Photo: Flickr/Ari Helminem

Izakaya etiquette: Stacking your plates after eating doesn’t help waiters

By Oona McGee, SoraNews24

Izakaya are tavern-like restaurants that can be found throughout Japan, and given their casual vibe and jovial atmosphere, you’d be forgiven for thinking they’re one of the few places where people can kick back and relax without having to worry about etiquette.

However, according to izakaya worker and one half of the comic duo “Westland”, Hiroyuki Iguchi, there’s something that people should be aware of when eating out at these taverns.

Iguchi, who’s been working at an izakaya for over ten years, says a lot of customers stack their plates on the table at the end of their meal. Izakaya typically serve a variety of share plates and small bites for diners to consume while drinking, so each table can fill up with a lot of plates as people graze throughout the meal.

While stacking plates for waitstaff when you’ve finished eating might feel like a courteous gesture, Iguchi says it isn’t helpful at all. In fact, he views it as more of a hindrance than a help because a lot of diners stack the plates without thinking about things carefully, and he’s come across some crazy things, like people sandwiching little soy sauce plates filled with soy sauce in the middle of a tower of dishes.

When it’s loaded high like this, extra care must be taken to either dismantle the tower or transport it from table to kitchen so that the small soy sauce dishes don’t spill. Plus, when oily plates are layered on top of each other, it actually increases the time and effort required for washing, as both the top and bottom of the dish become soiled.

So if stacking plates at the end of the meal is a waste of everyone’s time and effort, what should diners do about the plate situation? Iguchi says the best way to deal with finished dishes is to have them taken away one by one as they become empty.

He goes on to mention that it’s ideal to have only one or two dishes on the table at a time, which means ordering only a couple of things as you go, rather than a whole lot of things together.

People in Japan had a lot to say about the issue, with comments like:

“Isn’t it common sense to leave dishes with liquid still in them at the top of the pile? I can’t believe there are people who can’t do that.”

“The reason people stack the plates up is because the staff don’t take them away.”

“I don’t want to stack oily dishes on top of each other, but I can’t help it if it’s in the way.”

“If staff don’t come to collect the plates throughout the meal, stacking them is the only way to deal with it.”

“Rather than complaining about customers, employees should notice when a dish is finished and take it away.”

Judging from the comments, it looks like customers are just as annoyed about the issue of plates as the waitstaff. After all, diners have a lot on their plate as it is, what with the pressures of the whole senpai/kohai (senior/junior) hierarchy that affects who serves who when eating out in a group, and the fact that a lot of people aren’t actually enjoying themselves but are out drinking with the boss to snare that promotion.

Still, Iguchi makes a good point by suggesting that diners only order a few things at once, as this is usually how things are done at an izakaya. Not only does it let you enjoy piping hot dishes every time, it prevents over-ordering and gets the waitstaff to visit your table more frequently so you can actually hand your finished plates over to them.

Source: Yahoo! Japan News/News Post Seven via Jin

Read more stories from SoraNews24.

-- Tatami etiquette: Why you should never step on the threshold of a washitsu Japanese room

-- Tokyo’s cat pub, the cat cafe for grown-ups

-- Noodles before dumplings? Argument over ramen and gyoza ends in arrest

© SoraNews24

©2020 GPlusMedia Inc.

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Stacking plates is a necessity in Japanese izakayas because the tables are so small. I make small talk with many of the wait staff, even asking if it's ok to stack the plates, and none of them ever mention problems with stacking.

4 ( +5 / -1 )

What is convenient for customers is a hassle for restaurant staff. As a former waiter (and dishwasher too), I always made it a point to check my tables to ensure that the customers' tables were free of empty plates and serving dishes as much as possible. I hated even when one plate was placed on another. So staff need to be on top of things. By the way, there are no rules of etiquette about stacking dishes at any restaurant.

2 ( +2 / -0 )

“The reason people stack the plates up is because the staff don’t take them away.”

When they don't, the commanding "sumimasen" gets the message across and staff will attend the diners. Otherwise, in Japan staff generally don't attend to your table--especially in larger super casual establishments. That's not a problem when dining under Michelin stars. Or at a small counter seating a few people, one plate may have to be removed before another can be set down. There it happens more frequently. Staff consider it annoying to the customer to monitor and visit the table frequently.

I never stack plates when I eat out. It's one of the perks of eating out not to bother.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I avoid izakayas because of the noise. From shrill laughter coming from Japanese MEN to people who slow clap loudly while they chuckle at a lame-ass joke. No thanks.

1 ( +1 / -0 )

I avoid izakayas because of the noise. From shrill laughter coming from Japanese MEN to people who slow clap loudly while they chuckle at a lame-ass joke. No thanks.

Thanks for the comment that furthered the discussion on etiquette at izakayas.

-1 ( +0 / -1 )

That slow loud monkey clap bugs me too.

I have learned how to deal with smokers and it is effective 100% of the time. I politely show them my asthma inhaler and ask them to not smoke.

I put the plates on the floor behind me if sitting on a tatami area. They get taken quickly.

0 ( +0 / -0 )

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