Newsletter Steven Ferry

The Modern Butlers’ Journal, March 2020, The Wisdom of Butlers Past

Steven FerryThe Wisdom of Butlers Past

by Steven Ferry

PART 34: Dinner Service

The idea of dinner service being the jewel in the crown of the butler’s duties has existed for centuries:

“If one part of a servant’s business calls for greater attention than another, it is waiting at table; it is a branch, likewise, wherein he can show more of his ability than in anything else he may have to do, as many make great pretensions to cleverness in conducting a dinner, who yet never knew the first principles of properly waiting at table.”

The author goes on in the same vein, faulting untrained butlers and footmen, and even hosts, for dinners not running smoothly.

One issue, for instance, was expecting one footman to serve six guests.

Other points of warning seem so obvious:

1) Not knowing what the cook has prepared, and therefore not laying the table accordingly, means rushing to place things on the table while the dinner is in progress, and therefore increasing the likelihood of breakage, as well as poor service.

2) Not knowing the preferred service style, the bill of fare, results in upset—some families preferring family style service, where the food is placed on the table in bowls and platters, and others preferring plated service.

All the different elements of laying and serving at table are then covered in the next 34 pages—certainly the largest part of the book, and we will cover these in the months ahead.

Extracted from the 1823 book, The Footman’s Directory and Butler’s Remembrancer, re-published in hardback by Pryor Publications. You may obtain your discounted copy (with free s&h) by emailing the publisher: Mr. Pryor (alan AT

The Institute is dedicated to raising service standards by broadly disseminating the mindset and superior service expertise of that time-honored, quintessential service provider, the British Butler, updated with modern people skills, and adapted to the needs of modern employers and guests in staffed homes, luxury hotels, resorts, spas, retirement communities, jets, yachts & cruise ships around the world.