How Do Waiters Remember Orders: Creative Hacks You Didn’t Know About

When dining in a restaurant, you won’t watch the waiter’s skills more than usual. But when they take your order without writing it down you start to notice and when the waiter brings the food to your table without asking who was it for, well that is an impressive skill!

As impressive it is, it does raise a question of how on earth did the waiter do that without making any mistakes. Well, there are some neat tricks that you should really hear, so you can try them as well. These tricks aren’t only exclusive to the restaurant business and can be used in other ways as well (Is It Illegal To Charge For Water?) (Is It Illegal To Charge For Water?).

In short, waiters use many memory techniques such as the face, clothing, and word association, remembering by seating order, making a song or a wordplay in their heads, or simply writing down the order. Different methods work for different people and memorizing orders will get better over time.

In order to fully understand the methods and what it takes to use them, we will need to dig deeper into the techniques individually. Let’s get started!


There are 3 main associations that are the face, clothing, and word associations. Waiters can remember orders easier when experimenting with these techniques but one of them is the absolute best.

Face association

Remembering customers by face is the most effective way out there. There is a simple reason behind that and it is simply because faces don’t change. As a waiter, it’s important to look directly at the customer’s face and eyes because there’s a higher chance for them to remember the customers.

The method waiters use to remember customers by name is to create a mental image of their faces and think about the dish they ordered. There are waiters that can remember orders from over 8 or more people without writing anything down, that is truly mind-blowing.

Clothing association

Clothing association can be extremely effective as well, however, if the person is wearing a hoodie, coat, or some other outer layer and they take it off inside, it will complicate things. Clothing can be as effective as face association but there are more chances for it to change.

Word association

Word association is the third technique and it can be unbelievably effective and I’ll tell you why. However, in order for this to work the customer need to handle some multitasking in their mind and know the menu almost perfectly.

When servers are using word association, they need to change the dishes’ name on their head simultaneously with listening to the customer and trying to look normal when your head is spinning with mixing things. It’s hard, to say the least. Let’s take an example. Let’s say that there is a dish called ”Park master’s béarnaise chicken”, the waiter would call it a ”park master”, or a ”masters chicken’ ‘etc. This way it is way easier to remember 8 or more orders.

Remembering by seating

This is a good one that can go wrong really quickly. Depending on the restaurant’s style, the servers have gotten used to moving customers or ones that stay still and there is a great study to show what I mean.

According to a study, a waiter’s remembering skills were tested by seating eight customers at a table to order drinks. First, the 8 customers ordered drinks from the waiters and the waiters provided with great success. However, the next batch of drinks was ordered and in the meantime, the customers changed seats, and only one of nine waiters could remember the right customers from the memory.

As we can see, remembering by seating can be extremely helpful if the customers don’t change their places. However, the waiter did provide the right drinks after all so the problem isn’t that big after all.

Inventing a wordplay

Making a song or a rhyming wordplay helps a lot of servers out there. Turning orders to a song can be really helpful when combined with word association which will make the song easier to remember with fewer words. Waiters that use this technique usually use the exact same melody so the song/wordplay will get more familiar over time which helps the remembering process greatly.

Writing orders down

Writing orders is the most fail-proof way. When writing the orders down waiters will have everything in there so even if they forget something, they can simply go back to the notepad and look. Many waiters say that they write orders down only because it helps them internalize and remember the order and almost never actually look at the orders afterward.

There are many reasons why a big portion of waiters refuses to write the orders down, let’s see why that is.

Why waiters won’t write down orders

It really depends on the servers whether they like to write orders down or not. Some people just want to get it right and don’t care about showing off and others don’t see it as showing off but it’s easier for them to just listen and get the orders into the system in this way. Let’s see all the different reasons why doesn’t some waiters want to write orders down.

Trying to look more professional

One of the reasons why waiters don’t want to write the orders down is because they want to appear more professional. And let’s face it, it does look more professional but does it really affect the professionalism in any way? No! Having good memorizing skills doesn’t actually mean professionalism and doesn’t make a better waiter but it sure does look more professional. Add in deep eye contact and the customers will be astonished.

Desire to get out of the customers way

There are introverts and extroverts in the world and being an introvert isn’t the easiest quality to withstand when you’re a waiter. So when a waiter just wants to take the orders and be done with the customers, a notepad isn’t the best solution because it will take a longer amount of time to return to the stations. Not using a notepad can also have an opposite purpose which is getting to know the customers.

Desire to get intimate with the customers

If you want to bond with the customers, using a notepad is a bad choice because you need to constantly write down to the notepad which won’t leave much time to chat with the customers. By leaving the notepad behind you will have eye contact, see the customer’s faces, and exchange smiles which is what many waiters want.

It really comes down to being introverted and feeling comfortable behind the counter, or being an extrovert and maximizing the bonding time with the customers as long as you can. Both are fine because people are different.

How to get better at remembering orders

In short, remembering orders is a learnable skill that can be improved by learning the menu, face association, creating a physical map of the orders in your mind, and all the other things we talked about above. Remembering orders well doesn’t come overnight but when you know the menu thoroughly, you can invent new names to the dishes that you will remember and make a melody in your head that will stick with you (How Do Chefs Remember Recipes?) (How Do Chefs Remember Recipes?).

How to write down orders as a waitress/waiter

There are many ways to do it but I’ll show you an easy way that you can use if you are only writing down the information for yourself. Look at the list below and use it in your notepad in the same order.

  • Write down the table
  • Write down the seat
  • Drink
  • First course
  • Second course

It certainly isn’t rocket science and the last tip would be that you should shorten the names of the drink and courses so you can write down way faster. Repeat the steps above with every customer and take a good look at the table so if the customers change tables you have a better chase of remembering who ordered what.

If you are writing the orders to a check with a duplicate that you hand over to the kitchen, be sure to write the orders so the chefs can understand what is written there and write it as clear as possible. However, that way is kind of ancient nowadays.

Do waiters have to memorize the orders

Waiters don’t need to memorize the orders, in fact, the vast majority of servers write down the orders so they can be assured that the orders are right and there aren’t any mistakes. Many waiters willingly memorize the orders so they can be freed from the notebook and everyone has their own reason on why or why not to memorize orders.

Do waiters remember customers

If the customer is somehow memorable, tips accordingly offer a moment of their time to chat or are pleasing in other ways, waiters do remember customers. Similarly, waiters do remember customers that didn’t tip, were rude to them, or other what were displeasing. If the customer didn’t’ interact with the waiter or didn’t have much contact at all, the chances are that the customer is forgotten. Think about how do you remember people, the same principles work here as well because waiters are above all, humans.


There is something truly special when a waiter willingly ditches the notepad for a moment of chat with the customers and I personally love that when the server welcomes you with a warm smile. Waiters are humans same as the rest of us and the memorizing skills that apply in the restaurant will apply in the outside world as well.

I hope that our article answers your questions and if you have comments or questions feel free to leave your thoughts below!

Omar Abdalla

I’m the owner of JRS. While I love writing about food, I also enjoy peaceful and relaxed cookouts at home.

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