A lot of servers go through this at one point in their career as a server. It’s dreaded occurrence that will happen at one time or another, whether working as a server for your first time or if you’ve been doing it for years.
You will forget to send an order.
It mostly happens either when the restaurant is booming or when it’s disastrously quiet. Is it your fault as a server when this happens? Why yes, yes it is. But we can come to realize is that we are people,plain and simple. And what do people do? Well they make mistakes. It happens. The best we can do is try to learn from our mistakes so as not to repeat them (hopefully) in the future.
I’ve seen a few different approaches as to solving this problem when it happens. There are a few that I find to be sneaky and deceiving and another approach I find is the best way to resolve the problem of forgetting to send an order to the kitchen.
So, imagine you’ve just realized that you never sent out a table’s order. You scramble around to ring it up as fast as you can. After the order is sent and you know it will be another while before the food comes out, so you need to decide what to do next.
Here are some different possible scenarios with different types of servers and let’s see which one seems like the right way to handle the situation.
1. Skittish Steve – Avoiding the table until their food is served.
Skittish Steve is a waiter that will notice the customers waiting impatiently, looking around for their food and even stopping other waiters for information about when their meals will be arriving. Skittish Steve knows that avoiding the table means not having to answer to the “We’ve been waiting half an hour for our food” spiel. Of course, this type of waiter doesn’t want to confront that uncomfortable conversation, so even though they know it’s understandable that the customers will be furious, they’ll leave the plates on the table giving some half-assed apology of “Sorry, it was longer than usual tonight ” or even worse of pretending like nothing is wrong. The customers now have their food and can hardly believe how long it took. They’ll leave, reminding themselves never to return because the service was terrible and the kitchen was too slow at getting the food out.
2. Blamer Barbie – Blaming it on the kitchen.
Blamer Barbie, once realizing that she forgot to send the order, will proceed to approach the table in an apologetic fashion, informing the guests that the kitchen has somehow”lost” their order, so it will be another little while before their meals are served. The customers will be slightly irritated at the kitchen staff for their lack of professionalism, but but Blamer Barbie knows that they guys in the kitchen will be none the wiser that she’s placed the blame on them and since they have no interaction with the guest and the diners won’t get up to voice their disapproval, no one will know that she forgot to order their food. This leaves Blamer Barbie off the hook as long as no one finds out. The customers finally eat, pay the bill with a decent tip (since they figure it wasn’t Blamer Barbie’s fault that the food arrived later than usual) and leave, perhaps only coming back to the restaurant when they know they’ll have a lot of time to kill.
3. Humble Helen – Explaining the situation to the customers
Once they realize that they forgot to place the order, Humble Helen will approach the table and excuse themselves for interrupting. She’ll then explain that she accidentally forgot to order their food and promise that they are doing their best to rectify the error. She’ll go to the Expeditor and tell them that she fucked up (and talk to the kitchen if need be) in order to try and get the order out as soon as possible. Humble Helen will then offer to bring them some more bread while they wait and ask if they need a refill of their drinks in the meantime. Sure, the guests will be a little put off, but they’ll appreciate the fact that their waitress is being honest. Once they receive their food, they’ll realize that Humble Helen did the best she could in a crappy situation and they’ll appreciate the fact that everything was prepared as fast as possible to compensate for the error. Humble Helen will ask the manager what they can do for the guests (whether it be free coffee and/or dessert) and be overly nice to show the customers that it was not for lack of caring that they forgot to order their food. The customers will leave feeling like they were not forgotten about and will return because of the honesty of the staff of the restaurant.
There are, of course, exceptions…
Waiters and waitresses will of course react differently in certain situations. Mistakes will happen where the kitchen somehow loses orders, or technology fails and orders are erased. That happens, in case you didn’t know. But you can tell a lot by how servers approach you! If they seem sincere and they really care about what’s happening, chances are that they are telling the truth. If ever you’re unsure about what’s going on: ask to speak with a manager. They should be able to tell you what’s what.
As a server…
You should do your best to treat your customers with the respect they deserve. The best way to approach this situation is to tell your customers the truth. The honest truth. If you’re a decent human being and an honest server you’ll feel much better to do the right thing. Try it out and see what happens.
Think about it…