What is F&B Service: Types of Food and Beverage Services

What is food and beverage service?

Food and beverage service is the process of preparing, presenting, and serving food and beverages to customers. Food can include a wide range of styles and cuisine types. These can be classified by country. Beverages include all alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks. Alcoholic beverages include wines and all other types of alcoholic drinks, such as Cocktails, Beer, Ciders, Spirits, and Liqueurs.

In the foodservice industry, there are a number of different industrial sectors that are categorized according to the type of customer demand being met.

This identification of sectors also provides a framework for those studying the food and beverage service industry, to which further studies and experience may be related.

The food and beverage industry in hotels traces its roots to the traditional community feasts and the movement of people on pilgrimages thousands of years ago. Most people were on the move primarily for preaching, religion, and hunting.

Different Types of Food and Beverage Services

Food and beverage services can be classified into the following groups:

  • Waiter Service
  • Self-Service
  • Assisted Service

a) Waiter Service

In this type of F&B service method, food and beverages are served to guests by waiters at the guest’s place. It may be at a table in a restaurant, in a hotel room, on a flight, in a hospital, and so on.

Waiter service is further classified into the following service types:

1. English Service

It is also known as the Silver service. In the English service method, dishes are presented and transferred to the guest’s plate using a service spoon and fork from the left-hand side of the guest, while beverages are served from the right-hand side.

It is regarded as a formal service. The waiter brings plates and dishes to the sideboard and places the plate before each guest from his or her right-hand side, moving clockwise.

He or she presents the main dish to the host and serves each guest, starting with the one seated to the right of the host. The server moves counterclockwise while serving food. This kind of service is implemented in upscale restaurants.

Points to remember while using the English service:

  • Serve food from the dish or plate onto the guest’s plate using a service spoon and fork from the left-hand side.
  • Conduct clearance from the right-hand side.

Advantages of English service

  • Personalized service.
  • Customer satisfaction.
  • Waiters have the opportunity to exhibit their service skills.
  • No plate wastage.

Limitations of English service

  • Calls for a high level of service skills, hence more labor costs.
  • More staff is required.
  • Low turnover
  • Slow service.

2. American Service

In this service style, pre-plated foods are placed in front of customers from the right-hand side. Now it is widely used for banqueting. This service style is also known as Plated service.

Advantages of American service

  • Service skills are not required.
  • Low labor cost.
  • Needs fewer waiters.
  • Quick service.
  • High seat turnover as service is fast.
  • The kitchen staff has scope to demonstrate their plating skills.

Disadvantages of American service

  • No personalized service
  • Chances of plate wastage
  • Food may become cold.
  • More kitchen time and labor

3. French Service

French service, which is also called family service, In French, this service is found in family pensions and banquets, where the dish is presented to each guest from the left-hand side to help himself or herself.

For a small party of two to three guests, dishes ordered by them are placed on the table with service implements and plates for the guests to help themselves.

This method is widely practiced in ethnic restaurants, especially Chinese and Indian restaurants. Indian bread and accompanying dishes are kept on the table for guests to help themselves. If assistance is required, the waiter may help the guests pass and serve the dish.

Advantages of French service

  • Service skills are not required.
  • Low labor cost.
  • Quick service.
  • No plate wastage.

Disadvantages of French service

  • Service staff will not be able to demonstrate their service skills.
  • Food may go cold.
  • Guests may spill or burn themselves.
  • Needs more space on the table.
  • Guests may feel neglected.

4. Russian Service

This is a very elaborate service. In this Russian style of service, large joints, roast poultry, whole fish, and so on, that have elaborate garnish, are neatly arranged on a platter, presented to the host, taken back to the sideboard, carved, portioned, and so on, that have elaborate garnish, are neatly arranged on a platter.

After serving, dishes are kept on a hot plate on the side plate to keep them warm. Each course is served on a side plate. This service is not practiced much at this time.

5. Gueridon Service

Gueridon service is one of the methods of serving food. It is also known as the Trolley service or Cart service. It refers to a mobile service table or trolley, from which a dish may be dressed, prepared, carved, and flamed in the presence of guests near their table.

This type of foodservice operation is implemented in fine dining restaurants where the à la cart menu is offered and the average spending power (ASAP) is higher.

Approaches to Gueridon Service

For guéridon service, food orders are very similar, and all the dishes must be presented to the customer’s table before the actual service of the food and especially before any portioning.

Procedure for Gueridon Service:

  1. Guéridon service is essentially a chef and commis service. Therefore, there must be complete liaison and teamwork between them and the other members of the team.
  2. Always push the guéridon, never pull it. This helps to control and steer the guéridon in the right direction and avoid accidents.
  3. The trolley is kept in one position for the duration of a complete course and is not moved from customer to customer.
  4. The commis must always keep the guéridon clear of dirt.

Advantages of Gueridon service

  • Highly personalized service.
  • Good merchandising device.
  • Wait staff can exhibit their culinary, carving, and service skills.
  • High average spending power (high revenue or cover).

Disadvantages of Gueridon service

  • Slow service.
  • Low seat turnover.
  • The chances of accidents are higher.
  • More investment in in-service equipment
  • Cooking in the service area may leave an odor.

6. Tray Service

In this form of f&b service in the hotel, dishes ordered by guests are neatly portioned and arranged on a tray with the necessary condiments and taken to their rooms, beds, or seats by waiters. Special trays are available to retain the temperature of dishes.

This style is practiced in in-room service, hospitals, flights, and institutional catering. Customers’ orders are taken by room service order takers, and dishes are arranged on a tray and served quickly in their rooms. Orders can be collected either from the kitchen or the floor pantry.

Advantages of Tray service

  • Service skills are not required, hence the low labor cost.

Disadvantages of Tray service

  • The tray area may not be adequate to accommodate more dishes unless the number of dishes and portion size are predetermined, as in the case of flight catering.
  • Waiters will not be able to exhibit their service skills.
  • No personalized service
  • Food may go cold unless insulated trays are used.

Advantages of Counter service

  • Quick service.
  • Service skills are not required.
  • Less staff is required.
  • Low labor cost.
  • High seat turnover.

Disadvantages of Counter service

  • No personalized service
  • There is no scope for talented waitstaff to show their skills.

b) Self-service

The main form of self-service is found in cafeterias. In this form of service, customers collect a tray from the beginning of the service counter, move along the counter to select their meal, pay, and then collect the required cutlery for their meal, together with ancillary items.

Menus should be prominently displayed at the entrance to the cafeteria or food service area so that customers may decide, as far as possible, what meal they purchase before arriving at the service points. This saves time and ensures that customer turnover is as quick as possible.

The menu offered may show a wide range of dishes, from simple hot and cold snacks and beverages to full meals.

Cafeterias often have a straight-line counter where customers queue in line formation past a service counter and choose their menu requirements in stages before loading them onto a tray and then proceeding to a payment point at the end of the counter. Where customer turnover is particularly high within a very narrow period of time and when space is limited, variations on the cafeteria straight-line counter-type service may operate.

For example-

  • Free Flow: Selection as in the straight-line counter-type service, but the customer may move at will to random service points. These customers will then exit the service area via a payment point.
  • Echelon: A series of service counters at angles to the customer flow within a free flow area, thus saving space and time. The advantage of this system is that selecting a full meal does not hold up customers who require just a sandwich and a hot drink.
  • Supermarket/Shopping Mall: Island service points within a free-flow area.

c) Assisted Service

The main form of assisted service is found in carvery-type operations. The customer is served part of the meal at a table and is required to obtain part through self-service from some form of display or buffet.

Customers are able to obtain parts through self-service from some form of display or buffet. Customers are able to help themselves with carved joints and other dishes, usually with the assistance of a carver or server at the buffet. This form of service is also used for breakfast service.

Assisted service is further classified into the following types:

1. Single-Point Service

The main forms of single-point service are found in the following:

  • Takeaways: The customer orders and is served from a single point at a counter, hatch, or snack stand; the customer consumes off the premises, although some takeaway establishments provide dining areas.
  • Vending: provision of food and beverage service by means of automatic retailing.
  • Bars: order, service, and payment points, and consumption area in licensed premises.

2. Cafeteria Service / Counter Service

Within the seating area, an allowance of about 0.5 to 1 m per person is sufficient to take into account table space, gangways, and access to counters.

A tray stand is placed at the beginning of the service counter or at the entrance to the service area so that each customer can collect a tray before proceeding along the counter.

The length of the counter will generally be determined by the size of the menu offered, but it should not be too long, as this will restrict the speed of service.

Payment points are located at the end of the counter or at the service area exit so that customers may pay for their meal before they pass to the seating area.

Cutlery stands should be placed after the cashier, together with any ancillary items that may be required, such as napkins and accompaniments. This helps to ensure that the throughput of customers at the service counter remains continuous.

Another advantage of placing the cutlery stands and ancillary items here is that the customer can return to collect these items, should they initially forget to do so, without interrupting the main queue of customers.

3. Room Service

Room service types vary from basic tea and coffee-making facilities in the room and possibly a minibar to vending machines on floors or the service of a variety of meals in rooms. The extent of service in hotel guest rooms will depend on the nature of the establishment.

4. Lounge Service

Lounge service may include continental breakfast, morning coffee, luncheon snacks, afternoon tea, dinner, or late evening snacks, as well as alcoholic beverages.

The lounge is very often the front window of the establishment, so the standards of service should be high. In a first-class establishment, lounge service staff may operate from their own service pantry. Lounge staff may have access to a dedicated storage area that holds a basic stock of items they may need in an emergency.

History of the Food and Beverage Service Industry

During those days, people took shelter under trees when they were away from their homes and depended on natural sources for their food. Their lives were endangered by wild animals and wayside robbers, which forced them to look for a place that assured them safety, accommodation, and food.

Dahrmasalas and Chatrams came up to protect the lives of travelers from wild animals and robbers. The travelers were also provided stables and a shed for horses and bullock carts, respectively, free of charge. They were given food and accommodation at no cost during the rule of the kings.

Traders used to share accommodations with the owner of the house and were given meals and drinks. Mighty regional kings entertained common people and merchants with feasts consisting of a variety of rich dishes, traditional dances, brave arts, etc. during festivals.

The trained and qualified manpower, professionalism, availability of a wide range of cooking and service equipment manufacturers, food technology, consumer demand, a change in the lifestyle of our citizens, a lack of time to cook, media influence, an increased influx of foreigners, and so on, have changed the face of the Indian F&B service industry.

The foodservice sector continually changes its style of operation to meet the changing needs of its customers. Today, we have top-quality restaurants in India that are comparable to international standards.

Introduction to Food and Beverage Service

The industry of food service engages itself in the provision of food and
beverages, mainly to people who are away from their homes for different reasons.

Such people need accommodation with food and beverages if they are away for more than a day, and only food and beverages if they are away for a short duration of time.

The basic needs of customers for food and beverages are met by the food service industry, which has been associated with lodging ever since people started traveling.

People who move out of their houses for various reasons, such as job, education, business, leisure, medical treatment, sports, religion, and so on, depend completely on the foodservice industry for their meals.

The barter system of the transaction was slowly introduced, and this system motivated people to travel for trade, mainly livestock, which later expanded to food grains, clothing, tools, and other goods. Traders used to share accommodations with the owner of the house and were given meals and drinks.

Mighty regional kings entertained common people and merchants with feasts consisting of a variety of rich dishes, traditional dances, brave arts, etc. during festivals.

The people of India, in general, did not prefer dining out until the early 1960s. Perhaps this could be one of the reasons why dabbawalas, who are food vendors engaged in distributing meals in “Dabbas” (boxes) to clients at their workplaces, are doing so well in Mumbai.

The development of catering in India is mainly attributed to the British, who introduced hotels and restaurants similar to those in Europe.

There are many types of food and beverage operations. They may vary in size, style, location, and the market they are catering to. From a wayside tea stall to an exclusive fine dining restaurant of a deluxe hotel, and from mid-day meal services for schoolchildren to meals for industrial workers, all come under the fold of the food and beverage sector.

It is necessary to classify all the food and beverage sectors for a better understanding of their operations.

Areas of Food and Beverage Service

These are the different areas of f&b services:

1. Primary Catering Sectors

The establishments in this category are primarily concerned with the provision of food and beverages to customers. Examples are foodservice outlets in accommodation sectors, Various types of restaurants, and takeaways.

2. Secondary Catering Sectors

The establishments in which the provision of food and beverages is not the main activity but a secondary or support activity are called secondary catering sectors.

Examples are institutional catering, transport catering, catering services in theaters, amusement parks, department stores, and industrial catering. The primary activity of these units is not the provision of food and beverages to the clients, but the activity for which they are set up.

Some trains have a pantry car, while others do not. Short-duration flights may not provide in-flight catering services.

The food service industry can also be divided into the following two groups according to profit motive:

3. Commercial Sectors

Commercial sectors operate mainly to make a profit or to earn an adequate return on investment through their products and services.

Food and beverage facilities at hotels, motels, clubs, stand-alone restaurants, popular restaurants, takeaway outlets, coffee shops, fast food outlets, transport catering, contract catering for industries, and so on are examples of commercial catering.

It can be further classified into residential (for example, hotels, motels, resorts, inns, clubs, and so on) and nonresidential.

For example, restaurants, fast food outlets, pubs, bars, and so on.

Hotels provide F&B services to customers in the following areas other than accommodation:

  • Restaurants (from silver service restaurants to self-service restaurants, 24-hour operations to restricted hours of operations, open to residential and non-residential guests).
  • Bars
  • Lounge area
  • Banquets
  • Rooms (restricted only to hotel guests).

Most guests staying in hotels are on business trips, stay for a very short duration, and expect quick service. They may also need banquet halls to hold functions, conferences, and business meetings.

The restaurants of hotels may offer a buffet for all three meals to speed up service. Resorts provide accommodation mainly to vacationers. The duration of their stay is longer compared to guests who stay in hotels.

The ambiance of the restaurant will be very informal, and the service will be either from a buffet or at the table. Guests expect special dishes from the region, as they want to experience new dishes and have more time to spend in the restaurant.

So, the food and beverage sectors provide services to various markets. Some of these sectors provide services to the general public, while others provide them only to restricted groups. We can divide the F&B sectors according to the market or the type of customers they cater to in the following manner.

4. Non-Captive Market

The customers have a choice of where to eat. The type of restaurant chosen may be a fine dining restaurant of a deluxe hotel, a stand-alone restaurant, a coffee shop, a fast food outlet, a specialty restaurant, or a popular restaurant, depending on the following:

  • Reason for dining: birthday party, Valentine’s Day, wedding anniversary, or business meeting.
  • Time available to eat: Some customers have more time to spend in a restaurant while others have very little time, which influences their decision on the type of eatery they choose. Executive-class clients need executive lunch during lunch hours as they have less time to eat.
  • Food preference of customers: the type of food they want to eat, for example, Chinese dishes, South Indian dishes, sandwiches, and so on.
  • Money is available to spend on food.
  • Time of the day.
  • Distance.
  • Ambiance desired.
  • Personal experience.

5. Captive Market

The customers do not have a choice where to eat and have to avail themselves of services provided by particular catering outlets.

For example, Residential school children, College students staying in hotels, hospital patients, people staying in old age homes, prisoners, and industrial workers

6. Semi-Captive Market

The customers have a limited choice of where to eat. In such a market, the customers have a choice before selecting the food and beverages. Once the choice is made, the customers have no choice but to be content with what is on offer.

Food and Beverage Service Departments

Other than secure and comfortable accommodation, guests staying in a hotel expect a wide range of hygienically prepared, wholesome food and beverages.

It is the responsibility of the food and beverage department of the hotel to provide these services 24 hours a day to the guests. It is the second major revenue-producing department of the hotel, the first being the front office.

Star category hotels have many food and beverage service outlets, such as luxury restaurants, specialty restaurants, coffee shops, cocktail bars, lounges, room services, and so on, to satisfy the different palates and needs of the guests, and banquet halls to organize functions and conferences. All these outlets are managed by the food and beverage department.

These are some departments of the F&B services:

1. Banquet Organization

Banquet department functions fall under the control of the banquet manager. It is responsible for organizing various types of formal and informal functions within and off the premises.

Usually, the banquet business is a seasonal business, but the hotel must devise a plan to sell its banquet facilities throughout the year.

A hotel may either have many banquet halls of different sizes or one large hall, the size of which can be adjusted with temporary partitions to accommodate parties of various sizes.

The banquet department is managed with the help of a few permanent staff members, as more service staff can be arranged from either local sources or other food and beverage service areas.

2. Room Service Organization

The room service department is responsible for serving food and beverages in the guest’s rooms according to predetermined standards. All the activities of the room service department are controlled by the room service manager. In a smaller hotel, the restaurant manager may be given the additional responsibility of managing room service.

3. Lounge Organization

The lounge is a department located in the reception area where guests relax, meet other guests, or wait for rooms to be released. The guests at the lounge may require food and beverage services.

The lounge waiter should be prepared to serve coffee, tea, aperitifs, wines, spirits, and snacks. The orders are collected against KOT/BOT on a tray and served at the lounge by lounge waiters, just like room service. At the end of service, bills should be presented.

The entire food and beverage operation in the lounge is under the control of the lounge head waiter, and he gets the work executed through lounge waiters.

This service is not prevalent in budget hotels or even in some of the deluxe hotels. However, on request, beverages and snacks can be served at the lounge.

4. Bar Organization

The bar serves different types of alcoholic beverages to residential and non-residential guests of the hotel. It may refuse to serve alcohol to guests who are underage or are already quite inebriated.

The minimum age for alcohol consumption should be followed strictly to avoid any legal or police action against the establishment.

The service of drinks is very profitable, and at the same time, close monitoring is essential to prevent any malpractice that may arise in any of the beverage outlets.


India, a populous country, has very good potential for the major development of all sectors of the food service industry. The prospects for catering look great because, in the future, people, whether at home or at their workplace, will also be dining out.

The number of people availing themselves of the services of the food industry is steadily increasing due to their increased disposable income. Today, in the retail market, ready-made and semi-cooked food items are available to cater to the needs of the target market.

The food service industry is different from other industries in satisfying the needs of customers. It satisfies one of the most important physiological needs of the customers, which is hunger and thirst.

The need is satisfied for a very short period of time, after which that physiological need arises again and has to be met. Foodservice professionals must understand the internal and external environment and make use of the opportunity.

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Dipayan Mondal
Dipayan Mondal

Dipayan is the author of this blog. He completed his hotel management degree from GNIHM, Kolkata. And he is very passionate about the hospitality industry. And right now, he is working as a successful hotelier in a 5-star hotel.