Last Call: Servers, what’s the most surprising special request you’ve ever heard?

Illustration for article titled Last Call: Servers, what’s the most surprising special request you’ve ever heard?
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There’s a whole internet’s worth of server memes for a reason: when you work in food service, you see everyone at their best, their worst, and their pickiest. And that’s fine, provided that the customer tips as they should. But sometimes, it’s not about customers being difficult at all—it’s just that their special requests will just be so out of left field, so beyond the realm of normalcy, that you’re unsure of how to accommodate them. But industry folks always find a way, don’t they?


Among Takeout staffers alone, we have some tales to tell, both as servers and observers to these strange requests: Orders of pizza with requests for a side of ketchup (presumably for dipping?). A Starbucks order of 40 espresso shots. (These ended up filling, to the brim, multiple venti drink cups. Luckily for the environment, it was not required to dole them out individually.) And one savvy grandmother, believing she had found a hack to acquire only the freshest of pancakes, was known to order appleless apple pancakes at the Original Pancake House. And this is all to say nothing of customers who want engagement rings stuck into just about everything. Mind you, these aren’t “nightmare customers,” which is a whole other genre of service industry lore. These are just occasions on which the customer has delivered a real head-scratcher. So, for those readers who have worked in food service: what are your head-scratchers?

Marnie Shure is editor in chief of The Takeout.



Not exactly surprising now that I look back on it, but I can distinctly remember at least a few occasions where a customer (always female and a faux “health conscious”, “gluten-sensitive but not celiac”, “is it fair trade organic? because I need fair trade organic!” type of person) ordered a veggie burger, and proceeded to ask that we add bacon to it. The first time I burst out laughing because I honestly thought it was a joke. The lady didn’t think it was so funny. I remember her responding “I’m usually a “vegetarian” for health reasons, I only eat chicken and fish mostly! I just wanted bacon today...”. I stopped short asking why she just didn’t get a beef burger, or of telling her if she ate fish and chicken, she’s about as vegetarian as a damn grizzly bear. I got that same request at least a couple more times throughout the years, and learned to confine my laughing fits to the back room.