Tablescape is a term used to describe the table top. It includes the centerpiece, linens, dishes, flatware, glassware and any other decor.
If you are on a tight budget and don’t have much to spend in the way of decor, put your money in the table top. Once guest are seated, the table top is their view for the rest of the event.
I recommend looking at sample tablescapes during your site inspection. It will give you an idea of a facility's attention to detail and knowledge of proper service standards.
Tablescapes can set the mood. They can be themed to the event or the meeting. Pay attention to color. You do not want colors that clash with the carpet or other colors in the room.
The cover (place setting) should match the menu. For example, if you are having soup, there must be a soup spoon. The bread plate, forks and napkins are placed to the left of the plate. Knives, spoons, glassware, cups and saucers are placed to the left of the plate. The dinner knife is immediately adjacent to the plate, with the blade turned toward the plate. The water glass should be placed above the knife blade. Wine glasses would go to the right of the water glass. If you are serving more than one type of wine, the wine glasses should be placed in the order they will be used. The first wine would typically be a white wine, so it would be furthest to the right. There is more on wine glasses in one of my previous posts.
- The dessert fork and spoon can be set above the plate, fork pointing right, spoon pointing left.
- The bread and butter plate should be placed on the left above the forks and at about a 10:00 position in relation to the dinner plate.
- There should never be a "naked cover" which would be an empty space where the plate will go. You can fill the space with a napkin, a menu, a pre-set appetizer or a show plate. A show plate is just that – strictly for show. It is removed after the guest is seated and before any food is served. A base plate serves as a base for several courses.
- Cream soups call for a spoon with a round bowl, thinner soups would be served with a large oblong-shaped tablespoon.
- If you are serving salad, a smaller salad fork should be provided.
- Fancier meals may call for small demitasse spoons, individual salt spoons, fish forks or other types of specialty flatware .
- You should have more than one set of salt and pepper shakers, creamer and sweeteners on the table, as a convenience to the guests.
- Cups and saucers should not be pre-set at a formal meal. It is often done for expediency, but they should not be brought out until coffee is served. And, the cup should never be turned over so the guest view is the bottom of a cup.
- Never place the forks on top of the napkin, the napkin should be placed to the left of the forks, unless you are using it in the center of the place setting.
Centerpieces and table linens will be discussed in future posts.