Michael Mignogna, a waiter at Eatery in New York’s Hell’s Kitchen, sometimes used to fake it if he didn’t know the answer to a diner’s question about something on the menu. An aspiring standup comic at the time, he’d occasionally just riff off the top of his head.
He got caught once by his boss, and nearly lost his job. Told to learn the intricacies of the menu or else, he took on the project in a big way.
As reported by Sophia Hollander for WSJ.com, Mignogna started by taking photos of every dish in the restaurant. Then he created a system to categorize information, designed icons to flag things like potential allergens and temperature choices available.
Photo: Daniella Zalcman for WSJ.com
By the time he was finished, Mignogna had partnered with a web designer and created a social-networking website called Restaurant Reason that would make it easier for servers everywhere to memorize their menus. The site also helps restaurant management to train staff, do online scheduling—and also provides an internal discussion forum.
Eatery became his first customer.
Mignogna is certainly responding to a legitimate need. With increasingly sophisticated and demanding customers wanting to know everything from how a dish is prepared, to where the fish was caught, to the availability of gluten-free items, to questions about sustainability, a server almost needs to be a walking Google.
Many of us remember the restaurant scene from “When Harry Met Sally” and how demanding the Meg Ryan character was with her food order. It’s only gotten more complicated in the years since that film was released.
The website and fledgling company formed by Mignogna and web designer Eric Sutton is just getting started. So far, they’ve signed up two other restaurants in addition to Eatery—where Mignogna is still employed as a waiter. He’s keeping his day job for now.
It will be fun to watch and see how this specialized site develops in the coming months. We’ll be keeping our eye on it, as, we would guess, will be servers out there with faulty memories.
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