Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Waiters by Memory

In this article, the Washington Post notes that the old-school practice of waiters relying on their memories to take diners' orders seems to be vanishing. "Good," I thought when I read this. But The Post writes of this trend as if the postal service were stopping mail delivery.

Moreover, The Post profiled a longtime waiter at The Palm:

During a lunch rush last week, he smoothly kept track of the food and beverage demands of almost 20 diners, an ever-shifting matrix of steaks and salads, cocktails and Cokes, running credit cards for some, describing specials to others.

But how "smoothly" did the Palm's waiter take all of those orders?

"I've always gone by memory -- it just feels more professional that way," Weber said above the fork-and-knife clatter. "Sometimes you have to go into the walk-in cooler and scream, yeah, but usually I can keep it all straight without too much trouble."

"Usually" he can keep the details straight? Gee, great. Only one diner at a table of four gets their order screwed up. How comforting.

The Post is wrong to view order-taking-by-memory as a charming tradition that we can't do without. There is nothing quaint about worrying whether a waiter or waitress actually remembered all the details of your table's order. I think this shift to waiters with pens and paper is a very good development.

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