You’re too cool for kitchen clumsiness.

Can you help me understand something that’s been weighing on me for some time? Great, I could really use your help. First, do you happen to know who in the food and beverage industry decided to do away with servers jotting down orders before entering them into the point of sale or sending them to the kitchen? Because I’d like to speak to that person’s manager. (kidding!)

In all seriousness, though, when consumers’ desire to “have it their way” is at an all-time high and their patience with errors at an all-time low, why ON EARTH would we now decide to deprive them of the tools most helpful in getting orders right? Madness.

But who am I to judge? Read on for what I learned about why this shift in server behavior has happened, its potential impacts, and what to do about them.

Whenever I have strong opinions about new trends or “these kids today,” I always have to check to see if my own thinking is as outdated as the ankle socks my age group still wears to the gym. (I’m never giving them up). So, I took to Google to ask why this shift in not writing down orders has occurred.

According to Google, servers aren’t writing orders down because:

  1. They want to maintain eye contact to build a connection with their guest.
  2. They think they’ll remember the order and don’t need to write it down.
  3. They think by not writing it down, they’ll impress you.
  4. They don’t want to take the time.
  5. It’s not cool to write things down.

Let’s unpack these one by one.

No. 1: They want to maintain eye contact.

Some believe that by not looking away to take notes, you’re able to make better eye contact and build rapport. The idea behind this actually makes a lot of sense. Nonverbal cues like smiling, nodding, and making eye contact are terrific ways to connect. However, if a guest is giving you a complicated order, as many are, just smiling and nodding leaves the ghosts of wrong orders past lingering in guests’ minds.

Instead, build rapport and ensure accuracy by warmly greeting guests and establishing eye contact as you introduce yourself. As guests provide their orders or request modifications, listen attentively while jotting down key details or entering those preferences into a mobile POS station like the CenterEdge Hybrid Tablet. Make sure to periodically glance up, smile, and make eye contact while offering positive verbal cues like “great idea,” “absolutely,” and your own personalized recommendations where appropriate. Repeat the order back once to ensure you’ve gotten it right, thank your guest and affirm their order is in motion (which is even faster if you’ve already sent it to the kitchen by entering into your POS tableside). You’re off to a stellar start.

No. 2: They think they’ll remember the order.

Ah, the old “I’ve got a steel-trap memory” mentality. I hate to break it to you, but even the sharpest minds can falter under pressure. Whether it’s an interesting offshoot of the controversial digital amnesia phenomena, increased demands weighing on servers’ minds, or simply that orders are just more complicated than ever, who knows? But if orders from your food service operation are routinely coming back to be remade, you could have an issue with how they’re received in the first place.

Jotting things down is not a sign of weakness; it’s a sign of professionalism. Plus, it’s way less embarrassing to refer to your notes than to sheepishly admit you forgot someone’s extra cheese on their burger.

No. 3: They’re trying to impress you.

It’s the thought that counts, right? Wrong. Trust me, your guests are more impressed by accuracy and efficiency than by your questionable memory skills. They’ll be much more wowed by a server who takes the time to ensure their order is perfect than by one who relies on memory and gets it wrong. Impress them with your attention to detail, not your ability to play memory games.

No. 4: They don’t have (or want to take) the time. 

Some people might think that taking the time to write things down is time they need to spend engaging with the next guest. But do you know what takes the most time? Running back and forth trying to grab things from the kitchen that you forgot.

Last week, I was having dinner on the patio of a local chain restaurant in San Antonio. I ordered an unsweetened iced tea and a sugar caddy since they no longer leave them on tables, a Beyond Burger without mayonnaise (don’t judge me; they’re delicious), and a side wedge salad without dressing. The result was this:

  • Our server, Devon (who was lovely and all smiles) forgot the sugar caddy and had to go back for it. (I pretended like I’d never asked the first time).
  • He forgot to request that the mayonnaise be removed from the burger. (I said there was no need to remake it; I’d be happy with just a new bun since I understand I’m responsible for requesting a change from their standard. The restaurant paid for the new bun, which he also had to go back twice to secure and retrieve.)
  • He accidentally left the french fries in the order (a happy accident for the guest but the restaurant paid for the fries.)
  • He forgot to have the dressing left off the salad (I ate it without complaint because I’m self-aware enough to know I’m part of the problem).

In the end, there were two “special” food requests. Devon had to go back and forth to the kitchen multiple times, the kitchen spent time prepping items, and the restaurant bore the burden of wasted food. Now, am I considered a high-maintenance guest? Possibly. While I try to balance my high maintenance-ness by being nice, tipping well, and overlooking anything I can live with. But do you want to take the chance your guest is well-mannered rather than someone who acts entitled and angry instead? Or worse, has a food allergen that your business unknowingly exposes them to when staff gets it wrong?

Whether guests are demanding or not isn’t really the question. The question is,  do you have the time and the money to waste when avoiding rework could be so much simpler?

No. 5: Thinking it’s not cool to write things down.

I was going to myth-bust this one with how competence is cool but instead, I’ll offer this. If you want your staff to show off their impressive memory skills because taking notes is for losers, then invest in memory-building training techniques. Because just like multitasking, most of us really aren’t as good at it as we think we are. Here are a few resources to help:

So, there you have it: while maintaining eye contact and showcasing a good memory might seem impressive, nothing beats the reliability of jotting down orders. It’s not just about avoiding mistakes—it’s about enhancing the dining experience and building a reputation for outstanding service. Next time you’re at a restaurant, take a moment to appreciate those servers who take the time to get it right. After all, competence is always cool. Bon appétit!

Leave a Comment