Grab your notepads!

During a recent visit to Kochi Restaurant & Lounge, I encountered one of my pet peeves of the food service industry, which is the practice of servers not using notepads to take down orders. I was with a group of 10 people, and we had ordered an assortment of pupu to share. Sure enough, because our server didn’t write down our order, we spent the rest of our time there reminding her that “she forgot this” and that “we hadn’t gotten that yet.”

I have worked at a few restaurants where management actually encourages servers not to use a notepad to write down orders. For reasons that are beyond my comprehension, some managers believe servers who can commit orders to memory give the establishment an air of sophistication. I’ve known a few servers with impeccable memories, and being served by them has always been a true pleasure. However, those people are rare. As someone who’s had to deal with problems that result from orders not being written down, I can say that servers who work solely from memory can be more trouble than they are worth.

From the back-of-the-house perspective, a server forgetting to put in an order can throw even the most efficient kitchen into utter chaos. Orders ahead of the line have to be pushed back, which in turn throws off the timing of not only one station, but the others as well. The mayhem can spread even further if an overzealous server steals a dish meant for another table, thus passing the problem to another table. One missed order can create a chain reaction of unnecessary stress and animosity in the kitchen, all because someone (be it the server or management) wanted to impress the customer by not using a notepad.

When I visit restaurants, servers always start off with a 20 percent tip. The quality of service they provide determines if that percentage goes up or down. Whether they get my order right, how often they fill my water glass and how many times they check on my table are all factors when it comes to leaving a tip. I can forgive not refilling my water, but not bungling my order. I don’t mind if a server uses a notepad to take my order; in fact, I prefer it. Although servers who can work completely from memory are impressive, I’d still prefer them to use a notepad if it increases the chances of me getting exactly what I ordered.