove & replace with a clean charger (I always have an extra full set of plates & cutlery at the service station ready). Chargers MUST be removed prior to dessert. As you are clearing after the main course, remove all items from the table that are not needed for desert. 

Question 3:

 Does the Head of Service ALWAYS have to lead service? Is it ok if other girls lead on other nights?

My personal opinion is that it’s our job as Head of Department to train the girls well enough that they are able to lead service by the end of the season. It may not be appropriate if the Owner prefers to have the Head of Service lead every meal however, if that is not the case, then go for it! I try as much as possible to give the girls the opportunity to lead a service.

Start small – have them lead cocktail and canape hour, review the service and make note of what needs to be worked on. I personally think it’s crucially important to ensure the girls know what to do just in case you get sick during a guest trip etc. A flu-like bug spread through my crew last summer season & my 2nd Stew looked after the Interior for the day & she absolutely nailed it.

*The biggest compliment is when a stewardess takes what you have taught them & flourishes. Too often we become insecure & feel the need to show constant power in our position – know that they are great because you have taught them to be so. 

Question 4:

If the main guest asks for red wine for a meal, should I only place the red wine glass on the table or also place white in case someone wants a white?

I always place at least red & white wine glasses on the table (especially if a guest has requested red). I’ve worked for Owners who always started with champagne and then processed with various wines throughout the meals, so I would ALWAYS set water, champagne, white and red.

Alternatively, if you have a guest on board that has been drinking the occasional glass of red even when the menu is only fish, you can always have a tray on the wine station with additional glasses ready or set the red glass as soon as the guest sits down. (Judge the situation, will the guest appreciate that you have noticed they have been drinking red? If so, set it as soon as they sit down instead of waiting to see if they will ask.) It really depends on the formality of the service. Really formal? Set the table with all glasses. Slightly informal or privately owned? Set what the Owner typically drinks with a backup set of glasses at the wine station. 

Once the wine is poured, should the remaining wine glass or unused wine glass by a guest be removed straight away?

I personally always remove the additional wine glasses unless it’s a special occasion and the guests would like to do a champagne toast during the meal. I never put away the glasses, instead, they are removed with a white glove and placed at the wine station. Then if a guest would like to change glasses, it’s a very quick & discrete change. 

Question 5:

Should dessert cutlery be ‘pulled down’ from above setting before dessert is served or left for them to pick up themselves?

I always have one stewardess walk around with white gloves on and pull down the cutlery before dinner. Sometimes you will find that the guest has already done it, however doing it for the guests ensures a level of formality is maintained during service. The beauty of formal service is that the guests shouldn’t have to do anything, they are treated to an elegant performance if you will & as Stewardesses, it’s our job to ensure every minor detail is looked after. 

Question 6:

White gloves? Do they have to be used during every service? (I see some boats strict about this but find it a little weird because they tend to be a little slippery.


Traditionally in Silver Service courses, they teach that no fingers are allowed to touch the rim of the plate except for when you are clearing. This is easily done when doing silver service as you keep the platter on your palm while using your other hand to serve the guest. I have never had to use white gloves during plated service and since all of my previous Chief Stew’s allowed the girls to use their bare hands, I do the same with my girls. 

I use white gloves when:

  •  Setting the table
  • Replacing cutlery, plates, glassware, etc. during service
  • Presenting a cake/dessert to the Owners before it gets cut

Since I have such minimal experience with White Glove service, I reached out to Cantleigh (@yachtstewsecrets) and asked about her experience!

The first job I had was a service stew on a boat owned by people who owned your best hotel in the world … needless to say service was silver service breakfast lunch and dinner (white blazer, bow tie … the works) so we always had white gloves on in the interior no matter what we did. I’ve become so attached to them as most of the boats since I have always been required to where them. On my last vessel our owners were English and of the same background as my first boat. Even when we mixed casual family style the owner said the white gloves where hygienic but personally I think they liked the look it brought. They do come in handy though during service when you notice any smudges or fingerprints haha. They are a serious pain during service if you aren’t super sturdy and get sauce on them… they look great but are a huge amount in the laundry.

You get so many types but personally I prefer the smooth over the gripped palm as they grip a bit too much and you can’t wipe any smudges with them. You get used to them quickly.

I was told specifically when I joined that the Owner wanted us to wear gloves, so I haven’t had the conversation with an Owner yet as to whether or not they prefer them.

Be sure to click HERE to learn how to train your team on Tablesettings

I really hope this has been informative & helpful to all of you!! Would love to know your thoughts in the comments below.

Big Hugs,

Gem xo


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