So You Want To Be A Waiter

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Daily Archives: July 16, 2009

Waiter Extraordinare on taking the order

Steve at Waiter Extraordinare discusses the art of simplifying the order.

I’d only add a couple of other things.

On a side note, one key principle in closing the sale is limiting the choices or offering choices rather than a yes or no answer. Try to avoid yes and no questions if possible. Instead of “Would you like an appetizer”, try “Would you like to enjoy the fried mozzarella sticks or the spinach dip”? Also, suggesting certain items puts a picture in their minds and starts to trigger the hunger gene that we all have. The word appetizer just isn’t a very strong image. “Can I start you out with the grilled calamari steak?” is usually more effective than “Can I start you off with an appetizer?”.

Let’s say that it’s the end of the shift and you don’t really want to spend another 30 minutes with a dessert savoring table for an extra $1 added to your tip, or you are incredibly busy and would like to turn a table. Sure, you’re supposed to upsell desserts and coffees because it will build your check, but it might also mean missing a whole turn of the table or a delay to your checkout and beeline to the nearest bar. One little trick that I employ is “Does anyone still have room for dessert”, or “Can we squeeze in a nice dessert”? The idea is to plant the idea that they are probably too full for dessert. Dessert is sometimes a hard sell to begin with, so you can take the path of least resistance if necessary. Don’t deny your guest the opportunity to order dessert, but that doesn’t mean that you can’t do a little mind control over them.

You can also help them make decisions by clarifying their needs. “I’m torn between the sea bass and the cowboy ribeye – I just can’t make up my mind”. My reply? “How hungry are you”? The answer to this will help me guide them. It also helps when they are trying to choose between something that has a heavy sauce vs something that’s simpler, especially if the menu doesn’t make clear that an item has a rich, filling sauce or accompaniment.

Some questions might simply be a guest fishing for validation of a decision that they’ve already made. “How big is the dinner salad?” might very well mean, “I’m looking for an excuse not to get the salad” or it might mean, “I’d sure like an excuse to order this salad without looking like a pig”. You won’t always be able to tell, but try to use your best judgment to guide them to the conclusion that you think will offer them the best experience, whether it’s validating their leaning or moving them off of their decision. For example, if it’s pre-decision A, you either want to validate that by saying that it’s fairly filling if you think that they should skip the salad because it might keep them from ordering a dessert and an after-dinner drink or you might want to counter the objection by saying, “It’s basically a starter sized salad that most people think complements the meal”. Just make sure that you’re describing it accurately. If your dinner salads are huge, then say so.  When you use this technique, the needs of the guest should override the possible financial or personal gain to you, although you never completely lose sight of those considerations. There have been many times where I’ve waved a guest off of an item even though it would have meant a bigger tip because of a fatter check. That’s why restaurant and I get as much repeat business as we do. I did it two nights ago as a matter of fact. 

Thanks to Steve for his nice post.

About comments

Obviously, this blog is just like any other. It gets its share of spam, which is handled well by WordPress.

As a policy, I delete any spam that comes from a commercial website (especially those that have “undressed”, “nude”, “Viagra” and other commercial and exploitative ventures) while being obvious that it’s a bot trying to simulate a human trying to respond.

And the bots are getting more clever. It’s usually easy to tell when a “Great post” message generated is just that – generated to bypass the normal spam-judging criteria that a blog owner is likely to use to filter out such things.  However, they are starting to sound a little more detailed in order to make it appear that someone has actually read the post. I am not fooled by that.


I recognize that someone might actually read a post, like it and want to comment on it, but they do it while either posting from, or promoting their own website. That’s fine in my book. I don’t mind people promoting their own website (unless it’s porn or some phishing-type site, generic pharmaceutical clearinghouse or hate-mongering type site).


If you happen to post from your own commercial site or you promote such a site, your comments will be added if you make it absolutely clear that you have read the post and your comment is relevant to the post, whether you agree with it or not. Otherwise, it goes on the virtual cutting room floor. If you are able to design some sort of artificial intelligence bot that mines information from a post and cleverly constructs a comment that seems relevant, well, I guess that’s my problem.

The best thing is to comment and add your website as a link as either a sig or as a discrete link and not have it as part of your pseudonym (that’s the first thing I look for when doing manual sifting through my spam folder). That might be impossible for some of you, so you need to go the extra mile to assure me through the language in your comment that you are a real person, sitting in a real room making real comments on a post.

That is all. You may now return to your regular programming.


Andrea Nguyen on Vietnamese herbs and celebration of 200th post

If you’ve been following my blog for a while, you’ll know that I love not only Vietnamese cuisine, but also Andrea Nguyen’s wonderful blog, Viet World Kitchen . You’ll find the link in my blogroll and if you plug her name into my search engine, you’ll find both reviews of her book Into the Vietnamese Kitchen and her comprehensive and sweeping blog. If you type in pho, you will find my rather overheated defense of phở , done in the early days of this blog and reprinted from a music mailing list that I was participating in, back before I realized that I could cut and paste the word  phởfrom Nguyen’s blog to get the Vietnamese character. Maybe some day I’ll go and clean it up, but it was itself a cut and paste job from a mailing list post. Perhaps in the spirit of authenticity, I should leave it alone, resisting the urge to tighten up the overheated rhetoric as well.

If you love the heaping fresh herbs that accompany such dishes as phở and bánh xèo (sizzling crepes). Nguyen has an article that you’ll want to check out:

It links to her July 15th article in the Los AngelesTimes food section about an appreciation for Vietnamese herbs. And the post also has a link to an article about growing Vietnamese herbs. Since finding a variety of fresh Vietnamese herbs is a challenge at best and impossible at worst, this is an article worth checking out. Herbs are fairly easy to grow, even if you only have a balcony and she gives you the rundown on easy ways to grow them in and around the home. she also has a link to a “Vietnamese herb primer”, where she goes down the list of important herbs.

If her blog isn’t on your subscribed list, it should be. And if you don’t have her book, what in the heck are you waiting for? She’s got a new book on dumplings coming out in next month as well.

vietnamese Photo courtesy of The Coriander Leaf, the Singapore “Asian Food Hub”

Oh yeah, this is post number 200!