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Use a pen and get the order right!

  • c

This has been a pet peeve of mine for a long time and it finally reached its point on Saturday night: Waiters/Waitresses that do not write your order down when they take it., It happens all the time in NYC when I go out. Which is fine if you get the order right but if you don't its frustrating and predictable that something will go wrong.

Saturday night - out to a lovely dinner with the boyfriend at a place we frequent. Its always delicious and service pleasant. The waitress comes over for our order. We order an appetizer, 2 pastas and 2 sides of vegtables. I ordered my pasta with no tomatoes. (fyi, it doesn't even say it comes with diced tomatoes on the menu, I just know it does from ordering it over the years and always request it without them.) You can tell when she took our order and kept repeating it to us - which wouldn't have to happen if she just wrote it down - that something was going to come out wrong. Sure enough, tomatoes on my dish. The BF just dug in my dish and ate them. I could of sent it back but didn't since the BF ate them. But I was just pissed as I knew something would go wrong as she was confused about the order from the start because she never wrote it down.

Does this happen to anyone else????

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  1. Agreed. There are some waiters who can take an order for a table of four or more and not slip up, but it seems "cute" to me. I would rather he write down, NY strip med. rare, etc than make a mistake. I would be high irritated it he made a mistake.

    1. I know this is a pet peeve of many people, and I understand that. I really do. The fact is that SOME people can and do regularly take orders from tables without writing it down. It is a skill that develops over time. Also, mistakes are often made even when servers DO write things down. Don't assume it is simply because the server did not write your order on a pad.

      I write everything down. I am highly experienced. Yet, sometimes I make mistakes. I have a co-worker who writes nothing down, (except for parties larger than six). She rarely, if ever, makes mistakes.

      Also, please keep in mind that many restaurants require their servers to NOT write things down. Newer ones make some mistakes until they acquire the skills needed to remember orders.

      I guess mostly what I am saying is that mistakes are made all across the board. Don't just blame it on the fact that the server did not write it down.

      10 Replies
      1. re: hilltowner

        Good point - I remember years ago going to a place where the waiters had hand-held computers to input our orders (that never did catch on, did it). I could tell when my dad ordered milk for my baby bro that the waiter did not input it, but he nodded and said uh-huh so what were we going to do? Needless to say the milk never came and when we reminded him, he obviously thought we were nuts because how could his little device fail him?

        So no system is perfect I guess. I personally tend to agree that the people who don't write it down and repeat it back to me, generally get it right. Special requests are always iffy unfortunately.

        1. re: hilltowner

          I think that part of a server's duty is to serve the dish correctly. Thus, a waiter should check to see there are no tomatoes or that the dressing is on the side, not on the salad if that's what the customer requested before bringing it out to the table. I know this takes a little more time but it's a lot less time than a customer trying to flag a waiter down after the fact. Sometimes it might be hard to spot something added or deleted from a dish, but more times than not it's not.

          1. re: hilltowner

            "Also, please keep in mind that many restaurants require their servers to NOT write things down. Newer ones make some mistakes until they acquire the skills needed to remember orders. "


            So I'm expected to spend my hard-earned money on someone else's training exercise? Seems like a lose-lose for the restuarant because I will not only cheerfully send my order back if you can't leave the damn mayonaise off it but the restaurant also goes down the list on my regular rotation if it's clear they require the servers to memorize and they continue to mess it up.

            1. re: hilltowner

              This is one of my big pet peeves because the order is ALWAYS wrong. My order is usually just too detailed or large NOT be written down. Invariably, something has to be sent back.

              1. re: Bite Me

                "My order is usually just too detailed or large NOT be written down."


                1. re: Bretley

                  Detailed: My orders generally have lots of variation from what's on a menu or creation of something if not on the menu . My husband is similar. Large: We like to order a dish or two for the table, plus we usually have some folks with us.

                  1. re: Bite Me

                    I used to be a server in a restaurant, and I know that I always hated it whenever a customer came in and thought that they could create their own dish just because we have the ingredients. It makes for a cranky server and a cranky kitchen. I never mind if a couple of items are changed, but the "creation of something" not on the menu...sheesh! If you want to play chef, then cook at home! Don't be surprised if you find out one day that the kitchen messed with your food...

                    1. re: focioncroci

                      Sallys! From When Harry Met Sally. My husband had a friend who dated someone like that. Eventually no one would eat with her--it was that embarassing.

                      1. re: focioncroci

                        Not to mention how it slows the process for the entire restaurant for these you know whos.

                        1. re: focioncroci

                          People do this because of a deluded sense of self-importance. There is also this element of power. The "You work for me!" sort of freakiness.

                          It is eyeroll inducing. Pity them.

                2. Some waiters are capable of handling the most complex orders by memory, some need a pen to remember how the steak was supposed to be cooked. When I was waiting I always used a pen because my personal habits have affected my short-term memory :-P. It all depends on the person, but on the other hand, If you cant hack it, pickup then pen.

                  1. It doesn't bother me. People have different memory styles. Some people need to list everything out while others have excellent memories and do not need to do it. Furthermore, when you modify a dish, it's often the kitchen's fault the dish comes out wrong. I am not a person who writes that many things down, while I have some friends who make lists for everything. There is nothing wrong with either approach and I bet that even people who write things down aren't always correct.

                    1 Reply
                    1. re: queencru

                      It doesn't bother me either way. But I work in the industry and a co-worker thinks that a really good waiter doesn't write it down.

                    2. If the server writes it down and it comes out incorrectly the customer MAY think the KITCHEN made the mistake
                      Ifthe server does not write it down and it comes out incorrectly the customer WILL think the SERVER screwed up.

                      11 Replies
                      1. re: jfood

                        I rarely, if ever write anything down unless I have upwards of 8-10 tables going at one time. Sometimes, if a table asks me in the usually snotty tone : "you're not gonna write this down??" I pretend to mess up their order just to see them squeam. You have to get your laughs in some how! Believe me c11...remember what you ordered is the LEAST of my worries (more condiments, wine service, second round drinks, bill and authorize this table, seat 1 and 2 of table 56 need more bills, refill whateverwhatever....so on and so forth) it's the things that you do not have time to write down which trip you up!! or in waiter speak..get you "in the weeds"

                        1. re: yuyu

                          " I pretend to mess up their order just to see them squeam. You have to get your laughs in some how!"

                          That would probably not send the tip heading north at jfood's table.

                          1. re: jfood

                            yeah..... I've never done that.... I try to keep their trust by showing I have the order right....

                            1. re: jfood

                              Exactly. I'd be more inclined to get it precisely right, repeating exactly the same details as they did, to prove them wrong. What's the fun in proving skeptics right? Proving them wrong in a good humored way would be far more laugh-worthy.

                              1. re: chowser

                                I'm almost loathe to say this, but look at the movie waiting....

                                ::cringing now::

                                but there is that great scene where he repeats like, 7 steak orders perfectly back to the table of suits... isn't that way more impressive?

                                1. re: chowser

                                  jfood loves when this happens. Take the order and then look at each person at the table and repeat sequentially. Jfood is proud of the server the s/he can do that. Very impressive.

                                  1. re: jfood

                                    thank you jfood. This is how i operate, and how i get the tips i get.

                                    1. re: kubasd

                                      When someone can do that well, I tip more, too. I'll bet you do quite well as tips go, deservedly so.

                                      1. re: chowser

                                        yup :-) its why i can afford to live alone in clarendon, and go out a lot, lol

                              2. re: yuyu

                                Seriously? You toy with your customers? You have a warped sense of humor.

                                1. re: yuyu

                                  You should consider what "gets you in the weeds" and the customer's experience. Tips WILL improve.

                              3. If it's well done, it's admirable and shouldn't be that noticeable. I've had far too many experiences when it's poorly done. If they can't get it right, after repeating it several times at the table, I have no hope of the order coming out right.

                                1. I dont care, but if you're not going to write it down, my order may be extra complicated......something out of L.A. Story perhaps? half cup of half-caf, double decaf, decafinatted half-caf....with a twist of lemon!

                                  LIke YuYu said, gotta get your kicks somehow right? that being said, if I laddle on minutia just for the fun of it, and it comes out to a T....well someone just earned a healthy tip! if just for sheer entertainment value.

                                  1 Reply
                                  1. re: nkeane

                                    i would only ever pretend to screw up an order if a table was being condescending and say...are you SURE you'll remember all that?? Yes I am and I will also incidentally remember how well you tip, what you ate last week if you came in before..and how you like your steak....I have an amazing memory for that..don't ask me why.
                                    I just have an issue to those who say it like they think all servers are retareded.

                                  2. I love the way the did it at Pastime Lounge in Baton Rouge when I lived there.

                                    You take a pencil and write your order on a pad. If it's screwed up, it's your own fault. But it never is, because they cook what you write.

                                    I am my own best waiter, and I am happy to write my own order if it guarantees it will be correct. Much better than worrying whether the busy waiter remembered to cut the mayo and then tipping him for getting that simple task right, when I easily could have done it myself.

                                    I'd be delighted to do this at a fine dining establishment if given the option. Really.

                                    Which brings to mind Panchos Mexican restaurant and the flag you raise at your table when you need service. If I'm tipping 20%, I'd love a little flag that brings instant service.

                                    I've paid hundred of $$ for meals that would have been better if they had just tossed me an order pad and given me a flag to raise when I needed a glass of wine.

                                    5 Replies
                                    1. re: Remander

                                      wow. If you think that all serving is is writing down an order and getting it correct you really should not ever EVER be eating out. At least PLEASE don't come to my establishment

                                      1. re: yuyu

                                        so what is the name of your establishment just so we know not to come. You probably won't list it.

                                        1. re: chewy_bakah

                                          I work for the restaurant in Fairmont hotel vancouver. I am a certified sommelier, have worked in restaurants for the past ten years from fine dining to fast food..and incidentally have a bachelors degree as well. Let me assure you, serving is not simply translating words to paper.

                                          1. re: yuyu

                                            I'd say 90 percent of fine dining servers have their bachelors degree or more.

                                      2. re: Remander

                                        Remander, the kitchen always cooks what is written? How lucky for you.

                                        An order pan, sip of wine and a flourish of a pen does not a fine dining experience make.

                                      3. That is not a pet peeve. That is one shared by every single diner out there. Who wants their order screwed up?

                                        You screw up my order because you did not write it down? My math skills get fuzzy at the end of the night.

                                        Mistakes will always happen on occasion, but say, if the order comes out of the kitchen wrong, you do not have to rely on your memory when checking for accuracy. "Let's see did she or did she not want onions in that?... Oh well..."

                                        I have a memory like an elephant and can remember a big party's worth of orders, BUT if I get slammed or everyone at the table starts ordering strange things... I might forget something. Plus, do you really want to hear the waiter repeat and repeat the order? I say just drop the ego, write the order, act like a professional and provide a great dining experience where you (the waiter) are not the center stage performing seal.