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The Waiter’s Tray
No notepad, no problem.
Rand Mackey held the record for the number of food orders he memorized in the 22 years the restaurant had been in business. Thirty-one people gave Rand their order, and he came back with drinks, entrees, desserts, and the individual bills with no errors.
None at all.
That was two years ago.
The bar and grill was located near a string of hotels so people would routinely drop in with large groups most weeknights. Out of towners didn’t know Rand’s memory reputation, but the locals did.
Thirty-four people came in from the annual Insurance Adjusters Conference, and Ryan began to take their orders, even as convention goers were still filing in. Fifty-two drinks were now in his memory bank as some had also ordered water.
When he returned 11 minutes later with assistance from the staff, he placed the drinks in front of the correct customers. A few of the customers took notice that he hadn’t written anything down and didn’t call out the drinks to see what belonged to whom.
“Let’s talk about food,” Ryan said. “Who’s getting what? We’ll start with you and work our way around the table.”
Rand took their detailed orders one by one. As he neared the end, he sensed they were adding details to their order to try to trip him up. But his system accounted for all of that. Within the last year, in 30 minutes he had memorized the order of 1220 shuffled playing cards with no errors. Thirty-four people even with 4-5 food items would be no match.
With each order he took, he repeated the order back to the customer to ensure he got the order right. In between orders, two men asked him if he remembered what they ordered, and he recited their orders.
In a bar and grill, the noise level was always loud and persistent. Multiple large screen TVs were blaring at least two pro ball games while the sound system played classic rock. As patrons drank more, their volume increased. All three modes of noise made polite conversation negligible at best.
As Rand neared the end of his order taking, one man said “Same thing,” referring to the previous customer’s order of a wedge salad with bleu cheese dressing. Rand nodded his head and concluded his orders with the last person to arrive in the room. He made one more check to make sure he didn’t miss any customers.
Twenty minutes later, the food arrived and Rand handed out the salads, soups, rolls, entrees, and side dishes in no particular order. It was eight minutes of organized chaos.
The man near the end of the table raised his hand and Rand came by.
“This is not what I ordered,” he said pointing to the plate of fish in front of him.
“Sorry?” Rand said asking him to repeat his question.
“I said, ‘this is not what I ordered.’”
“You said ‘Salmon’ when I got to you, didn’t you?”
“No, I said ‘Same thing,’ Same thing he got, a wedge salad with bleu cheese.”
Rand winced, not because he didn’t break his own record, but because the salmon was twice as expensive as the salad and he would have to pay for some of it out of his own pocket, but he would also get to eat it as well.
“Ah, my bad. I thought I heard, ‘salmon.’ I’ll get you your salad shortly.”
Three minutes later, Rand returned with the salad, and all three tables cheered.
Rand didn’t know for certain, but based on their cheers, he was pretty sure their tips would more than make up the difference for his hearing error.
And it’s also the reason the bar and grill has a little less classic rock coming out of its loudspeakers from that point forward.