Safety in Numbers

Customer: Hi can I order a takeaway please?

Me: Yes what would you like?

C: Right, well I’d like a number 35… a number 60… a number 27… a 53… a 46… and a number 3 please.


One of the pet peeves I used to have when doing phone orders is when people order by numbers. Like most Chinese takeaway menus (or indeed most menus for any food outlet) everything tends to be numbered, I have no idea why, maybe it’s just easier for some people to remember in some shops.

I remember being quite irritated the first time I encountered a customer that thought it was easier to order by numbers over the phone: it’s a peak time on a Friday night, there are four or five other orders ahead of you that need to be ready as well, I’m really pressed for time here, would it kill you to at least read out the names of the order?

When I did phone orders from about 17 years onwards when I was looking for a number on the menu I used to keep hem hanging there for a little while longer by making it sound like I was having trouble finding the number… I don’t do it anymore of course.

I still get annoyed by it but you just have to grin an bear it; it’s not the customer’s fault that they don’t know I don’t do numbers (which is ironic for a Chinese person), similarly I don’t know if ordering by numbers is easier for them because maybe someone else wrote down a list of numbers on a piece of paper and didn’t think to include what the actual order was, maybe it’s just faster for them to write it down and they must think that it’s easier for me to write it down as a number.

To throw a question out there, does anone working in a Chinese takeaway prefer it when people order by numbers or do they prefer it when the name of the dish is read out loud?

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