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slkinsey

Waiters Who Don't Write Down the Orders

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Well, sounds like that's going to happen whether the waiter wrote it down or not!

huh? I generally derive an enormous amount of pleasure from dining out; stress is not part of that usually. Having the waiter not write an order down is mildly stressful for me (again, not on a deuce, but on a four top or more). When the waiter writes down our order I can during that time enjoy my cocktail or wine, or look around the room, or whatever. When he's not writing it down, I feel like I have to pay much more attention to the whole ordering process. If he doesn't write it down but tries to recite the whole order back before leaving the table we have the same result. I just don't find it relaxing as a diner.

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I don't like the readback. It's a waste of my time and only establishes that the server hasn't forgotten anything YET. And if the server is trying to save time by not writing things down, the readback defeats that purpose.

I'm telling you, handheld POS is the solution to this problem and all order-accuracy problems. In New York City, Ryuichi Munekata, who owns Yakitori Totto and several other Japanese restaurants, has been using handheld POS since 2004. The servers have Palm Pilots that seem very capable, and I doubt they make many mistakes. These are by no means tacky chain restaurants. They're more like the restaurants of the future. The most recent place where I've seen handleld POS in use has been, of all things, an upscale pizzeria. The servers there had gray ruggedized units that also printed checks and could accept credit card swipes tableside. Once people become accustomed, as they are in Europe and Asia, to having credit cards swiped at the table they will never be willing to go back to a system where the credit card is taken out of view to have lord-knows-what done to it.

The whole ordering system in most restaurants now is computerized almost end-to-end. The one place where there's a gap in that system is getting the order from the customer's mouth into a computer where it can't get messed up. Servers today, whether they rely on memory or handwriting, are the weak link in the chain of ordering custody. If we even have servers in the future, they will use handheld POS or some other technology to avoid ordering errors. (If we don't have servers we'll just have POS at the table, like in some kaiten-zushi places in Japan.) Customers will get used to it just as people get used to other new and eventually pervasive technologies in other contexts (radio, television, computer, cell phone, etc.). Maybe there will be some 1990s theme restaurants where you pay extra to have them write orders on paper or memorize them, and every dish has mango sauce. Maybe very fancy restaurants will still kick it old school. But everybody else will and should use labor-saving, error-reducing technology so orders don't get screwed up either from bad memory or bad handwriting.


Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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The most efficient ordering system I've used was a table-top touch screen. No worry about someone writing down the wrong order or forgetting it. We just selected what we wanted, and waited for our food to arrive. This was, of course, in Japan.

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I love seeing waiters with the handheld POS deals. Before this discussion, it hadn't crossed my mind that it would improve accuracy, but the speed advantages were always obvious. There's no waiting for the waiter to shuffle all the way across the dining room, past annoying distractions (like other tables full of hungry, attention-hogging diners). I know that before the waiter asks what I want for dessert, my dumpling order has been zapped to the kitchen at the speed of light. Bliss.


Notes from the underbelly

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Fascinating discussion

Bar tending has always been my "thing", but like many people in this business I've also spent a lot of time on the restaurant floor.

When working as a waiter I would never have dreamt of taking an order by memory. Reading this thread has just made me realise that's a bit odd.

Behind the bar I would more than happily take orders for very large rounds in one, hopefully quick, order then make them all and tot up the total price in my head whilst doing so. Or alternatively 4 or 5 different small orders simultaneously and have no problems remembering who ordered what. Plus remembering what everyone had earlier so you can offer "the same again?" It takes a bit of time to learn, but it's as much an essential skill as knowing how to make a good martini.

Surely that's not much different to remembering the orders from a smallish table? Is the only real difference that one is expected and the other frowned upon?

Cheers,

Matt

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If you make a mistake with a beverage order at the bar it takes seconds to rectify it. The same cannot be said for a wrong food order.

Dining should be about the guest experience, and a majority of diners are negatively affected by seing that their order has not been written down. However, at times I've had waiters who write down the order make mistakes and at others, had my expectations exceeded but waiters who don't. I think it comes down to the competence and style of the individual server.

Handhelds are great when they have an effective user interface, but I don't think that they are suitable for all establishments.

RM


i´d rather have a full bottle in front of me than a full frontal labotomy! Fred Allen.

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I'm telling you, handheld POS is the solution to this problem and all order-accuracy problems. In New York City, Ryuichi Munekata, who owns Yakitori Totto and several other Japanese restaurants, has been using handheld POS since 2004. The servers have Palm Pilots that seem very capable, and I doubt they make many mistakes. These are by no means tacky chain restaurants. They're more like the restaurants of the future.

I wonder whether mandatory use of a handheld device would be considered Ageism? At barely 50, I find it difficult to make quick notes using my Palm Pilot qwerty keypad & styus. Really, I can hardly imagine using a similar device to effectively take multiple orders. Especially in the low light of many dining rooms. Yes, I DO use multi-focal contact lenses!


Karen Dar Woon

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I wonder whether mandatory use of a handheld device would be considered Ageism? At barely 50, I find it difficult to make quick notes using my Palm Pilot qwerty keypad & styus. Really, I can hardly imagine using a similar device to effectively take multiple orders. Especially in the low light of many dining rooms. Yes, I DO use multi-focal contact lenses!

All of the ones I've seen used in Japan are just touch pads with different dishes on each key. You don't have to type in anything.

But I imagine the letters on the keys are quite small, so it would be difficult for some people to use.

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I wonder whether mandatory use of a handheld device would be considered Ageism? At barely 50, I find it difficult to make quick notes using my Palm Pilot qwerty keypad & styus. Really, I can hardly imagine using a similar device to effectively take multiple orders. Especially in the low light of many dining rooms. Yes, I DO use multi-focal contact lenses!

All of the ones I've seen used in Japan are just touch pads with different dishes on each key. You don't have to type in anything.

But I imagine the letters on the keys are quite small, so it would be difficult for some people to use.

This assumes the waiter is a machine and takes in no more data than -App, -Entree, -Dessert.

I have not seen this technology correctly adapted to the living, breathing river of a meal, short or long.

Communication, inevitably is face to face - FoH or BoH. A trend like this looks ideal on paper and to the short-sighted, busy waiter.

No experience, well conceived, can be distilled into 1's and 0's.

We don't have to reinvent the wheel every time a restaurant opens up!


Edited by clokwurk (log)

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