Restaurant Life

It’s All About The Flow

You innocently attempt to order just appetizers and the waiter interrupts to inform you—with perhaps a little more sass than is necessary—of the restaurant’s policy that you must order your entire meal at the same time. “The kitchen will not accept partial orders,” he says. You haven’t decided on the rest yet so you tell the waiter you just want to “fire up some apps” in the meantime. In fine dining establishments and high-volume restaurants, incomplete ordering is a divisive issue—probably one of the most common and unavoidable sources of tension between waiters and their guests. But why do so many restaurants need you to order everything all together? Is it really that big a deal?

First of all, let’s consider the misconceptions. Though it can be true in some cases, most waiters are not asking for the whole order so they can hustle you through your meal and turn the table. We do our best to to fire your food on a reasonable schedule—measuring time according to how quickly you eat. Ordering everything all at once helps to facilitate—though not necessarily guarantee—the seamlessness of the timing. Some diners withhold the complete order as a way of guarding against being rushed by a trigger-happy server or a passive-aggressive kitchen. While protesting the rules may result in your having more time, it also often ends up causing uncomfortable delays and undesirable hiccups in service. It all seems so easy until you actually understand how a professional kitchen operates.

In order for a restaurant to have a healthy heartbeat, things must be staggered in a way that keeps blood moving through the arteries and prevents clotting. This starts the moment you make your reservation. Instead of booking six tables all at 7pm—the time all six parties would prefer to dine—the restaurant will attempt to spread out the reservation times. (i.e. Book two tables at 6:45, two at 7 and two at 7:15) When you are seated, the maitre’d or host is also trying to spread guests throughout the dining room to avoid overloading each server’s section. Asking to be moved may create havoc for service when you migrate into a section that is too busy to accommodate you.


The rotation that goes on in the kitchen is even more delicate. There are only so many orders a kitchen can handle simultaneously. Every kitchen has a finite number of cooks physically capable of cooking only a finite number of dishes over a specific period of time. To make it work, the dining room is seated in intervals to give the kitchen ample time to stay organized. Sometimes when you feel pressure from a server to order more quickly it may be that the chef—concerned about a deluge of new orders—is pressing them to hound you. On their busiest nights, many kitchens are forced to fire food even when a table isn’t ready because they have to make room for the new orders that are piling up.

When parties are seated incompletely or when they insist on ordering piecemeal, it throws gasoline on the fire. If your party hasn’t fully arrived for a half an hour after your reservation time, you are now encroaching on the next tier of tables. The same thing happens on the golf course when people aren’t punctual about their tee times. It has a domino effect that will slow down everyone’s round. As a result, the kitchen will most likely be saddled with a heavier workload than they can handle.

Ordering your meal in fragments has an even more deleterious effect on a kitchen’s ability to perform. In order to understand this more clearly, we need to consider the division of labor in a kitchen. Most kitchen lines are divided into sections: cold appetizers (garde manger), sauteé, grill and pastry. Depending on the cuisine some restaurants may also have satellite stations that fulfill a peripheral part of the menu like raw bar, sushi or pizza. There will usually be someone who “expedites” the kitchen, the conductor—his job is to keep the cooks organized while tickets are spitting furiously out of the printer. Every station has a threshold of how many dishes it can produce at once. So, the expediter tries to create a manageable plan for them, screams it out loud and, if necessary, cracks the whip to make sure everyone is on task.

Restaurants Flow

If the kitchen is left in the dark about what you are having for your next course, it inhibits the expediter’s ability to make a cogent plan. In the time you spend waiting to place the rest of your order, a handful of other tables have ordered their entire meal. The expediter has created a plan for his line cooks based on the information he has. New information cannot be added without threatening the balance of the rotation already in place—not without making the other tables who ordered before you wait longer than they should. Think of it like cutting the line to get on an amusement park ride. If you constantly allow people to order this way, the ones who have been patiently waiting will end up getting screwed.

It’s all about the flow. Responsible diners need to learn to be more trusting when restaurants set policies like not allowing incomplete orders or seating incomplete parties. We aren’t trying to make your life more difficult. It’s the opposite. We know our restaurant better than you. It isn’t always going to function the way you want. But it wont function at all if we can’t run it our way.

Restaurant Life

101 Things That Are NOT Your Waiter’s Fault

Restaurants have policies that are set by management not waitstaff. Yet, server too often must bear the brunt of the guest’s frustration when something goes wrong. It’s fine to give negative feedback to your waiter but just remember…

The following list of things are NOT your waiter’s fault :

1)   The prices are too high.
2)   The portions are too small.
3)   The chef changed the menu.
4)   Your favorite dish was taken off.
5)   You couldn’t get an eight o’clock reservation.
6)   Your party will not be seated incomplete.
7)   You don’t like where you are seated.
8)   You need to order everything all at once.
9)   You are not allowed make substitutions.
10)   The restaurant doesn’t have any Vegan options.
11)   The restaurant doesn’t offer gluten-free desserts.
12)   The restaurant doesn’t serve any non-alcoholic cocktails.
13)   Your date is more interested in her cellphone than you.
14)   The restaurant doesn’t have any beers on draft.
15)   You think it’s drafty.
16)   The font of the menu is too small for you to read.
17)   The dining room is too dark for you to see the menu.
18)   You missed hearing the specials because you were on your phone.
19)   The specials are sold out.
20)   Your food is taking too long. You are in a rush.
21)   Your food is being served too fast. You feel rushed.
22)   Your food is too salty.
23)   Your food is bland.
24)   Your food is undercooked.
25)   Your food is burnt.
26)   American Express is not accepted.
27)   Discover Card is not accepted.
28)   Your expired gift card is not accepted.
29)   It’s “Cash Only.”
30)   There is only one bathroom.
31)   The restaurant doesn’t have Wifi.
32)   The restaurant doesn’t have a cord to charge your ten year-old Samsung cellphone.
33)   The restaurant doesn’t allow corkage.
34)   The restaurant’s corkage fee is too high.
35)   The restaurant won’t waive the corkage fee because you brought a bottle of wine from your birth year.
36)   You think the wine by the glass pour is chintzy.
37)   We don’t have Pinot Grigio by the glass.
38)   We don’t have half bottles.
39)   The wine markup is too high.
40)   The coffee is terrible.
41)   We don’t have skim milk.
42)   We don’t have soy milk.
43)   We don’t have almond milk.
44)   We don’t have Splenda.
45)   We don’t have agave syrup.
46)   We don’t have Baileys.
47)   We don’t have Tanqueray Ten.
48)   We don’t have Johnny Walker Blue.
49)   We don’t have Red Bull.
50)   We don’t take reservations.
51)   You’ve been calling all day but couldn’t get through to the reservation line.
52)   The restaurant is fully booked.
53)   We don’t have a waitlist.
54)   The restaurant is not open for lunch.
55)   The restaurant doesn’t serve brunch.
56)   We should keep our kitchen open later.
57)   We don’t open early enough.
58)   We don’t participate in Restaurant Week.
59)   We don’t have a kid’s menu.
60)   We don’t do half portions.
61)   We can’t split your dish in the kitchen for you.
62)   We didn’t comp the food item you complained about because you finished it.
63)   We didn’t comp anything because you are a food blogger.
64)   We don’t give away free desserts for birthdays.
65)   The staff didn’t sing Happy Birthday to your grandma.
66)   The host gave your table away because you were a half hour late.
67)   The coatcheck girl lost your Hermés bag.
68)   You are not allowed to smoke cigarettes..
69)   You are not allowed to smoke e-cigarettes.
70)   You are not allowed to smoke even though the restaurant is empty.
71)   You are not allowed to push two tables together for your friends joining you.
72)   You are denied being moved to a larger table even though it’s vacant.
73)   You can’t sit in a booth.
74)   We don’t have a height chair for your baby.
75)   We can’t make a Shirley Temple.
76)   We don’t have chicken fingers.
77)   We don’t serve penne pasta with butter.
78)   We can’t make your child penne pasta with butter just because we have penne pasta and butter.
79)   You can’t have your dish with the sauce on the side.
80)   You can’t have your salad with the dressing on the side.
81)   We don’t have blue cheese olives.
82)   We can’t make you blue cheese olives just because we have blue cheese and olives.
83)   You’re annoyed that we let you order too much food.
84)   You’re annoyed that we should have encouraged you to order more food.
85)   You’re annoyed that your food isn’t coming out “whenever it’s ready.”
86)   We refuse to acknowledge anyone who orders steak “Medium Rare to Medium”.
87)   The chef hammered the shit out of your perfect Medium Rare steak after you sent it back.
88)   We don’t have A1.
89)   Your mother is driving you nuts.
90)   Your girlfriend is driving you nuts.
91)   You are nuts.
92)   You have a severe nut allergy.
93)   You can’t accept the fact that pine nuts are actually legumes and therefore you are not allergic.
94)   You are in denial.
95)   We don’t allow dogs in the restaurant.
96)   We refuse to recognize your dog as an “Emotional Support Animal”.
97)   We refuse to do something even though you insist “we’ve done it for you here before.”
98)   The person who “did it for you here before” isn’t working here tonight.
99)   The person who “did it for you here before” only exists in your imagination.
100)   You are certain we changed chefs even though we’ve had the same chef since opening.
101)   You insist that you’ve dined here before but it’s obvious you are confusing us with another restaurant.