So anyway . . . this article shows up in my Facebook news feed the other day and it got me thinking. My usual pet peeve in restaurants is that they don't clear the dishes away quickly enough but this article got me looking at the whole thing from a different angle.
Without my permission, restaurants have abandoned, or simply overlooked, a classic tenet of service etiquette (I'm talking about entrees, not the ubiquitous small plates, which demand a different etiquette). Rather than clear plates once everyone at the table has finished the meal, which has long been the custom, servers instead hover over diners, fingers twitching, until the very instant someone puts down a fork. Like vultures, they then promptly snatch up the silverware -- along with everything else in front of the customer. If you're lucky, they might ask permission before stealing your plate.
When a server clears a plate before everyone is finished, he or she leaves the table with a mess of subtle but important signals. Those who are still eating are made to feel as though they are holding others up; those who are not are made to feel as though they have rushed the meal. What was originally a group dining experience becomes a group exercise in guilt.
Here's an article on table clearing etiquette:
Silent Serving code
This just shows the waiters whether or not you are done with your meal.
If between the meal you need to leave the table for any reason, criss cross the fork and knife to show you are not done with your food to avoid the waiter clearing away your plate.
When you are done with your meal, your knife and fork should be placed diagonally from upper left to lower right. (imagine the plate as the face of a clock 11 to 5 position) The knife stay untop while the fork stays down. This will tell the waiter to clear up your plate.