Servers' Memorization Not What It Used to Be

Servers' Memorization Not What It Used to Be

Food & Drink

Servers' Memorization Not What It Used to Be


By Cari Martens

When’s the last time you dined at a nice restaurant as part of a group of, say, four or more and the server took everyone’s order without writing a thing down?

It’s probably been a while, right? Or, if you’re on the young-ish side, maybe you’ve never experienced being waited on by a server with a “food-o-graphic” memory.

The notepadless memorizing waiter appears to be a member of a dying breed. You rarely see it anymore. As Steve Hendrix writes in his story for the Washington Post, ‘The waiter memory act is in serious decline.’ Restaurant owners and industry experts say it’s a result of people going out in larger groups, increasingly complicated ordering, and a generation that just seems less comfortable with memorization.

There are still some old-school masters who can pull it off, such as Richard Weber, a waiter at the Palm restaurant in Washington, D.C., who’s featured in Hendrix’s story. ‘I’ve always gone by memory,’ Weber says, ‘It just feels more professional that way.

Patrons’ orders have become more complicated these days due to a number or reasons. More people are more conscious about food allergies, or are looking for foods that are gluten-free, or lower in sodium, etc. And they’re just more food-aware, and want dishes customized to their personal taste. Call it the Starbucks syndrome. Some blame the plethora of cooking and food shows on the airwaves (and web sites). People are just better educated about food, and are sometimes eager to prove it.

Restaurant owners today tend to frown on servers relying on their memories. It doesn’t take too many mistakes on high dollar entrees to put a serious dent in the day’s profits. Most restaurateurs now train their staffs to use pen and paper.

I think the last time I had a waiter take our order by memory was at Rendezvous in Memphis—definitely an old-school place. I remember we worried some about whether he’d get everything correct. He did, and it was pretty impressive.

Oh, yeah, and the ribs were great, too.

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