Sometimes big things come in small packages, like a big jolt of energy from a tiny cup of espresso, big sounds from barely-there speakers, or a big surge of power from the engine of a compact Porsche. It's good. It's proportional.
But small things in big packages are a bit harder to comprehend. A tiny ink cartridge in a tangle of plastic and cardboard is a waste. Very few people can appreciate the logic of a tiny appetizer portion arriving on an oversize-rimmed bowl sitting on an even bigger service plate.
Now, imagine that big bowl on the bigger plate sitting on a little dining table. Multiply this times four guests, add water and wine glasses, a table tent, salt and pepper shakers, a bread plate, a wine bottle, candle, some flowers, an empty cocktail glass. Are you getting the picture? Finally, imagine a server arriving on the scene with an armful of entrees ready to set down — but where? An awkward situation, don't you think? But I see this scenario almost every time I dine out.
It becomes a challenge to set down your own glass each time you take a sip. Guests are left to shuffle plates and rearrange the table to make room, while a helpless waiter stands by — arms full. For this reason, I request a four top when I'm dining with just one other person. I suspect a lot of others do the same.
I wonder how so many restaurant operators can order china, glass and silver without taking the table size into consideration. Any operator who is looking to provide a comfortable dining experience for their guests should take a close look at their table set up and determine whether it's properly proportioned. This is a subtly — but it affects your ease and comfort while dining and it can make the difference between a regular customer and someone who doesn't come back.
Observe a typical table in the middle of the meal. Can you see the surface of the table? If you have a problem with size and proportion in your operation, find a solution. You could get new china, glass and silver (a bit pricey, unless you were planning on this expenditure). You could get bigger tables. Adding a larger top to existing tables can solve the problem while hardly impacting the overall feel of your dining room.
Now, about the hapless waiter with the armful of plates... never, ever make a guest move things around to clear the way for their own meals. That's a server's or a busser's job, not the guest's. Bad form and bad service... the one/two punch. Don't let it happen to you.