In my role as a trainer and consultant for KOPPLIN KUEBLER & WALLACE I have visited over 45 different Private Cubs in the past two years. These range in size, member demographic and food and beverage offerings, one thing however has remained true every visit. The more I learn, the less I realize I know. I am honored to have a role in which I am exposed to many different types and styles of service, and in this role, I get to help Clubs create standards, develop systems and elevate delivery of hospitality to their Membership.

While I am on property one of the first things that I tell the team is “leave your ego at the door”! What we want to build is consistent delivery of service for your Membership, in a way which reflects the culture and atmosphere of your club. Consistency is most important, and consistency is most difficult! We work on building that specifically for your club’s needs.

There are, however, several moments in a sequence of service that I stand firm on. It is impossible to have a positive experience that does not start with a warm welcome and end with a genuine thank you and farewell. This is very hard to do in busy restaurants without a designated host. I also strongly believe that the first interaction in a meal experience (when seated) should be from the server, and that means your server, not a busser pouring water, not a server assistant dropping bread and not another server who you will not see again the rest of the meal. Your server. I would happily debate the many and far-reaching reasons for this, and how you can work as a team to make this happen 98% of the time. But not today!

Today what I wish to openly debate is the notion that good service has a “side”. Very often when I ask a team what side they should serve food and/or beverage from in a la carte meal experience a well-intentioned F&B Director or General Manager will proudly tell me “We ALWAYS server from the right”. Sometimes, the response is the left… sometimes I hear serve right and lift from the left. Or any combination of the above. One thing I can say with certainty is that most people have a firm opinion that their opinion is the right opinion! I can also confirm that you are all right, and you are all wrong! The only thing that really matters, is that everyone on your team does it the same way, except when you pick a side, they cannot, it is impossible.

What I want to challenge today is, why do we have to pick a side? How and when did good service get designated a side? What does this add to the meal experience? Does anyone even notice? and have any of us ever been thanked by a Member for being served from the right for a whole meal? In my professional experience it adds nothing, no one notices, and it does not matter. Yes, I said it! Great service has no side!!! The fact is, in most of our dining rooms you cannot pick a side that will consistently work for every table. Our restaurants have booths, corner tables, tables next to pillars, sofas etc. And yet, I have seen servers turn contortionists trying to bend, stretch, squeeze, walk through bushes and reach in all sorts of ways and even intrude in between Members personal space to fulfil this unnecessary and outdated standard.

So, what should we do? Do we just serve food with no care to sides any more… no, not quite, modern hospitality has changed, and so should we. Open handed service is the norm in independent restaurants, hotels and resorts and what I have been training teams at luxury hotels for the past 10 years of my career. Open handed service is a technique where you serve food and beverage to a table with an open hand, as if you were going into give your Member a hug! Of course do not actually hug the Member, just approach the service as if you might! If you are serving two Members, you can easily and effectively serve the Member on your left with your right hand and the Member to your right with your left hand. Simple effective, less moves and in less time. The only firm no is back handing a Member. Open handed service is equally effective when clearing a table, which is not a significant moment and should be done in the least amount of moves as possible, therefore making open handed service very efficient.

So, next time you train your teams on food and beverage service, don’t pick a side, give a hug!

About the author….

Annette Whittley, is a food and beverage training consultant and search executive with Kopplin Kuebler & Wallace, a consulting firm providing executive search, strategic planning and data analysis services to the private club and hospitality industries. Annette can be contacted at (561) 827-1945 and at

THE BOARDROOM MAGAZINE – January/February 2022