Service à la française

Service à la française (French, "service in the French style") is the practice of serving various dishes of a meal at the same time, in contrast to service à la russe ("service in the Russian style"), where the dishes are brought sequentially and served individually.[1] Formal dinners were served à la française from the Middle Ages until the 19th century.

Organization of the meal

Plan of the table layout for the second course.

The meal was divided into three courses: soup and fish; roasts; and desserts. Each course included a variety of dishes, all set at the same time at the table with desserts and appetizers. Guests sat around the table and served themselves and their neighbours by choosing foods that suited them. The table was set and served before the arrival of guests; some dishes, the removes, were replaced once eaten, but not the majority, since the table was set with enough dishes to satisfy the number of people seated.[2]


A modified form of service à la française in which several large dishes are brought out for each diner to help themselves from is known as "family-style" in less formal restaurants, as they replicate the typical way in which small family meals are served. The buffet style is essentially a variation of the French service in which all of the food is available, at the correct temperature, in a serving space other than the dining table, and guests commute there to be served or sometimes to serve themselves, and then carry their plate back to the table. Buffets vary from the very informal (a gathering of friends in a home, or the serving of brunch at a hotel) to the rather formal setting of a wedding reception, for example. The buffet format is preferred in occasions where a very large number of guests are to be accommodated efficiently by a small number of service personnel.


  1. Service à la Russe CuisineNet. Retrieved: 2012-12-01.
  2. Beth Carver Wees, English, Irish, & Scottish Silver, New York: Hudson Hill Press, 1997, p. 121.

Further reading

See also

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