Friday, August 15, 2008

That Thing The Waiter Does

I know there's a good reason why a waiter repeats your order. I understand he does it because he wants to make sure what he wrote down is exactly the same as what you told him you wanted.

I got that. And I've also got questions: If he repeats an order for four - or even three - guests, wouldn't it mean that all of the guests will have to listen carefully to what the waiter is saying for the whole exercise to make sense?

In other words, wouldn't this mean that all four guests will have to 'pay attention' to a list of items which would be largely irrelevant for each one of them personally? A guest's (silent) thinking, for this whole exercise to make sense, would have to go:

Fish? Not mine.
Caesar salad? Mine.
Steak medium-well? Mine.
Mushroom soup? Not mine.

Is this fun to do? Seriously - is it? Is it something you want to go through in on a pleasant night-out? Perform a mental puzzle in a restaurant so your food comes out right? And given the speed at which some waiters or waitresses repeat the order, wouldn't the entire exercise be futile?

I'll be honest: I usually PRETEND to listen. Unless something outrageous is read out (e.g. roasted lobster in abalone sauce), I normally space out and nod politely each time I'm told, "Let me repeat your order."

Because I'm thinking: If you're a good waiter, you'd take the orders correctly. And even if you get it wrong, the restaurant should see it as a perfect opportunity to let your customers be convinced that you're standing behind your service.

So, in my book, waiters should skip the order-repeating. If you get it wrong, why, you apologise, ensure the customers get what they asked for and you top it off with a free deal which brings a Wow! to their lips.


U-Liang said...

Come on lah, give them waiters a break.

Why wait for mistakes to happen, when it can be easily avoided by doing a simple repeat. Not that it inconveniences everyone on the table. And also, why is it irrelevant to hear what other people on the same table as you are ordering?

We should allow our service staff some slack also lah right? I personally don't mind repeats. To me it shows conscientiousness rather than redundancy.

alwyn said...

well, yeah, it's kinda like some ppl don't mind, others do. and note that the more people there are on the table, the longer and 'tougher' it gets.

of course - the triviality of this issue aside (smile) - it's really about being aware of what customers *may* not want and devising ways of satisfying as many ppl as possible, whilst leaving open the opp to do something wow-creating.

hence, IMO, it's okay to refrain from repeating, go ahead, but should mistakes happen to milk the occasion to ensure (even) more satisfaction than would've occured WITHOUT the mistake(!).

Barbsie said...

Dude - I just had to stand up for this lah ~ afterall, gotta show something for the 15 mths of slogging in the industry.

I hear ya - on the whole repeating thingy - wait till you're one of 16 guests at the table dude!

Repeating is to ensure that the order is taken correctly so that it's mistake free - trust me - to be a server and to send an order back to the kitchen cos you screwed it up - the chef will likely chew your arse man!

One way to overcome the whole table waiting to hear their order that I had my boys practice was to go person to person to repeat their order. This way, conversation can continue around the rest of the diners and shows that each guest is a person with a face, and not just another sirloin steak medium-raw with no veges!

Barbsie said...

Btw, I thot you'll find it interesting to note that while some servers use seat numbering, we do employ the use of drawings as well - bald head with glasses and bow-ties or big-hair with plunging neckline!

alwyn said...

Hi Barb, I like the repeating-to-each-person touch. More personal (duh) and doesn't block the conversation. Great example of solving one problem but making the experience more sought after.

On the other hand, I don't think the chef should screw the waiter up *if* they realise that a mistake can often be a WONDERFUL chance make the customers love you ;>)