A TikToker who has waited tables in Japan and the U.S. shows how diners in each country order

Originally published at: A TikToker who has waited tables in Japan and the U.S. shows how diners in each country order | Boing Boing


(whhhy being self critical is one of our lamest, and most endearing, features)


I can say with all certainty that I do not miss dinning out in the least bit.


False. In Capitalist America, waitresses call you sweetie.


Or in my part of the world, “hun.”


laughing Love it.

Actually, though. …Not all Americans? The trope absolutely exists for a reason but I wonder if some sociology grad student might make a thesis looking into which subset(s) feel entitled and why. Is it more prevalant in certain regions? Ages? Could be it’s just an extension of basic manners and you were either raised with them or not but I kinda feel like there might be more going on.

It does make Japan look deservedly good, though. (plus their food presentation is generally so sharp - point at a picture on a menu and what they bring looks exactly like that.)

I did literally order in Japan by pointing to items on the menu, but that’s only because I don’t speak Japanese. Thanks, Google Translate camera mode!


Three kinds of people I’ve dined out with:

  1. “I’ll have the cheeseburger medium rare with cheddar, and the salad with the vinaigrette.”

  2. “I’ll have the cheeseburger… how do I want it cooked? Medium rare… Cheese? Oh… what kind of cheese do you have? Okay, I’ll take the cheddar… Side order… uhhh… what sides are there? Oh okay, I’ll have the salad… oh dressings. hmm what kind of dressing do you have? … oh the vinaigrette!”

  3. “I’ll have the burger please… does that come with cheese? Cheeseburger? Oh that’s a dollar more (sighs out loud) okay I’ll have that… what kind of cheese do you have? So you don’t have Daiya? Oh, well what kind of cheese do you recommend? Okay, I’ll have the cheddar… might as well try something new! … how do I want it cooked… what kind of options are there? Rare… did you say medium rare? Well, I’d like it cooked so there’s no pink… okay then medium well… side order? Umm what kind of sides do you have? Your french fries, what kind of oil are they fried in? Oh canola, I’m allergic to canola, I’ll just have the salad… etc. etc.”


I try to be #1 in your list, but part of that is the issue with restaurant menus leaving out details if you’re a first time diner. It’s pretty common nowadays for menus (at least in Austin) to leave out the non-alcoholic drink menu entirely, and even sometimes the sides, resulting in a lot more back-and-forth with the waiter. That’s on the restaurants for putting that extra load on the serving staff.

As much a possible though, I try very hard not to be unprepared when someone comes to take my order. If I’m not ready, I’ll tell them I need a few more minutes rather than make them stand there while I decide.

I’ve never worked in a restaurant but I have worked in the service industry enough to have some situational awareness. If I can try and be prepared to order, clean up after myself at the table so it’s not a disaster to deal with and maybe even stack the plates if there’s time and conditions warrant before someone arrives to bus the table, then I figure I’m doing my part as a patron (and leaving aside tipping etiquette which is a whole other massive topic).


Don’t forget the people at the table that just sat through the whole spiel of #2 and then ask… What were those dressings you just listed 20 seconds ago? And the sides?


My pet peeve is similar to your list, but involves the drive through. I have five kids, and I got in the habit of writing down everyone’s order before getting to the ordering speaker so I could clearly and efficiently give the order to the employee. So my corollary to your list would be:

  1. “I’d like one six-piece nugget meal with honey mustard and sprite for the drink [pause for order input], two hot dog kids meals with ketchup only, fries for the side, and lemonade for the drinks. Oh, you’re out of lemonade? Whatever other drink you have with no caffeine, then - Sprite works.”

  2. “Hi. We’d like three number four meals. One of those without ketchup and mustard, one with extra cheese, and one plain. Two of those with fries, one with whatever fruit you’ve got for a side. Drinks? Hold on… [yelling into car “What kind of drinks do you all want?!”] Two Dr. Peppers and one Mountain Dew. Oh, you only have Coke products? Well, then, two root beers and a lemonade. You’re out of lemonade?! Come on! Fine! Is your tea sweetened? Yes? Forget that, then, we’ll just take a Coke, I guess…”

  3. “Hi. Hold on. [yelling “Kids, what do you want?!”] We want one number 6 plain, one number 4 with no onions, and three kids’ meals. Wait. Does the number 4 come with fries or onion rings? It says fries, but we want onion rings. I was looking for desserts on the menu, but I don’t see… Oh, hold on, there they are. Oh, you need drink choices for the meals? I don’t know. Just one of each or whatever. And one of each dipping sauce too. In fact, can you give us a little cup of the sauce you normally put on your spicy chicken sandwich too? Oh, and I guess we want to take off one of the kids meals and replace it with a crispy chicken sandwich. Oh, you haven’t put in the kids meals yet? What’s taking so long?! I also need one of your party platters with 12 burgers on it, but with one third plain, one third with cheese added, and one third on gluten-free bread… etc. etc.”

I would seriously go insane working at a drive through. I’m a very sociable person, but the dynamics in that transaction are way off.


Here’s something I learned from a colleague who worked his way through uni by (among other things) waiting tables in the Poconos. If you are not ready to order, tell this to the person waiting on you: “Hello. We’re not quite ready yet. Could you please come back in about five minutes? We’ll be ready by then.” Then thank them. It’s all so simple, but it apparently gets you onto their good side (which is never bad when being waited on), and it makes things easier for them.


True. But not after this:

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Yeah, I don’t understand why people wouldn’t just ask for some time if they don’t already know what they want.


I no longer do this because of peer pressure.

I get indecisive and used to do this and the people at the table would often get mad at me. Different people even. The waitstaff don’t set a timer and (understandably) don’t stare back all the time to see if we’re ready, so sometimes those five minutes would be more like, gasp, seven or eight.
Now I just pick something and hope I like it. Downside is that I often forget what my order was.

From the other side, I used to tell wait staff “just say let me ask the kitchen” when asked about a non menu item. Sometimes we could do it, sometimes we couldn’t. Better for everyone if the waiter has to tell the table “I’m sorry, that’s not really possible right now.” Than have them have to tell the table “l lied, the kitchen can’t do that after all.”
Things we couldn’t do were make desserts no longer on the menu, fruit plates with anything but the fruit we had in the house, sauces not on the menu, etc. I had one customer berate me because I couldn’t make him an off menu item that took 45 minutes to bake, in 5 minutes. I offered to have room service bring it up to his room when it was ready, but that wasn’t good enough. I ended up telling him I couldn’t get around the physics of baking to make it cook faster.


Me: “I’ll have the #3. But make sure it doesn’t have pickles or mayo.”
Them: “It’s a hot fudge sundae.”
Me: “I just want to be sure about that. No pickles or mayo, right.”
Them: “Pretty sure they don’t.”
Me: “Okay. Just want to double check.”


I once tried to order apple pie and ice cream in Tokyo. I’d been here for over a year and there wasn’t a language barrier. They had apple pie with or without cream. They had ice cream. I said I’d pay for both but could they put them on the same plate. Absolutely no chance because apple pie and ice cream was not on the menu…After 5 minutes of talking in circles I gave up and ordered apple pie with no cream and a separate serving of ice cream. The waitress brought them. I tipped the ice cream onto the plate with apple pie and she took the empty ice cream dish away. I’ve been here 20 years now. I never ever ask for anything that isn’t on the menu. If I’m back in the UK I just resign myself to the fact that the service will probably be crappy and no one will bow to me.


This is one of the reasons that I like online ordering for fast food when it’s well designed.

You can fiddle around on the McDonald’s app for a while, add promotional coupons, get the order how you want, drive up, give your space number and it is brought to your car. (I’ll opt for the read the order number option for the drive-through when the weather is bad though)

Of course, when it’s poorly designed I’ve had experiences such as “Sorry, don’t see your order. Yeah, I know it says it charged you, but it probably didn’t. Want to place the order again?” (Thanks Wendy’s)

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