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In menus (the printed variety) the phrase “servi pour l'ensemble des convives” can be found in the description of some menus (the multi-course meal). A literal translation does not get me very far, so what's the actual meaning of the phrase?

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Although this phrase could describe the type of service employed in “family-style” meals (where everyone starts with an empty plate and serves themselves from communal serving bowls/platters), it is more often found in conjunction with “Menus dégustations.” or “Tasting Menus” and is used, not really as a description of the service (for the service is usually elaborate and sequential [à la russe]), but as more of a “warning” that all guests (by table if multiple 'Menus dégustations' are offered, but for the entire restaurant if there's only one offered) are required to “participate” in the “dining experience” by ordering (and paying for) the same “tasting menu.”

The menu for L’Ermitage uses the phrase (with “de la table” added) with its two “Menus dégustations,” and translates it as “menu is only served for the whole table,” but when used in connection with 'menus dégustations', I think that non-literal equivalents found on many English “Tasting Menus” capture better the important “warning” aspect of the phrase, such as

Tasting menus require the participation of the entire table

found at the bottom of Luce’s tasting menu.

Or the slightly more literal:

Please note that this menu is to be taken for the entire table

found at the bottom, along with the “per person” price reminder, of Forbury’s sample “Menu dégustation.”

While forcing all the guests (at a table in a restaurant) to order the same thing (“participate”) is contrary to the notion of “free choice” generally associated with restaurant dining, it’s argued that “they’re [not] trying to be difficult—it’s because they want to deliver the best possible experience,” according to Juni’s Commandment 3 of tasting menus.

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    We would need more context from the OP but I think your answer tells it best as it gaves "both sides of the story". It is quite common in good restaurants for all people at the same table to be "forced" to take the same menu, while it is also often not an issue on larger tables if some people change this or that in it. – Laurent S. May 28 '15 at 5:42
  • The context I was referring to was indeed a menu dégustation at a gourmet place in France. But I think that a complete answer has to take into account all contexts we have seen so far: The phrase could mean empty plates and bowls (or whatnot) in the center of the table, it could mean that everybody at the table has to order the meal in question and it could even mean both, i.e. everybody has to order it and there will be bowls in the center. I hope I got that right so far, I'm more than a little bit confused by all the possible implications of that phrase. – realtime May 29 '15 at 19:59
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It is not specified for only one person but the served meal (salad etc.) is for everybody at the table. For example, cheese served at the middle of the table.

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    So everybody gets an individual (but empty) plate and picks food from bowls and platters in the middle of the table? – realtime May 22 '15 at 10:45
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    @realtime Yes. Or with unlimited meal, everyone has to pay for this kind of service on the same table. (Not one menu paid for 4 person by example) – Yohann V. May 22 '15 at 12:17
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This phrase means the item is not an individual plate but is served for everybody at the table. The best translation I can think of is "served for all the guests".

This applies to meals that are cooked for several persons.

The example optimal control gave in his answer is perfect: when you order a fondue, it is common that you have to order it for at least two people, with the cheese being put between all those who take part in it.

Edit: I actually thought of one case when the meal is served for all the guests. When you negotiate with a restaurant for large tables, it is common to establish a restricted menu in order to make things easier/faster. In such cases, this mention may make some sense.

  • So the phrase implies that it needs at lest two people to order such a kind of meal. Does it also imply that all patrons at one table need to order it? For example, is it acceptable that two of four patrons share a meal "servi pour l'ensemble des convives" and the other two order something else? – realtime May 22 '15 at 12:48
  • According to the sentences, it is said "for every one at the table", so 2 patrons would not be able to take something else. But it looks strange (or very rare...). For the fondue, we understand that they can't make a too little meal, the plate must contain a minimum of 2 meals. Forcing all the table to have the same meal is strange, except if the table is very small and you can't put too many plate at the center of the table... Or if it is a one-meal restaurant, where no one have choice (so you can't even choose, every body have what the restaurant decided to cook) – Random May 22 '15 at 13:52
  • Indeed, your example is quite uncommon. The only case I can imagine is when you organize a meal for many people, when the restaurant proposes the same menu for everyone to save trouble. – Chop May 22 '15 at 14:34

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