Something from the bar?

Something from the Bar?

Something from the bar?

This has to be the lamest question ever uttered, and it’s uttered a million times a day in restaurants all over the world.

It might elicit an actual drink order from a customer who always wants the same refreshment before dinner, but for everyone else it causes hesitation, confusion, reluctance, panic.

We don’t know what you have, how it’s priced, whether your bartender is frugal or licentious, which of the countless ways you might want to take advantage of us is in play . . . .

In other words, it creates an environment precisely the opposite of what the server intended, which was to make the customer comfortable, appreciated, and catered to (in a word, spendy).

Get it? 🙂

Here’s what your customer at Table 13 visualizes when you attack her with your demand that she order a drink:


It’s no wonder that, when you make her select from this ridiculous array of alternatives—on a strict social deadline!—she panics in the moment and says the only safe thing: “I’ll stick with water.”

And you wonder why you don’t get bigger tips!

Hint to the metaphor: Readers do the same thing. Faced with too much new data or too many choices—in absence of clear guidance—they retreat to their bunkers where you can’t begin to persuade them.

How to Serve

You don’t understand your job, which is to serve, and by serving to guide, and by guiding to sell, and by selling to improve your employer’s bottom line, and—by helping out absolutely everybody—to take home bigger tips from happier customers whose enjoyment has been lubricated by expensive cocktails.

The best servers use their power to their advantage.

And when I say “servers” I mean “writers.” You understand this is an extended metaphor, right?

  1. They are the subject matter experts
  2. They have already examined the pertinent evidence
  3. They have come to the right conclusions
  4. If they establish your trust, they can guide you to the right conclusions
  5. Everybody is happy when you come to the right conclusions

How to Write

How to serve; how to write; they come down to the same set of rules. Stay in charge of the subject matter; approach it like the expert you are; guide your reader (diner) to the right conclusion.

One of the images below demonstrates the right way to offer up appetizers. The other is the way we write too often without even knowing we’re doing it.

Specific Appetizers

Get it? 🙂

NOTHING is accomplished if I tell you “We have a wonderful assortment of delicious appetizers; what do you want?”

But if I extend to you a limited sampling of carefully selected delicacies (by which I mean data and evidence because we’re still talking about writing, remember?) and stand there smiling, offering by my benevolent presence to guide you through the options with pleasant but persistent patience, then we pretty much both understand you’re going to order one of these little beauties . . . probably the one on which the house earns the biggest markup.

Get it now? 🙂

Lessons from the Server


  1. Don’t ask open-ended questions.
  2. Don’t promise that you’ll have important information to share . . . later.
  3. Don’t blame the kitchen.
  4. Don’t apologize for what you don’t have.
  5. Never contradict your customer’s preferences.


  1. Instead of open questions: We have spectacular cocktails from our certified mixologist (I know. I didn’t know there was such a thing either, but she has the certificate to prove it! 🙂 ) But if you’re not drinking, I have flavored teas, a full line of soft drinks, fresh coffees and teas. I’ll even put a big bottle of sparkling water in a bucket of ice. (But I won’t let you think that “sticking with tap water” is an alternative.)
  2. Instead of saying there are countless options: For big appetites I have a 22-ounce porterhouse; South Jersey magazine raves about our chicken Parmesan; but the best bargain on the menu is the brick oven pizza: 15 bucks and you’ll take half of it home.
  3. Instead of blaming the kitchen: We’re not used to being so crowded on a Thursday, but the review that came out in the local paper has us really hopping.
  4. Instead of saying the owner forgot to order seafood: There are no good mussels in the market this week after that storm in the Gulf; fortunately, the Maine lobster was unaffected and the 2-pounder is on special.
  5. Instead of arguing about your customer’s favorite cut: A lot of people say that, and I agree, so this is hard for me to say, but the filet mignon actually has less flavor than the rib-eye which benefits from all the marbling. Our chef handles both cuts really well. Want to try something new?

Metaphorical Payoff

Do I really have to do this, or do you get it?

  • THE KITCHEN is NOT the entire world of knowledge. It’s whatever you’ve been able to gather from your research. You’ve had just a few weeks, for crying out loud. It’s everything you could afford, and everything you could keep from spoiling in your limited refrigerator space (your White Paper; your Brain).
  • THE CHEF is you back there working with dull knives and too little butter on the one working burner that isn’t devoted to all your other classes—the ones that really matter to your major! 🙂
  • THE SERVER is also you. Once you graduate, you can hire someone to do the serving for you, but for now, you have to cook and deliver everything to the table.
  • THE CUSTOMER is your reader. He’s an arrogant blowhard, full of opinions about what’s good and what’s bad about food. You have to figure out what he thinks he knows, charm him into questioning where he got that misinformation, and sell him that the Tortellini-Tre-P that he always thought was cruel to animals happens to be an ecological blessing in exactly three ways, which you delineate for him with pleasant and persistent patience.
Waiter Receives Tip

Everybody wins.

You collect the big tip for introducing him to guilt-free sausage. He goes home with his utterly infatuated date who has no idea what she’s in for, and you—with your obvious command of the data—attract the attention of the stunning brunette with the dangling earrings and those magnificent teeth.

For sticklers keeping score: Yes. You win twice. But it cost you a semester and he only had to pay the check. Fair’s fair.

Feedback, please

If this is exactly like the advice you’ve received in every other writing class you’ve taken, I’d love to hear about your earlier experiences.

If, on the other hand, it’s a fresh way to consider the task of crafting an academic essay, well, I’d love to hear that too.

35 Responses to Something from the bar?

  1. littlecow24 says:

    I have never heard this kind of metaphor before, but I like how it makes things easier to understand. I liked this approach and I’m definitely going to use it in this class and others.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. cfalover says:

    Previous instructors have not explained anything like this so this is all new for me but I found it really interesting and will definitely keep this in my mind while writing my essays.


  3. zipemup1 says:

    This information has been reiterated before on may occasions but this was a great way to put it.


  4. ilovedunkinoverstarbucks says:

    For myself this is a different way of looking at how to write an essay. I myself am a server so this really helped on perspective. You also taught me a few new things to try at work on how to suggest things to guests. Even if you have never worked in food before this is still a great metaphor to use to show how to write the essay I really enjoyed it.


  5. toastedflatbread22 says:

    This is not what I have ever heard in a writing class-my past classes have focused more on content than approach. I had never thought about writing an essay as a way of running a restaurant but it makes sense-we are in charge of everything so that the building doesn’t burn down. This already is helping me think about the paper differently and I really like this approach.


  6. zzbrd2822 says:

    This is a new perspective on essay writing that has never been presented to me before. I like that it creates a nice visual on the roles of the writer and what you must do to capture your audience’s attention to come to your desired conclusion.


  7. cocochanel715 says:

    In other writing classes I’ve had the professor never did an example that corresponds with something in the real world about how to write a good essay


  8. spaghettitacosforthesoul says:

    It’s a new concept that a teacher has taught me. And I’m deeply going to deeply consider this information for probably the rest of my writing career because I enjoy it.


  9. minutemen14 says:

    This was a really unique way of looking at writing. You’re essentially a salesman or someone trying to persuade cautiously. You don’t want to come on too strong, but you patiently lure your buyer, customer, reader or whomever you are trying to present your claim/argument today. If you treat your reader like this, not only are you retaining your reader’s attention, but you are keeping a good pace pithing your paper.


  10. Lunaduna says:

    Reading this post showed me another angle on how to write an essay. (I need to make sure I do not ask too many broad questions and confuse my audience.)

    I need to make sure that I do not confuse the readers. (If there is a lot of information, the readers will not know the right solution.)


  11. kingofcamp says:

    I enjoyed this analogy because it aided me in visualizing what I need to do in order to write a crafty first essay. The advice you gave was metaphoric yet it was clear to me. Your explanation was well said, I thank you for that.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. disneylover2002 says:

    I have never heard of this before. I will be using this method when writing my paper.


  13. frogs02 says:

    I really like this analogy because I am a server and I know how difficult it can be to just blame it on the cooks or the owner for not having certain things, but I can reword things for a more positive outlook on the topic. This was very clear and it was an easier way of learning by comparing it to something we do in life. This was a new way of crafting an academic essay and an easier way to understand the essay.


  14. comatosefox says:

    This is exactly what your trying to explain to me, an alternate way of thinking. I’ve never heard this before and it was very helpful, It gives use a new way to think about the process.


  15. ziggy026 says:

    I have never heard this metaphor, but I really enjoyed it. It helped me see what I’m doing from a different perspective. I thought that it gave a different way of looking at how to approach the audience as well as show what not to do and how it will change the way the audience reads the text.


  16. chickendinner says:

    This was new advice presented in an interesting and memorable way that helped me understand the point. I’ll use it going forward.


  17. Lily4Pres says:

    I think this is a refreshing analogy when talking about writing an argument. I’ve never had this analogy used before. With the addition of this analogy, it will be easier to plan out, visualize, and structure an argument.


  18. This is a very helpful and unique way of looking at writing. In order to prepare a spectacular meal, you have to have all of the ingredients necessary. I really enjoyed this analogy and it was a good reminder for me to ensure that I have enough resources and information to provide the best writing I possibly can.


  19. strawberryfields4 says:

    I personally find real world examples to be a very effective strategy for helping me grasp various concepts. They act as “cows and chips” and put a subject in perspective to me, as I can align it with something I have experienced myself. I find them very beneficial to absorbing a lesson!


  20. levixvice says:

    I’ll take this method by heart


  21. sortableelms says:

    I have never heard of using the metaphor of comparing writing to a restaurant. It helps understand the information and keep it in the back of the mind when writing.


  22. g00dsoup says:

    I have never heard of this advice in any writing class I have taken before. This definitely gave me something to think about as I prepare my Definition Argument (as well as my other pieces).


  23. sunflower0311 says:

    I have never heard this metaphor before, but I really liked it. I think it helped explain the job of a writer by referring to a job that many of us know a bit better. I definitely will be using this advice when writing my paper.


  24. anonymous123 says:

    Ive never heard the comparison of writing to serving and now that it was brought to my attention it is fascinating how similar they really are and they were put together in good perspective for me to understand very well.


  25. tmjj4345 says:

    I have never heard of this metaphor until this class. I found the comparison and the process to be very helpful and a new way to view the writing process. I found this to be very valuable and I will approach my writing differently.


  26. charlieclover says:

    I have never heard a metaphor before that sounded like this one. It is a very good analogy and I will refer to it in the future when I think of my own writing in this class and in all of my other classes.


  27. pinkheart84 says:

    I have never heard or have gone over this kind of metaphor before with any teacher, but I like how it makes things a lot easier to understand and I would definitely use it in my classes.


  28. doglover846 says:

    I never heard a metaphor comparing a restaurant to writing. But it help be better understand the information and easier to comprehend, so I will definitely use this strategy when writing.


  29. fatjoe000 says:

    I really like how writing an essay was portrayed in this. Personally, I think using real-life scenarios is a good way to help me understand this topic/assignment better.


  30. Shazammm says:

    This is definitely a fresh take on how to persuade our readers in our writing. I enjoy the server-metaphor. It not only makes the topic more interesting, but it also makes it easier for young writers to grasp the concept and apply it to their own work.


  31. mellowtacos says:

    Ive never heard this advice in this way. Its extremely helpful and when given writing advice in a metaphor it makes people remember which is what my past teachers have lacked.


  32. gobirds115 says:

    I never thought of writing like this. Very useful, logical, and practical way of thinking when trying to comprehend the writing process and everyone’s role in the process.


  33. inspireangels says:

    This way of teaching I find effective when you relate methods and lessons to the real world. I personally find it helpful in understanding the material and improving my essays.


  34. Water says:

    I have never heard of this teaching, and although it’s interesting it seems like it does its magic and gets others to write better. The metaphor makes you think about how you would want your essay to sound. With reviews, you should have it sound as if you’re at a restaurant. A very useful way to comprehend and a helpful tool when revising


  35. chickennugget246 says:

    I have never received this type of advice before in any other of my writing classes. This is a new outlook on crafting an essay, which I think is very helpful and easy to understand. This metaphor makes it clear on how to write an essay the correct way and how to keep our readers engaged with our work.


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