Restaurant Terms and Slang: How Many Do You Know?
Originally published June 23, 2017
Anyone that’s ever worked in a restaurant knows that it comes with its own terminology. Keeping up with the lingo will make communication smoother amongst staff, as well as make your restaurant more efficient. In turn, this will create a better guest experience. How many of these restaurant terms do you know? We have a full glossary of restaurant terms and slang to test your knowledge. If you’re new to the hospitality industry, fear not – this comprehensive list will get you up to speed.
Restaurant Terminology and Slang
- 86 – To cut something from the dish or the restaurant has run out of a particular item.
- All Day – Refers to the total number of a particular menu item. “4 steaks are ordered at table 20 and 3 are ordered at table 11. That means that 7 steaks were ordered all day.”
- BD – Business decline; when your rush is over and the staff work on their side duties like cleaning, etc.
- Behind – A quick way to let your coworkers and guests know that you are near them to prevent any tripping accidents.
- Bev Nap – A small square napkin for drinks.
- BOH – Back of House – The back of the restaurant, the kitchen and storage areas where the cooks, preps, and dishwashers primarily work.
- Bump bar – Refers to a programmable keypad that is used in the kitchen to bump food off the line when a kitchen display system is installed.
- Bump it – To remove an order from the cook screen once it is made.
- Campers – Diners that remain seated for a long period of time for no apparent reason.
- Chit – An individual order from a POS.
- Coming in/around Hot; Hot – A way to announce that you are coming around a corner with something hot, to avoid possible collision or injury.
- Comp – To give something away for free.
- Contactless Dining – A means of serving guests without interpersonal contact that utilizes tech like smart phones, SMS texting, and QR codes for ordering and updates.
- Corner – Direction that staff give when turning a corner to avoid collision.
- Covers – How many meals are served per table
- Curbside Delivery – Like takeout service, curbside is a guest initiated pickup delivered to their vehicle.
- Cut – When a server has been cut from taking more tables.
- Double – Refers to a waiter or waitress shift when they work two shifts in a row.
- Drop – Start cooking the accompanied item.
- Expo – Person in charge of organizing the food prior to it leaving the kitchen. They tend to prep the plates and make sure the meal is complete and the presentation looks good.
- FIFO – Full hands in, Full hands out; First in, First out- Referring to prepped food items.
- Fire it – Order given to start prepping food. “Fire those steaks.”
- Fly – Shorthand for “poultry” in your walk-in cooler.
- FOH – Front of House – This refers to the bar and dining room – any part of the restaurant that the guests can see.
- Guest Initiated Arrival – A means of guests letting the restaurant know that they are there through contactless communication like SMS texting.
- Heard – An acknowledgement that the FOH and BOH are in sync.
- In the Weeds – Overwhelmed; busy; see also: spinning.
- KDS – Acronym for kitchen display system – a system installed in kitchens to display orders on a screen for the chef, it can be integrated with the POS and restaurant reservation systems.
- Last call – This is your warning from the bartender that the bar is about to close.
- Mid – A work shift that starts at lunch and works through dinner; usually the first to be cut.
- Mise en Place – A French term that translates to “everything is in place.”
- Mispack – An order that was assembled and delivered wrong; A mistake in the packing.
- Off-Premise – The shorthand for any order that isn’t prepared for in-house consumption, which includes curbside service, takeout, and delivery.
- On the Fly – The act of fixing an order mid-process to correct for customer needs.
- One Star – A customer who hunts for negative things to say in a review.
- Open/Menu Count – The number of guests currently in the selection process.
- Operational Efficiency – A managerial term about making sure that everything runs smoothly, from your FOH to your BOH.
- Party – Refers to a group of restaurant guests. “Party of 4”
- POS – Acronym for a point of sale – the system in which the wait staff enters in the order and each sale is recorded.
- QSR – Acronym for quick service restaurant.
- Run – To bring something to a table. “Run this food to table 4”
- Runner – Someone needed to “run” food to table.
- Scripting – Informing diners of the special and selling the special.
- Sharp – Someone has sharp object like a knife behind you.
- Shelf-life – The estimated life span of your food items.
- Side Duties – All tasks that are secondary to guest satisfaction in a restaurant, including cleaning, garbage, prep work, etc.
- Split Shift – When a staff member works two or more separate shifts during a day.
- Spinning – Overwhelmed; busy; spinning in place; see also: in the weeds
- Spirit – Distilled alcohol
- Starter – The same as an appetizer.
- Straight up – When a diner orders something exactly the way it is on the menu.
- Styling – When a server is operating at maximum capacity and satisfying all of their demands.
- Sub – To substitute one menu item for another.
- Swim – Shorthand for “fish” in your walk-in cooler.
- Swinging – Refers to food being plated.
- Table turn – This term is crucial for wait staff – it refers to every time a table is sat, then cleaned for a new party.
- To-go – Orders that are meant for off-premise delivery, whether that’s curbside service, takeout, or delivery.
- Top – The number in a dining party, as in “8 top at table 20.” See also: the number of seats at a table/how many guests a table could seat.
- Underwater/Drowning – Overwhelmed with customers; see also: “in the weeds.”
- Upsell – A technique used to get customers to purchase more expensive items.
- Use first – The inventory that needs to be used next so it won’t go bad.
- Walk – Shorthand for “pork/cow/sheep” in your walk-in cooler.
- Walk-in – Refers to the walk-in refrigerator.
- Walkout- A diner that left without paying.
- Waxing a table – Refers to VIP treatment of a table.
- Well drinks – Drinks made from the inexpensive liquor the restaurant has on hand. For example, if you ask for a Redbull and Vodka, you might get Smirnoff instead of Ciroc.
- Wheelman – The kitchen expeditor.
- Working – Food that is being prepared.
How many of these restaurant terms did you know? Did you get them all correct? Do you have any other restaurant vocabulary you’d like to add? Feel free to comment below!
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About the Author
Emily Wimpsett was a Content & Social Media Specialist at QSR Automations. Emily was born and raised in Louisville but considers herself a die-hard University of Kentucky fan. For college, Emily attended Indiana University Southeast and obtained a degree in Communications with a track in Advertising. In her free time, Emily enjoys just about every water related activity but she is partial to kayaking and whitewater rafting.