Saturday, February 7, 2009

Illuminating the obvious

Read the menu!

From time to time, it is mandatory to take a customer by the proverbial hand (much like you would a small child), and guide them around the menu. Never mind that many of the answers to a diner's questions are usually easily found in strategic spots on the menu. The usual occurrence typically goes like this:

Me: What can get for you sir/miss?

Them: I'll have the burger/sandwich/any other item.

Me: How would you like that cooked/cut/any other preparation?

Them: This way/that way/(not paying attention)... does that come with anything?

Me: Yes you get your choice of (sounding off like a robot) soup, salad, fries, chips or cold slaw.

Now anyone who would have read the menu would have seen this. Admittedly, I like to physically point out the area of the menu where it spells it out for them. I try and do this with a borderline subtlety, mixed with an 'it's right here you idiot' manner. I still don't know if it is laziness, apathy, oversight, or temporary memory loss... or even any combination thereof that causes people to ask me this question time and time again. It does tend to get very old, and is the source of (yes, you guessed it) much restaurant rage!

This typically will also happen with soft drinks, specials (a loose paper insert, with a big bold heading that reads: Today's Specials), beers, wines, and desserts. It is a forgivable offense to those who just have an oversight, and as I point it out, are semi-embarrassed or apologetic. It is not forgivable however, when I come to a table and have to repeat the sides four times, to four different people. It is also not admissible if halfway through your order, you turn to your friend and pick up the conversation. My time is valuable, and when you waste it, it cuts into my bottom line. Which is never forgivable!

Here is why this is such a big deal. Aside from it being an annoyance to me, it effects the person's food. Which, inevitably costs money (either from my tip, or the restaurant's pocket, or both) to fix. I'm not a psychic, and I cannot read your mind. If you want a really good meal, you have to order it the way you like it! One wouldn't go to a realtor and say "I want a two bedroom house, for $230,000" and then just buy whatever two bedroom, $230,000 house the realtor returns with first. There are tons of other variables involved. They would need to consider things such as location, style of home, age, loan terms, etc. Maybe this example is a little extreme, but I feel helps to illustrate the point.

It really can't be that big of a deal can it? Well, consider this... my slowest section has four tables. Each table has four chairs. On a busy night, each chair is filled, and sometimes additional chairs are brought in. For simplicity sake, I'll give the section a 16 person head count. I'm waiting on 16 people. All who want drinks, food, various condiments, extra plates, extra napkins, split checks, and of course one will inevitably drop a spoon, knife, or fork. Say I put an order in for one table. I now have approximately 20 minutes before their food will be up. If I have one table who needs to be guided through every step of the menu this will automatically eat up five to eight minutes of my time. There are still three other tables, who need drinks, sides, set ups, etc. I also have to remember that the food for the table that originally took 5-8 minutes to order will be up in 12-15 minutes, and delivered to ensure it is hot. During this time I will make 32 or so trips between the tables, the kitchen, and the bar (16 people X 2 food item/drink = 32). I can save my time by consolidating trips (i.e. bringing out four drinks at once), but someone will forget that they wanted ranch for their fries, or realize that they don't like their burger medium-rare, but rather they meant to order it medium-well. You do the math, you can see where it gets time consuming and crazy.

When you are dealing with time sensitive food (hot entrees, melting desserts) and mix that with performance based gratuity... you can see why I get frustrated when needless things waste my time. Preventable things. I am efficient and expect people to aid in this efficiency for their own sake. This is why it is such an inconvenience and nuisance when I have point things out. When I have to illuminate the obvious.


  1. Thanks for visiting my blog and becoming one of my assistant banquet managers. Stop by on February 16th and see the shout-out I give you.
    So You Want To Be a Banquet Manager

  2. good post, this should be printed out and taped to the inside of every menu everywhere.
    i've always waited tables in some fashion and right now i'm mainly doing catering gigs.. man is it annoying to deal with food and people when the "guest" didn't' even really get to pick what they are eating....too much self entitlement...and people are pigs. 3 trips before most get up there once? and then they complain that WE didn't bring enough food. makes me really think twice about why i started my own BBQ catering co.