When I started my first serving job years ago I worked for a company I will affectionately refer to as “Five Four.”  That isn’t what it says on the signs out front, but it what we all called it.  My first day a manager who introduced himself as “CSV” told me that if I couldn’t figure out how to carry three plates at once by the end of the shift, I was fired.  I wasn’t sure if he was telling the truth, but I learned to carry three plates.  A couple days later I was training with a guy named “Timmy” who never wrote down his orders.  I asked him why and he said, “Only rookies write down orders.”

There are any number of managers who would read that last sentence and be horrified.  The thought of not writing down orders puts fear in the heart of managers who are responsible for the rise in food costs related to misrung food.  A former boss once put it this way; “I would rather have a stubby pencil than a sharp mind.”  The debate on whether or not to write down orders has pretty much been won by the side of managers who want to eliminate mistakes.  I do not disagree with them, but I also do not write down orders.

The problem most companies have with memorizing orders is the mistakes that can come from doing so improperly.  I would never advocate memorizing orders unless you had the skills to do so.  In my next post, I will disclose my technique for memorizing orders.  It is an acquired skill, and not a talent you are born with.  Anyone can be taught to do it, but it takes practice.  In the meantime, here is my reasoning behind still memorizing orders.

There are three primary reasons why I memorize orders.

Professional Skill: A large part of what brings your tip to higher levels is demonstrating that you have a higher level of skill than the average server.  Memorizing orders is a trick that impresses your guests.  Guests will ask me all the time if I have a recorder in my pocket.  This is a trick that reminds guests you are a professional.  This makes the value of what you are doing seem greater to guests who appreciate such things.

Maintaining Presence: With most sales jobs, one of the first things you learn is how to fill out an order form.  The reason why is that you do not want to take the focus off the customer at that critical juncture.  The same is true in serving.  Guests have an inherent fear that you are more concerned with selling them something than recommending items for their benefit.  Being more concerned with writing down the order than remaining focused on the guest only confirms this fear.

Avoids Dependence: I have seen great servers who were unable to take an order without pen and paper.  They have had to ask a guest who was ready to order (buy) to wait for them to come back with paper.  I have even seen some who have former coworkers swipe them order pads from their old employers.  They are so used to using a particular format that they are somewhat dependent on it.  Having the skill of memorizing orders, even if you do not use it every time, enables you to avoid this.

Keep in mind that all of these are contingent upon being able to remember the order accurately.  Failing to do bring the guest what they ordered more than wipes out any goodwill you have gained.  Tomorrow I will address in greater detail how to do this accurately.  In the meantime, what is your opinion on memorizing?  Do you write everything down or memorize?  Drop me a line in the comment section and let me know if you agree or disagree.

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