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How Does a Server Remember the Menu?
Learning a Restaurant Menu
If you're hired as a server at a restaurant, it's likely that you'll need to demonstrate your familiarity with the food offerings by memorizing the menu. Memorizing the menu is more than just a test; it's a way to serve the patrons by offering suggestions, being mindful of ingredients in case a customer has food allergies or specific tastes, as well as a way to show how much you know about the restaurant in order to be a good server. Memorizing a whole menu, especially in establishments with lots of options and ingredients, can be a difficult task; however, there are helpful tips and techniques that can help ensure your success.
Flash cards are a good way to memorize the menu for a new server. Simply write the title of an appetizer, entree, or dessert on one side of the card and the ingredients or information about the food items on the other side. Go over these cards repeatedly until the information becomes routine. The reason that flash cards work is because they force you to write down the information, which is helpful in the memorization process. Plus, reading the cards requires repetition, which is beneficial in reinforcing information.
Repetition is perhaps the most useful strategy to keep in mind when memorizing menu items. Simply reading the restaurant menu over and over again will provide visual clues for drawing out the information. Choose a section of the menu to start with and methodically work your way down the menu options. As you read, say the menu information out loud. Hearing the information aloud will hit yet another sense and encourage you to remember the menu contents. Similarly, writing the food and necessary information again and again on a notepad can be helpful in memorization.
Becoming familiar with the food menu can be as simple as seeing the dishes once they're complete. Because visualization is useful, if possible, try to watch food preparation in the kitchen or be mindful of how a dish looks when you deliver it to a table. Making the information personal can be helpful as well. For example, if you don't like mushrooms, you're likely to remember any dish on the menu that includes them, even if only to remind yourself that you wouldn't like the dish.
If you are someone who likes to use lists for organization, numbered lists can be very useful in memorizing the restaurant’s food. Divide the contents of the menu into categories, such as appetizers, salads, soups, entrees and desserts. Number the options within each category. For example, "1 -- Greek salad" and "2 -- house salad." When memorizing, keep the number of options for each category in mind. You will know that you missed one if you can't name each numbered option. You can break this information down even more by numbering the ingredients in each dish and using this to make up an organization method that works best for you.
Why Learning the Menu is Important
Knowing the menu is how to be a good server – knowing the menu so well that you can immediately tell customers of any specific ingredients or allergens, like gluten, that may be in a dish, the first time a customer asks without having to consult the POS, the cooks, or another restaurant server. Restaurant owners are focused on ensuring that all their servers, and especially new servers, are knowledgeable about the menu and can provide excellent food service, especially at a high-end restaurant or a new restaurant.
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