Waiters and Waitresses – Repeat or Rephrase

Restaurants are lively, noisy places filled with all kinds of barriers to communication.

red apple


Soup or Salad?

For anyone with any degree of hearing loss, a simple question such as: “soup or salad…” is easy to misunderstand. It is easier to misinterpret the question being asked if the waiter/waitress has their mouth turned toward the order pad, and not in the direct line of sight for the customer to see. For example, the simple and routine question of, “soup or salad” is easily mistaken as, “super salad?”
Being a waiter/waitress is challenging enough – I understand it gets frustrating; particularly so when having to repeat the same question multiple times and the customer keeps looking at you with, “DUH?” written all over their face. To make it far easier on all concerned, rather than keep repeating the same question; rephrase it. In other words, “…soup or salad…” becomes “…salad, or soup…?” This may not seem like a big issue; however, the change in the word pattern has a significant impact on the sound pattern and aids in the customer being able to understand the question more effectively.


Repeat or Rephrase?

Recently, while dining with a friend who has “normal” hearing, I  witnessed an example of “repeat or rephrase.”  I noticed when she placed her order she thought the waiter behind the counter asked her,

“Would you like a red apple or chips with that?”

She recalled that this particular establishment offered bread with their meals. She answered, “No red apple, I’ll take chips.” Confused, she quickly asked, “Can I still get bread with this order?”

Somewhat puzzled, he answered, “Yes – you can.” He paused and said, “OH, when I said bread, apple or chips, you thought I said red apple. I see why you didn’t understand my question.” Then he added, “ I should do that better. Maybe if I change the order of those things and say, chips, apple or bread?”

He realized how his words could be easily confused and happy to make a change. When taking orders and you notice there is often confusion about choices offered; change the order of the selections offered in your question to clarify. This is especially helpful when there is a lot of background noise, people milling around, or loud music. Of course, it is always helpful for those of us who are hard of hearing.

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