What exactly happens when you order something in a restaurant?

Posted by fshsfhsfh on Tuesday, November 1, 2011


Though I have written a post on this earlier, there were a few readers who wanted me to elaborate the process a little more. I am doing this now.
Once again, I am going to talk about the old style Pen and Paper approach – not the fancy electronic touch pad systems that are now available. Having said this, you will notice that most restaurants in India (including the fine dining ones) still use the “Paper & Pen” approach.
  • The Waiter notes down the items that you want to order – usually most restaurants will have their own short name for each item that all the staff understand. E.g. Gobi Manchurian could be G.Manch.
  • The pad/paper on which the waiter notes down the order is called KOT (Kitchen Order Token/Ticket). Usually, KOT books are printed as a 2 copy (Duplicate) or as a 3 copy (Triplicate) – i.e. The first sheet could be white, the second sheet will be of a different colour (say yellow) and the third sheet (if it is a 3 copy KOT) will be in yet another colour (say blue) – then the sheets repeat themselves in the same colour order. There is also a serial number generally printed – 1 number for one set of 2 or 3 pages to enable tracking if required.
  • KOT books are usually of A8 size (one fourth of a A4 sheet) or of A5 size (half of a A4 sheet).
  • The waiter inserts carbon sheets to make automatic copies – 1 if it is a 2 copy KOT book, or 2 if it is a 3 copy KOT book. Nowadays you get self copying paper (i.e. a carbon sheet need not be inserted to make a copy) at reasonable prices. Most banks now issue check books of this nature.
  • The waiter starts with writing down the table number (in most restaurants, the tables are numbered and allotted to waiters – i.e. one waiter is responsible for a set of tables – say Tables 4 to 8). The waiter then notes down the order.
  • One copy of the KOT is given to the cashier (for billing purposes). Another copy is given to the kitchen for preparing the dishes - Usually, to the “Barker” in the kitchen. The waiter keeps the third copy with himself. In small restaurants, a 2 copy KOT is sufficient as the waiter does not need one and can always refer to the cashier’s KOT if there is any confusion with the orders.
  • The role of the “Barker” is to collect the KOTs, literally shout out the orders to the respective kitchen staff (i.e. for juices, he shouts the order to the guy in the pantry, for starters to the cook who is responsible for making the starters, for the entrees to the main cook who prepares the entrees etc.). Once the respective food items are prepared, the barker then assembles the dishes according to the KOT and hands over the prepared dishes to the respective waiter.
  • Having a good barker is very critical in most restaurants – especially during busy times. Think of the Barker as a Orchestra Conductor. The Barker also makes decisions on whether to send an order in full or in parts – e.g. if a table has ordered drinks, starters and entrees, the barker will make a decision to send the drinks and the starters first and then the entrees. In some cases, if the food order is going to be delayed, he may send some of the entrees earlier.
  • The waiter then hands over the dishes to the respective table.
  • Additional orders are noted down on a new KOT, with the same table number and the process is repeated. The cashier collates all the KOTs received by table number and when the waiter asks for a bill, the cashier prints out the bill.
  • Once the payment is made, all the KOTs for that particular table are stapled and filed. At the end of the day, the cashier and the manager are expected to compare the KOT orders with the bills that have been generated to ensure that all orders have been billed. The kitchen is also typically instructed not to prepare any food without a KOT for audit/control purposes.
So the next time you go to a crowded restaurant, be a little more nice to the staff – most of them are typically on their feet most of the time and are trying their best to keep things under control.

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