First of all, a disclaimer – I got this free. However:
First of all, it wasn’t solicited. The powers-that-be at the Waiter’s Depot, of which I have no connection, nor any prior communication with, liked my mention of their site and of the Waiter Caddy a few months back, so they offered to send me a Deluxe Waiter Caddy as a thank you. I graciously accepted and it arrived just a couple of days later. I’ll bet the timing wasn’t accidental, as we are going into prime gift-giving season, but that’s OK. That’s just good business strategy.
They didn’t ask me for a review and I wrote them back that once I got it, I’d possibly review it and they sent it anyway. There was no quid pro quo whatsoever.
When I looked at it upon taking it from the box, I was hit by a bit of an optical illusion. Being used to using check presenters, it looked wider than a standard check presenter because of its dimensions. You see, it’s almost exactly the same shape as a bistro apron or jacket pocket. In other words, it’s shorter. So, it looked wider on first glance because of its squat appearance. But it’s not. It’s the size of a cut-down check presenter. It fits exactly in a bistro apron pocket, except that it sticks out a millimeter or two. This is actually an advantage since it doesn’t get lost in the pocket. You’ve got something to grip as you remove it from the pocket. Nice.
This is also nice because it doesn’t dig into your waist when you bend over.
However, for me, there’s a downside with the height. I use POS tape to write my orders on and I’ve gotten used to a long, “check presenter tall” piece of register tape. I can get three to 6 tables on such a piece before I have to turn it over. Rarely do I have to go to a second piece during the night, and there are plenty of shifts where I only use one side. So, that was an initial stumbling (mental) block for me. I simply said to myself, “Self, you’re just going to normally have to cut 3 pieces of tape, ‘k”? Since the shift I was going to try it out on was slow, I only cut one piece (I only ended up with a couple of tables).
One other adaptation that I had to make was due to two factors – the first is that I prefer to write with the tape in my open book and I keep a piece of cardboard in the book to make for a nice writing surface. And, being left-handed, I keep both the backing and the tape in the right side of the pocket and rest my writing hand sort of on the left side of the check presenter. I can’t do this with the Waiter’s Caddy for two reasons – first, as you know, most check presenters have triangle pockets on both sides, so it’s easy to choose either side to use as a writing surface and you have a lot of tape to write on before you actually have to take it out of the pocket. The Waiter Caddy is exclusively a right-handed device for this purpose because it only has a triangle pocket on the left side. And second, you’ll end up hiding two of the pockets if you put a cardboard insert under your tape. I don’t see writing without an insert because, if I put the tape on the right side and try to write on it, I’ll be writing over the back pocket and that will be uncomfortable, even though the pockets are quite thin.
UPDATE: I talked to my friend after he had a couple of more shifts under his belt and he said that it was just fine to write directly on top of the backing. He said that all he does is slide the tape up and down as needed and write on the portion that is still “in the book”. There’s enough room to write enough information for a 6 top. He said that any larger table would require moving the tape up during the order-writing process. He also said that long closed checks need to be folded over to avoid sticking out of the top of the Caddy. He also said that if you have a lot of closed checks, it gets a little difficult to add more closed checks to the bundle due to the tight-fitting nature of the pockets. He thinks that continued use will loosen them up a little, but since they aren’t gusseted or accordioned, there isn’t a lot of give. He says that the best way to deal with it is to pull the whole bundle out, add the new closed check and then reinsert the entire bundle rather than trying to squeeze another closed check in by itself. When I get the book back, I’ll check this for myself. He also said that he’s ordered one for himself, so I should be getting the book back sometime next week.
What does this mean? Not a big deal, really. I’ll adapt. I’ll be pulling the tape out and writing on the outside of the Caddy. The slight problem for me is that I won’t really have anything to rest my wrist/hand on. Depending on how annoying I find it day in and day out, this could be a deal-breaker for me.
Now that I’ve got the slightly negative stuff out of the way (well, there’s the $24.99 price tag for the Deluxe model, but a little more about that later), how about the positive?
First of all, the workmanship is top-notch. The cover will almost fool you into thinking that it’s leather. It’s embossed with The Waiter Depot logo, a tuxedo-clad penguin. The cover is stitched and the corners reinforced with brass-toned metal corners.
When you open it up, you are confronted with a red and black color scheme. The pockets are black and clear and the backing is a non-slip sort of red plastic. Here’s a picture, courtesy of Tip20!.com (the pics on the Waiter Depot site are transparent GIFs so I can’t use them:
Here’s is the “standard” model ($12.99) for comparison purposes:
As far as I can tell, there are three main differences, there is a pen pocket in the deluxe model (more about this in a minute), a bright red non-slip surface, and a molded, heat-sealed outside instead of a stitched one (the cover material might be of a lesser quality, but I don’t know this for a fact).
The difference between the two is like the difference between a Cadillac and a Chevrolet. Get it? Caddy vs. Chevy?
The pocket configuration for both is the same. The left side features three pockets, the top pocket is a transparent triangle (corner) pocket. The middle pocket is also transparent and is square and the back pocket is black, curved and about three-quarters of the height of the Caddy. On the right side, it’s the same, only you don’t have the triangle front pocket. However, there is a third pocket that the left side doesn’t have – it’s a pocket at the very top of the caddy that extends the length and width of the Caddy. This is designed to hold an order pad or memo pad if you use one. Since I don’t use one, I can use it as an additional money pocket if I want.
An “additional money pocket” you ask?
Keep your shirt on, pal, I haven’t gotten to the money pocket yet. Yes, there’s a money pocket that runs on the left side of the spine. You can see it clearly in the photo of the Deluxe model.
You get a disclaimer with the instructions. First of all, the pen pocket itself is designed for slender pens like Bics. Thick pens need not apply. Also, you aren’t intended to jam the pen all the way into the pocket. Remember what I said about the backing material being non-slip? Well, the pocket is deliberately designed to be a little small. You insert the pen only an inch or two into the pocket and it will grip the pen. This means that the first few times you use it, it’s a little bit difficult. But once you’ve taken the pen in and out a few times, it will open wide enough to be easy. What if you use fatter pens? Well, no biggie. You just put it in the spine, which is wide enough to accommodate just about any pen. It will stay put unless you open the book upside down. In fact, you might just forgo using the pen pocket, even for slender pens. Many “fat” pens have a non-slip grip themselves, so you can actually turn the book almost 75° before such a pen will slide out (I tried it with such a pen). The non-slip grip “sticks” to the non-slip red backing.
The wide spine also accommodates thick order pads and spiral memo pads.
The pockets are made from the type of plastic which appears to stay flexible, even over time. You know how some plastic gets hard and brittle? This doesn’t appear to be that sort of plastic. It’s almost “supple”. The heat-sealing on the pockets is precise and is very “high-tech” looking. The main pocket has a very elegant “embossed” edge. In fact, everything about the Deluxe Waiter Caddy screams elegance and well-crafted from a manufacturer’s standpoint. There are no corners cut or cheap materials or short cuts employed in the Deluxe Caddy, hence the price.
There are many ways that a clever waiter can configure this device. You can put multiple cheat sheets in the various pockets. If you have a clock-in card, there’s a place for it. If you have a picture of your dog, there’s a place for it. Keep copies of great tip checks? Go for it. Keep a list of your call parties or great tippers? Why not? This book will hold an inch thick worth of paperwork if you want it to, although I wouldn’t recommend jamming the pockets that thick. After all, they are plastic and they will stretch over time and become less ‘grippy” if you take out some of the paperwork. They will certainly hold dozens of slips, pics, business cards, notes, etc. If you don’t use an order pad, you’ve even got an additional full pocket, as I alluded to earlier.
About that money pocket. Put your money almost exactly as you see it in the display picture. You want to have access to it and it’s even easier if you fan it out slightly. You see, the red surface is so grippy that it makes it hard for you to get to your money if you fall for the natural tendency to put the money out of sight. It’s really hard to get to the bills and even harder to get them out once they’re in. So leave some of each of the bills showing so that you have access to them. Since I don’t use an order pad, I’ll be using the big pocket on the right to put any excess shift paper money (100 dollar bills or cash in excess of around $75) in it and just keep enough in the “money pocket” to be a bank.
At the moment, I’m not using any cheat sheets or sales aids, but I’ll probably fix that in the future.
I loaned the book to an acquaintance of mine who works at an expensive place. I wanted to get his thoughts on it.
He reported back to me that he was impressed with the look and feel. He actually thought that it was a leather cover at first! He had some of the same problems that I had in getting used to it in that, it turns out that he’s left-handed as well and also uses a POS tape. He showed it to a couple of his co-workers, both of which thought that it was pretty cool (I haven’t shown it to any co-workers myself). I asked him about how he used the book and he said that he wasn’t using any sort of cheat sheets at the moment, but that he thought that the various pockets would be useful for those, as they occasionally get printed wine lists and seasonal menu ingredient lists that are designed to go into a check presenter. I asked him if he was going to buy one and he said that he probably was.
Would I buy one? Well, I’m a cheap sumbitch so I would probably keep using check presenters. If the Deluxe model were the price of the standard model, I absolutely would, but $24.99 is a bit dear to replace something that I have about 6 of floating around the house, no matter how cool the engineering and the thought process is.
I would definitely consider buying one now because The Waiter’s Depot is selling some gift combinations of the Caddies:
For the normal price of the Deluxe model ($24.99), you now get a nice Pulltap corkscrew and an aluminum crumber included. since Pulltap corkscrews usually run between $7 – 10 and crumbers are hard for some people to find, I’d definitely jump on this bargain. They have a special for the standard Caddy, but it’s not nearly as good of a deal since they add $5 to the price of the standard Caddy, which makes it only $4 cheaper. The Pulltap corkscrew is the narrow-bodied, double-hinged type that lucky waiters get for free embossed with the name of a famous winery (I have one myself), but that’s only if you happen to be friends with a wine rep, win a sales contest, or find one that another waiter has lost. And who can’t use another nice winetool? I would definitely jump on this “Deluxe” deal while it lasts.
If you have a waiter in your life, this bundle would make a great gift. If your waiter is a significant other, make this your stocking stuffer (get him or her something really nice as your primary gift, you bonehead). Otherwise, this makes a great primary gift or Secret Santa gift for waiter friends of all stripes.
If you are the manager of a restaurant, you might want to look into buying these in bulk and either selling them to the staff or giving them to the staff as a holiday present or as a sales contest prize if your promotional budget allows. I don’t know this for a fact, but you might even be able to get your company logo embossed on the front. I’d check with The Waiter’s Depot on that. Plus, I’m sure that bulk orders get a discount. If you don’t have such a generous management, you might find out if there’s a small enough bulk order for you and your fellow waiters to get together and buy for a discount. If there’s a discount for 10 or more, maybe it’s worth getting together and buying 10 of them. I don’t know – that’s something you might check on.
There is a web site for the Caddy itself. They have a page on how to use it, which I’m sure they’ll be adding to in the future as you send in your own configuration ideas. Find the page here:
There’s even a blog and they promise bi-weekly contests and prizes.There’s also a newsletter, which I haven’t signed up for yet.
If you decide to buy one of these, please let them know that you read about it here. I have no connection with them, nor am I getting any sort of commission, but it would be nice to know that I helped someone decide to buy one.
I’m letting my friend use this book until he decides whether he’s going to order one. I’m giving him a week because I’m really interested in putting it through its paces.
Meanwhile, it’s back to the old check presenter for me. Suddenly, I don’t feel so “professional”. I want my Caddy back.