Gav Martell: He’s in the Kitchen


Ode to the Waiter Who Didn't Write My Order Down

Do they give medals if you can memorize this stuff?!

Look, I get it. As a waiter or waitress there is very little you can do to make yourself stand out and be noticed. You work between very limited margins within which you need to 'wow' your customers in the hope that they open up their wallets and spend heavily on your tip. You make people feel welcome, take drink orders, serve said drinks, take everyone's orders, bring the food out in a timely fashion, top up the drinks—wham, bam, thank you ma'am—there's your 15 percent. If you want to try and impress your diners and stretch that tip a little higher you can make small talk, throw out a couple of semi-amusing anecdotes, cootchie-coo at the babies or tell Mr. or Mrs. Diner just how flattering that green and red Christmas sweater makes them look. So, I get it - it's not a very glamorous job, and other than that once in a career $500 tip someone is going to leave you because you talked to some dying 90 year old about Pomeranian Shi Tzus and when they were a young child growing up in Dusseldorf their father bred Pomeranian Shi Tzus on their country farm—you're looking at a 10-20% tips from here to eternity. 

So, why for the love of all things holy, did waiters decide it would look cool, and certainly impress their guests if they would start to memorize orders? When I'm out dining it's because I don't want to cook, or there is no food at home, or we are out for a nice time with family and friends. You know what I am not interested in? Being dazzled by my waiter. If I wanted dinner and a show I'd go to Medieval Times. Take my order, bring me my food, be pleasant and for the most part, be a fly on the wall. Sure, it's pretty neat if you CAN memorize our order, but you know what? Messing up our order after you've memorized it is going to negatively impact your tip in a way it never would have had you simply written it down to begin with.

This morning was a prime example. We had a family brunch at a local pancake place in Atlanta. There were nine of us—and their menu spans about four pages. Sure enough, our waiter shows up sans pen and paper and makes his way around the table taking everyone's order. And when I say order I mean what they want, what they don't want, what they want to substitute, what they want on the side, how they'd like it cooked and so on... Not an easy group, to be sure—but it was hardly this:


After everyone had ordered, our waiter decided to impress us with his memorization skills and went around the table re-telling all nine of us what we had just ordered—in a very "Look at me! I've memorized all your orders without writing them down. Are you not entertained???"We would have been much more entertained if it hadn't gone something like this: Right. Wrong. Right. Right. Wrong. Wrong. Right. Wrong. Right.

"Ah, have no fear fair diners, now that you've corrected me I have secured it all to the pachyderm part of my brain which surely has it down correctly. Off to my handy-dandy ordering computer to punch it all in!"

Alas, brunch showed up and orders were wrong, items were missed, substitutions were, well, not substituted. It was a disaster. The waiter wasn't a bad guy, he wasn't trying to mess up our order. He just wanted to impress. Instead, we were left wondering why he hadn't just pulled out a pen and paper to begin with. There is no shame people. Santa's got a list. Even Moses wrote that shit down. We're all human! 

Am I asking too much? What restaurant ordering horror stories have you run into?