“The Formal Dinner”

Formal SettingHave you ever attended a real formal dinner?  I have learned that most of us have not, unless you have experienced evening at the Queen’s table.  The term “formal dinner,” Americanized by the historically prominent Lady of Etiquette, Ms. Emily Post, does not mean “stuffy” as most might think; it means structured!  She said in her 1923 book of Etiquette, “The higher the level of structure, the higher the level of service one will experience,” and this is where I entered the eloquent venue of Formal Dinners.

Starkey International began thirty years ago and I have hosted 12 formal dinners a year as part of our Household and Service Management curriculum.  It has become a tried and true art form for us.  I consistently have “Run the Table” over the years and have tried almost everything.  We finally emerged with our current educational guide on Entertaining including tableware and settings, flowers, service timing and styles, entertainment, culinary menus, wines, conversation, apparel, and yes, only at the queen’s table, our mirrored service.  

Where did the term etiquette come from?  Why are fish knives the only pointed knife still at table?  What are the international table service signs for “I am resting” or “I am finished”?  Which etiquette matriarch taught us to utilize the Zigzag method of holding our flatware as opposed to the internationally accepted Continental style?  These basic etiquette terms and to-do’s are not just old guard, diplomatic modes of behavior; they literally bring a level of graciousness to “receiving service” at table.  That is, “eat with confidence the great culinary delights, drink and appreciate the rare wines that have been precisely married to the foods, fully experience the intimate interactive relationships at table, and follow the unwritten dance of service.”

Running a Formal Dinner has become a great and joyous experience for me in my travels around the world, whether I have Ted Turner, the Arch Duke of Austria, or you at my table.  It’s the art of sharing the best of the best in food, drink, service, and each other.  Starkey educates her employer clientele on running the formal table, their staff in serving at table; and hosts formal dinners regularly for non-profit and charity events.

Come Join Us!
Contact Mr. Xavier Medecin, Director of Education.

Excerpts of Formal Entertaining Event Planning from the Original Guide to Private Service Management, Copyright 2009

Starkey Offers On-Site Customized Service Training for Your Staff

Starkey Private TrainingCustomized Service Management Education and Training Offered in Your Home!

Starkey International® focuses on Service as an Expertise with Education, Placement, Publications, and for Service Management!


Starkey Identifies your Service Vision and provides On-site Customized Training for your Service Staff.





  • Our Graduates are all over the world
  • We provide HQ Service Management Software

Let Starkey International®...

  • Help Establish your Service Vision and Service Training Goals
  • Develop a Management Plan or Blueprint of your Vision of Service for your home and family with Staffing Needs
  • Customize, Zone & create Task Sheets for Daily and Seasonal Duties, both for the Residence and Outside Property
  • Customize our Recruitment and Placement to fit your Unique Needs
  • Educate your staff in Fine Housekeeping Techniques, Clothing and Linen Care, Entertaining, Nanny Management, and more!

Starkey Service Management ModelStarkey International is celebrating 30 years in serving the Private Service Industry and has become the expert in teaching the "Relationship of Service." Starkey International teaches how to identify and meet the Service Standards expected by you and your guests.  Starkey has developed and patented the Starkey Service Management System. We turn service into a highly valued asset, where "service" is the product.  We have learned that Service Professionals must be positioned to be successful. Starkey Private Staff Training is customized in content to serve individualized needs.

Starkey Private Training

Customized Curricula

  • Identifying Service Visions
  • Customized Service Management Plans
  • Service Etiquette and Protocol
  • Tea and Coffee Specialties
  • Entertainment and Event Planning
  • The Formal Dinner
  • Table Settings and Service Styles
  • Silver Polishing and Care
  • Culinary Meal Planning
  • Marriage of Food and Wine
  • Aperitifs, Digestive’s, and Cigars
  • Wine Cellar Management
  • Housekeeping Techniques
  • Care of Fine Linens
  • Laundry and Closet Organization
  • Care of Fine Art, Antiques and Carpets
  • Flower Arranging
  • Management of Vendors & Grounds and Property
  • Car Care, Etiquette & Detailing
  • Security and Security Protocols
  • Nanny Management System


Specialized Placement Staff & Private Service Educators

Mary Louise StarkeyMrs. Mary Louise Starkey, B.S. & C.E.O.
President and Founder of Starkey International®

“Service as a Relationship,” Mrs. Starkey, known as the First Lady of Service, has thirty years as CEO of Starkey International® and for professionalizing the Private Service industry.  She is a dynamic and passionate educator, public speaker, and a natural storyteller.  She freely shares her knowledge and mentors clients in identifying and creating “Their Vision for Service!”

Mrs. Starkey provides on-site consultations to Private Estates and Clubs, Luxury Market Hotels and Businesses, to identify their Service Visions, customize their Style of Service, and develop a Service Management Plans.


Private Training Tuition Cost: $2,000 - $2,500 per day depending on the number of instructors and training days required.  HQ Software provided. Customized Transportation, Hotel and Meals provided by Client

For more information and individualized pricing to customize your service needs, please contact Starkey International at (800)888-4904.


Service Management Tools That Assess Your Service Needs and Customize Service for You

It has been Starkey International’s 39-year mission to develop a world-recognized service profession in which service is viewed as an art form with its own career path and is seen as an expertise. Starkey International has demonstrated its vision by positioning Starkey services and products to uniquely serve the growing luxury marketplace. Starkey International has made meeting the expectations of the luxury employer its first objective.

In response to employers’ requests for a Superior Household Management Service Plan in 1994, Starkey International developed a unique Service Management System for identifying and managing Private Service Expectations. The typical training for household service provided only basic technical skills. We go much deeper than that.

The Starkey System

•Identifies specific Service Expectations
•Introduces functional Service Management Terminology
•Provides 11 unique Service Management tools for managing Service expectations
•Organizes and upholds these Service Standards and expectations on a daily basis
•Customizes an overall Service Management plan

In 1997, Starkey registered a patent for the Starkey Service Management System. This system is an interactive communication model that is specifically designed to customize service delivery. No longer will you be stuck in crisis mode or doing guesswork on your Principal's expectations. The Starkey System adapts to any family or Service environment and to all Service expectations.


The Starkey System presents to Employers:

•A Standards Matrix for identifying their Service Standards
•Technical Skills Qualifier for evaluating candidates
•Zoning and customization of Housekeeping Task Sheets and products
•Day in the Life for accountability and communication
•Service Matrix for presenting the entire Service Management plan.

The Starkey Service Management System was patented in 1997 (Patent No. US 6,745,200 B2).



Site Visits for Private Homes and Estates

Customized Service to Fit Your Lifestyle

Starkey has learned that genuine service is obtained only when expectations are understood and met. To achieve this, Starkey comes to your home or service environment to customize service for you and your lifestyle. By participating in the on-site consultation and using Starkey’s Service Management System, you will be able to articulate your Lifestyle Service Vision, Service Priorities and Standards.

StarkeyCrestEach family has a unique Service Lifestyle. It may be formal, corporate, family friendly, casual or directed toward retirement and travel. Your priorities may include developing your entertainment style, providing an educational environment for your children, caring for overnight guests or making large-scale renovations. Your style of Service staffing must also be unique to you and must be positioned to effectively support your Service Vision.

Mrs. Starkey generally arrives in the late afternoon in time for an initial meeting to determine the principal’s Vision of Service.

It is often positioned as part of a dinner conversation so that there is time for all to consider and articulate expected outcomes. This dinner meeting also takes place to identify service priorities and your overall Service values and goals.

The next morning, Mrs. Starkey returns to your residence for an in-depth household tour to identify your:

  • Service Standards
  • Zoning and Housekeeping Task Sheet requirements
  • Staffing and Service Flow needs
  • Meet any current staff

The Site Visit also ascertains the needs of your specific Service environment, and we usually finish our assessment in the early afternoon. We then prepare the written Service Management Plan (typically an estimated 55-page document).

In approximately two weeks following the Site Visit, you will receive an initial written plan using Starkey’s Service Management System, similar to the report presented in Mrs. Starkey’s Setting Household Standards publication sent when you initially registered your intent to work with Starkey. This customized Service Management Plan includes the identification of your Service Vision and customization of all 10 Service Standards, recommendations for the required staff and the required Technical Skills levels to meet your expectations.

In addition, Day-in-the-Life® Position Descriptions will be developed for your primary staff members.  Finally, an overall Service Matrix will be created that delineates the number of service hours each staff person must complete on a weekly basis to meet your service expectations.

Once customized, it will also give you an overall idea of what the expected Service Standards will require in weekly staff hours with overall Service Recommendations.

Most of our Clients choose to have Starkey help them define their Service Needs, customize their Service delivery plan prior to beginning the hiring process. Starkey is then able to hand-pick the perfect Certified Household or Estate Manager, Personal Assistant, Butler, Private Chef or other staff members.

Site Visits generally last no more than seven hours (over two days) for one location. Principals with multiple homes may require additional on-site visits and/or report development time. The cost for the Site Visit and a customized Service delivery plan is $15,500 plus travel costs.


During your site visit, Starkey will:

  • Help you define your Service Vision and Lifestyle Goals
  • Identify your household Service staffing requirements using our Day-In-The-Life® model
  • Identify your specific Service Standards in the 10 different categories
  • Identify your educational training needs for current or future staff
  • Customize an initial household Service plan that will specifically identify the right number of staff, their abilities, and Service Attitudes
  • Handpick a Starkey Household or Estate Manager that fits the environment (only if placement is required)