You Want Fries with That?

You Want Fries with That?

A Story by Damian Alan Gray

If you've ever worked in the restaurant business, you'll understand.


For the life of me, I’ll never understand people. As I’ve worked in the restaurant business for the majority of my life, I’ve encountered many different types of folks. All of whom are screwed up in some manner, or another. If you’ve ever worked in this industry, then you know what I’m saying. I’m not talking about the people who insist upon sending their food back when it doesn’t meet their standards; I’m the same way. I’m one of the pickiest people I know, when I go out to eat. I think it’s because I’ve worked in the business for so long that I tend to be more critical than your average restaurant guest.

Nope, I’m talking about the dear folks who are so picky that they can’t even stand to have a certain something on their plate, and therefore feel that they simply MUST send it back to have the item removed. Now, if we were talking about some sort of allergen then I’d probably have a bit more compassion for these “special” individuals. I, myself, am highly allergic to walnuts. One single, little walnut is enough to turn my lips into a cross between Mick Jagger’s mouth, and that of an anteater’s ... not that there’s much of a difference, I suppose. Right now, in fact, my restaurant is serving a monthly dessert special, which is a delicious looking cheesecake that I cannot touch because it contains walnuts. Damn it all!

Let me give you an example of the type of person to which I’m referring. A customer at my restaurant orders his meal with French fries. The server distinctly hears the customer say “potato chips,” which is apparently a very common mistake, considering that both items contain the letter “I.”

Now, when the server places the order, he or she will probably pass the garbled fries/chips translation on to the kitchen, where the cooks will place potato chips on the customer’s plate instead of the expected French fries.

Everybody with me so far?

“Order up!” yells the cook, and that’s where I come in. If I happen to be near the cook’s line, I will take the food out to the guest.

So, off I go to the guest’s table, all smiles and feeling somewhat overwhelmed with pride at the beauty of the entree’s presentation as I place the plate in front of the customer. When suddenly, “THIS isn’t what I ordered!”

Now, in a perfect world (I grant that it isn’t, so don’t get uppity), the guest would immediately tell me what was wrong with the food, but instead, he will simply stare at me as though I had served him a big plate of steaming South American cockroach on a bed of monkey brains (which, as I understand it, is a delicacy in some countries, whose residents wouldn’t order French fries unless they came sprinkled with fire ants ... there’s just no accounting for taste).

“Oh, I’m sorry, what did you order?” I’ll ask, feeling a bit embarrassed now at my selfish pride in our service.
 “Well, it certainly isn’t THIS!” he’ll remark, waving in the general direction of his plate and, say, the parking lot ... across the street. “Do you really expect me to pay for this?”

Now, keep in mind, here, that I still have no idea what the guy’s problem is, or what I can do to fix it before his face explodes right in front of my horrified eyes. But then, after a few more agonizing moments of wishing that I were anywhere else - including being at a table in South America, dining on hot bugs and ape brains - the guest will finally say, “I ordered FRIES! Not ... not ... THISSSSSSS!”

“Oh,” I’ll say, “well, allow me to just take this back, and I’ll fix it right up for you.”

“Well, I should hope SO!” he says with an indignancy that would rival the entirety of President Bush’s Axis of Evil.

Walking with my proverbial tail now securely tucked between my legs, I’ll take the plate back to the cooks, where I’ll inform them that the entree was supposed to come with fries. This modest bit of info will then spawn a frenzy amid whatever world in which short-order cooks live - a Very Scary Place, indeed. First, there’s the obligatory search for the original ticket order, which I KNOW will read “chips” (remember the confusion with the letter “I”). Once the ticket is found, the lead cook with defiantly poke at it to remind me that I have idiots for servers, and that he will remain completely blameless and still attain his rightful place in the Kitchens of Valhalla after he dies.

Thus far, a full two minutes have passed since I left the customer’s table and I can begin to feel the guest’s eyes burning into the back of my skull.  Meanwhile, the cook will look at me as though he’s demanding a knee-bent apology, my first born, and perhaps a blood sacrifice. The apology and my kid are out of the question, of course, but the server who started this whole mess is beginning to look an awful lot like a sacrificial goat.

“May I please have some fries, instead of the chips?” I concede.

“OK, but I have to make some.” he says with a smile. He smiles because he knows that now I’ll have to go away to somehow appease the customer’s wrath at having recently become the new Ethiopian poster child. Mostly, he’s just happy that I’m going away and he can once again be at peace within his fry-cook world.

“Just let me have the main entree, so it doesn’t get cold, and I’ll come back for the fries.”

“Pardon me, sir,” I  say, when I get back to the customer, “but I wanted to bring your meal back to you so that it wouldn’t get cold, and as soon as the fries are ready I’ll bring them right out.”

“All right, but if I wasn’t so hungr... Hey! What the hell is this?!”

‘Now what?’ I wonder, believing in my heart of hearts that the cook had perhaps spit on the guy’s food to spite my unhallowed blunder.

He stares at me with frank exasperation, and we’re back to the guessing game. It’s then that I notice the thing that has caused his absolute horror. There, cowering under a piece of decorative kale, trying its hardest to remain unseen by anything other than a scientist’s microscope, is an offensively horrid and wretched little potato chip crumb.

What follows this discovery is tantamount to world devastation, mine AND the cook’s. “I want the whole meal for free! I’ll never come here again! What kind of Mickey Mouse operation are you running here? I’m calling my lawyer! I want a bottle of your finest wine on the house! I’ve never been so humiliated in my life (apparently he doesn’t get out much), how dare you insult me like this! Call the police! I want dessert for free. I want the name of the owner, his home phone number and the names of his financial backers! Oh, and bring me the head of that server over there, he looks an awful lot like a goat!”

Many of you may be wondering why it is that I continue to stay in the restaurant business, and I’ll tell you. It’s the hope that this same customer might like walnuts as much as I do, when I offer him our dessert of the month ...  on the house, of course.

© 2008 Damian Alan Gray

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Ha! Ding-Dong... 'Get the Door"...I have been delivering pizza for the last 5 years, 6 months and 9 days...but who's counting ..ah?
Heaven help us all when we forget a 'dipping cup' !
Well written and although I can feel your pain...another humorous piece.
Love it...I just may write a few tales myself since at the moment we have a pizza 'cloaked in pepperoni'..and 'You Got Thirty Minutes'.

Posted 12 Years Ago

The potato/great divider. I love that. Should they be fried in little circles? Mashed? Fried in little stick form? Baked? Only the truly strong will know. I will now attempt to use the notes feature. Wish me luck.

Posted 12 Years Ago

I have never done food service but I have experienced the psychic customer phenomena. Too bad they can't recieve our thoughts! You have done a great job describing the utter frustration and exasperation of you had to have felt. Thank you for not telling us what horrible thing they did to the fries.

Posted 12 Years Ago

I enjoyed reading this so much. I had to pause several times to laugh. I don't mean a little "my, that is amusing" laugh. I mean one of those "tilt back in your chair and throw your head back in mirth" laughs. The kind where you hope the roommates don't hear because it's 3 in the morning. I love the way you painted this- the way I was able to picture the action in my head. I also love your description; it was that, above all else, that made this piece so funny. My roommate works in a restaurant and is full of tales of difficult customers and even more difficult kitchen staff. I've taken to calling her restaurant "the madhouse" in lieu of the steakhouse that it ostensibly is. You do have my sympathy though.

Posted 12 Years Ago

Very amusing... chuckles... Now here's something, I wonder if you realise that in UK chips and fries are the same thing>>> The American owned chains, MacDonalds, BurgerKing, KFC serve fries. Your so-posh "Oooh-I-say," restaurant and wine bar serves French fries, while Greasy Gretta's Truckers Caf and traditional English Fish & Chip shops sells chips. All being one to three inch lengths of square section potato deep fat fried.

Posted 12 Years Ago

YIKES! Dont ya just hate people? Dogs would NEVER turn their noses up at chips or any other dinner plate miscommunications !

Posted 12 Years Ago

I remember serving Hulk Hogan late night at a Denny's and needing to take his order back. I walked backwards until out of his reach. It was the one time I throughly cowed the cooks line. I was pissed they had put my life in jeopardy and yelled so loud it was heard through the diner. I didn't get a tip but I did escape with my life and Hulk said, 'Thanks Brother.'

Thanks for kicking in my PTSD.

Posted 13 Years Ago

1 of 1 people found this review constructive.

Haha this was absolutely hilarious! I've never worked in the food business, but I have some close friends who complain about events like this all the time. I'm definitely going to recommend they read this...I'm still chuckling to myself. haha

Posted 13 Years Ago

The Potato/The Great Divider.

Posted 13 Years Ago

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9 Reviews
Shelved in 1 Library
Added on February 14, 2008


Damian Alan Gray
Damian Alan Gray

Spring Hill, FL

Damian Alan Gray is not an author, he is a writer. The difference being, of course, that an author's daily routine normally includes scheduling interviews with Oprah and book signings at Barnes and No.. more..


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