Restaurant Lingo: A Guide to Restaurant Slang, Terms

By: Jackie Sabol

5 Minute Read

Apr 18, 2018

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Restaurantlingo

restaurant lingo

Upsell? On the fly? Dead plate?

Huh?

If you’re thinking about opening a restaurant without a lot of restaurant experience, you’re going to have to get up to speed on common (and not so common) restaurant lingo. Otherwise, don't expect your staff to take you seriously.

Whether you’ve got a hands-on role at your new location or plan on stopping by once in a while as you manage administrative functions, it never hurts to show everyone under your wing that you know what you’re talking about. Plus, with these words, you'll have some fun in the process!

Read on for this full glossary of essential restaurant lingo you should know as a restaurateur.

Front of the House Terminologyrestaurant lingo

Front of the House (FOH)

The front of the restaurant, literally. Bar, dining room, waiting area.
"Who's managing the front of the house tonight? Everything looks great - they're doing a stellar job!"

86

Nix. Get rid of. Cancel. It's off the menu.
"Didn’t you tell the servers that steak is 86'ed? I’ve already gotten 5 orders since I told you they were out!"

Camper

Someone who finishes their meal, pays their check, and will not leave. Not even when they see a line of patrons eagerly awaiting an open table.
“We got some campers at Table 12, can you start bussing that table so they get the hint?”

Deuce restaurant lingo

A table with only two seats.
“I have a deuce and a party of three waiting.”

Drop the Check

Present the guest with their check at the end of their meal.
“Table 36 is talking about how they wished they had their elastic waistband pants, I think they’re done! Can you drop the check?”

In the Weeds

Describes when a server, bartender, or the kitchen is completely overwhelmed and struggling to serve guests in a timely manner.
“Can you check on Table 10? John is in the weeds with a table of 20 that wants to split the check and could use some help!”

Pick Up

When a server or bartender starts working with a guest that was being served by a different employee.
“Can you pick up table 15? That’s the GM’s mom!”

Push It restaurant lingo

Sell it.
“Make sure you push the wine pairings for the prefix tonight! We have more wine than food right now!”

Server

Because no one says “waitress” or “waiter” anymore.
"Tell Jenny that her table is calling for their server!"

Sidework

The bane of any server’s existence, the key to smooth service. More specifically, prep work performed by FOH staff. This word is usually accompanied by groans of displeasure.
“Make sure you get your sidework done tonight – we had too many empty salt shakers last night.”

Table Turns

The amount of times a table has been serviced from seating to paying. restaurant lingo
“Nice job on turning tables last night, you served five more parties than the rest of the staff. Drinks on you tonight!”

Upsell

Increasing a table’s check amount by promoting more expensive or additional items.
“The hangar steak is an excellent choice, and would not be complete without a glass of Malbec. Would you like me to bring one with your meal?”

Well

Inexpensive house liquors. Make sure the staff understands that no one in their right mind would choose Cuervo gold over Casamigos Reposado.
“Are you sure they wanted well for those margaritas?”

Back of the House

Back of the House (BOH)

The back end of the restaurant, typically the kitchen, prep, and storage areas.
“I know there are a lot of storage areas at the back of the house, but I’m still surprised our sous chef locked himself in the walk-in last night.”

Adam and Eve on a Raft restaurant lingo

Two eggs - either poached or scrambled, depending on your kitchen - on toast.
"Hurry up with those eggs - that's our first Adam and Eve on a Raft of the morning!"

All Day

Total amount of an item that needs to be sent out from the kitchen.
“I got five gluten-free French Toast, 10 dairy-free clam chowders, and 16 flatbreads no cheese no gluten all day!”

Chef de Partie

Station or line cooks. Can be different positions, such as garde manger or saucier.
“I begin working here as Chef de Partie and was promoted to Sous Chef, I only had to work 95 hours a week!”

Dead Plate restaurant lingo

A plate that’s been in the window and under heat lamps for much too long.
“I need a rare steak on the fly, this one’s dead!”

Drop

Start cooking.
“Steak’s ready to drop at Table 4, let’s GO!”

Expo

Expediter, who manages the way food comes out of the kitchen and is served to guests.
“The expo’s called out, and I’ll need you to fill in and make sure we stop sending out oysters with no mignonette!”

Firerestaurant lingo

Order given by head chef to begin preparation of items.
“Fire apps on Table 24!”

On the Fly

Something needed 10 minutes ago.
“We’ve got a case of hangry at Table 7, I need some fries on the fly before she starts eating the ketchup!”

Shelf Life

Amount of time an item can maintain quality and freshness.
“I don’t think chili really has a shelf-life of three weeks, please throw it out today.”

Stretch It restaurant lingo

Making the most of an ingredient.
“We only have seven orders of clam chowder tonight...stretch it to 15!”

Totes

Plastic containers that, once sanitized, are hoarded by both FOH and BOH staff due to their many uses.
“Go steal some totes from the servers to put the herbs in…yes, I know they’ll be mad…”

Two Second Rule

The golden rule of food quality.
“I saw you drop that chicken on the ground, the two second rule does not apply here, make a new one!”

Joking aside, communication is essential for every restaurateur, restaurant employee, and patron, at the end of the day. Try to learn the lingo, and become a seasoned pro in no time!

What restaurant lingo would you throw onto this list? Let us know what we're missing in the comments!

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