101 Restaurant Slang Terms to Speak Like an Insider

Written by Gabriel Cruz - Slang & Language Enthusiast

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Welcome to our comprehensive guide on restaurant slang! If you’ve ever been curious about the secret language used in the culinary world, you’re in the right place. In this blog post, we’ll explore 101 restaurant slang terms that will not only help you understand what words are being spoken behind the scenes but also make you sound like an industry insider. So let’s dive in and discover the fascinating world of restaurant jargon!


A term used to indicate that an item is no longer available or that a customer should be refused service.

Example: “We ran out of salmon, so it’s 86’d for the night.”

All Day

An expression used by kitchen staff to indicate the total number of a specific item needed for all orders.

Example: “Two steaks, three salads, and four desserts, all day.”

Back of House (BOH)

The area in a restaurant where food is prepared and cooked; the kitchen.

Example: “The dishwashers and cooks work in the back of house.”

Front of House (FOH)

The area in a restaurant where customers are seated and served; the dining room.

Example: “The hostess and servers work in the front of house.”

In the Weeds

A phrase used to describe a situation in which a server or kitchen is overwhelmed with a high volume of orders or tasks.

Example: “We got slammed during the dinner rush and the whole kitchen was in the weeds.”


Customers who linger at their table long after finishing their meal, occupying a table that could be used for new customers.

Example: “Those campers have been sitting there for hours; we need to turn that table.”


To start cooking or prepare an order immediately.

Example: “The chef yelled ‘fire!’ when the ticket came in for the steak.”

On the Fly

An instruction given to the kitchen to prepare an item quickly or make modifications to a dish.

Example: “The customer wants the burger without onions, on the fly.”

Running the Pass

The act of coordinating and inspecting the plated dishes before they are served to customers.

Example: “The head chef is running the pass tonight to ensure quality control.”


A restaurant staff member responsible for delivering food from the kitchen to the appropriate table.

Example: “The food runner brought the entrees to table three.”


The total number of customers served in a specific time period.

Example: “We had 50 covers during lunch service today.”


A table for two people.

Example: “We need to set up a deuce in the corner.”

Four Top

A table for four people.

Example: “We have a reservation for a four top at 7:30.”


The printed tickets that represent individual orders in the kitchen.

Example: “The chef needs the chits for the next round of tickets.”


A shorthand term for “expeditor,” the person responsible for organizing and coordinating orders between the kitchen and the servers.

Example: “The expo is double

-checking the orders before they go out.”

Family Meal

A meal provided by the restaurant for the staff, typically before or after service.

Example: “The cooks are preparing the family meal in the kitchen.”

Mise en Place

A French term referring to the preparation and organization of ingredients and equipment before service.

Example: “The chef emphasized the importance of mise en place for efficient cooking.”

No Call, No Show

An employee who does not show up for their shift without giving prior notice.

Example: “We had a no call, no show today; we’re short-staffed.”

On Deck

An order or item that is next in line to be prepared or served.

Example: “The dessert is on deck and will be ready to go in a minute.”

Open Menu

A request from a customer to modify or customize their dish according to their preferences.

Example: “The guest has an open menu, so they want the pasta without cheese and with extra vegetables.”


To sell or promote a particular menu item to customers.

Example: “Let’s push the chef’s special tonight; it’s a new dish we want to showcase.”


A shelf or area where completed dishes are held before being served to the appropriate table.

Example: “The appetizers are waiting on the rail for table five.”


Non-service tasks assigned to restaurant staff, such as cleaning, restocking, or preparing for the next shift.

Example: “After their shift, the servers need to complete their sidework before they can leave.”

Turn and Burn

A term used to describe the process of quickly serving and turning around tables to accommodate more customers.

Example: “We’re really busy tonight, so we need to turn and burn these tables.”


A table or section that a server is responsible for serving.

Example: “Table seven is in your section; it’s your top.”


The area in the kitchen where finished dishes are placed before being served.

Example: “The chef is plating the main courses and passing them to the window.”


An itemized bill presented to the customer at the end of the meal.

Example: “Can you bring the check to table twelve? They’re ready to pay.”


The act of arranging and presenting food on a plate before serving it to the customer.

Example: “The chef is plating the appetizers for table three.”


A cooking surface or stove burner.

Example: “We need to heat up another pan on the back burner.”

Chef’s Table

A special table in the kitchen or dining room where customers can enjoy a unique dining experience curated by the chef.

Example: “The couple requested the chef’s table for their anniversary dinner.”


A shift worked by an employee that immediately follows their previous

shift without a break.

Example: “I’m pulling a double today, so I’ll be here until closing.”

Flat Top

A type of cooking surface that is flat and smooth, typically used for grilling or searing.

Example: “The burgers are cooking on the flat top.”


A designated area in the kitchen where a specific type of food is prepared or cooked.

Example: “I’m working the sauté station tonight.”


The area in the kitchen where various stations and cooks work together to prepare and assemble dishes.

Example: “The head chef oversees the entire line during service.”


A large refrigerator or storage room used for storing perishable food items.

Example: “We need to restock the vegetables in the walk-in.”


The process of preparing and cutting ingredients in advance before they are cooked or used in dishes.

Example: “The prep cooks are chopping onions and peeling potatoes.”


An acronym for “First In, First Out,” a method of stock rotation in which older inventory is used before newer stock.

Example: “Remember to follow FIFO when stocking the pantry.”


A decorative or flavorful item added to a dish just before serving.

Example: “The chef garnished the soup with a sprig of fresh herbs.”

Table Touch

A brief interaction or check-in with customers at their table to ensure satisfaction.

Example: “The manager asked the servers to do a table touch with each customer.”


The less glamorous or visible aspects of a restaurant, such as cleaning, maintenance, or administrative tasks.

Example: “The dishwasher is an important part of the restaurant’s underbelly.”


The act of persuading a customer to purchase additional or more expensive items.

Example: “The server successfully up-sold the customer to a larger size of fries.”

Blue Plate

A daily special offered by the restaurant, typically featuring a home-style or comfort food dish.

Example: “Today’s blue plate is meatloaf with mashed potatoes and green beans.”

Table Stakes

The minimum level of service or quality expected from a restaurant.

Example: “Providing complimentary bread and butter is part of our table stakes.”


A combination meal that includes multiple food items or courses for a set price.

Example: “The lunch combo includes a sandwich, soup, and a drink.”


The practice of serving multiple courses of a meal in a specific order.

Example: “We need to pace the coursing so that the main course doesn’t come out too soon.”


To stop or end a shift or working period.

Example: “I can cut you at 9:00 p.m. if it’s not busy.”

Dine and Dash

When a customer leaves

without paying their bill.

Example: “We had a dine and dash incident last night; the customer left without settling the bill.”

Free Pour

The practice of pouring a drink without using a measuring device, relying on the bartender’s judgment.

Example: “The bartender is skilled at free pouring and can make cocktails quickly.”


Referring to the restaurant or establishment itself.

Example: “The house is packed tonight; we’re fully booked.”

Rolling Silverware

The task of rolling silverware into napkins for table settings.

Example: “The servers are rolling silverware for the next shift.”

Service Industry Night

A designated night when discounts or specials are offered specifically for workers in the hospitality industry.

Example: “Sunday is service industry night, so all restaurant employees get 25% off their bill.”


Referring to a shortage of staff members for a shift or a particular role.

Example: “We’re short on bussers tonight, so the servers will need to help clear tables.”


Customers who dine or drink outside the restaurant on the sidewalk or patio area.

Example: “We have a group of sidewalkers waiting for a table on the patio.”


A term used to describe a situation where the restaurant is extremely busy and overwhelmed.

Example: “During the lunch rush, the restaurant was slammed.”

Soft Open

A period of time when a new restaurant opens to the public on a limited scale, typically for testing and training purposes.

Example: “The restaurant will have a soft open next week before the grand opening.”


To work temporarily in a restaurant kitchen to gain experience or learn new techniques.

Example: “The culinary student will stage at a Michelin-starred restaurant next month.”

Two Top

A table for two people.

Example: “We need to set up a two top by the window.”

In the Window

Referring to dishes that are ready and waiting to be picked up and served to the customers.

Example: “The steaks are cooked and in the window; we’re waiting on the sides.”


A ticket or order that contains multiple dishes for the same table.

Example: “The table ordered four different entrees, so it’s a wheel.”

Dying on the Vine

When food or ingredients are not being used or sold and are at risk of spoiling or going to waste.

Example: “We need to use up the strawberries; they’re dying on the vine.”

On the Rail

When a dish is ready to be served and waiting on the rail to be picked up by the server.

Example: “The appetizers are on the rail, waiting for table ten.”

Rolling Out

The process of introducing a new menu item or special to the customers.

Example: “We’re rolling out the summer

menu next week.”

Scratch Kitchen

A restaurant that prepares all of its dishes from fresh ingredients and does not use pre-made or pre-packaged items.

Example: “We take pride in being a scratch kitchen; everything is made in-house.”


The act of adding a specific ingredient or garnish to a dish just before it is served.

Example: “The chef is spiking the soup with a drizzle of truffle oil.”


The act of preparing, finishing, or serving a dish in front of the customer at their table.

Example: “The server will prepare the Caesar salad tableside.”


A term used to indicate the process of whisking or beating ingredients together, often referring to eggs or cream.

Example: “Whip the eggs until they form stiff peaks.”


Using a pen or marker to indicate specific modifications or special requests on a ticket or order.

Example: “Make sure to mark ‘no onions’ on the ticket for table six.”


A warning used by kitchen staff to alert others when walking or passing behind them.

Example: “Behind you!”

Deep Six

To discard or throw away an item, usually referring to expired or spoiled ingredients.

Example: “Deep six the lettuce; it’s gone bad.”


A term used when a kitchen or service staff is slow or falling behind in their tasks.

Example: “The cooks are dragging tonight; we need to pick up the pace.”


To quickly cook or blanch an ingredient for a short period of time.

Example: “Flash-fry the calamari for 30 seconds.”


Short for “duplicate tickets,” referring to additional copies of the same order or ticket.

Example: “We need two dupes of the steak dinner for table eight.”


A confirmation used by kitchen staff to acknowledge they received and understood a message or instruction.

Example: “Order up!” – “Heard!”


To cancel or remove an item or order from the ticket or preparation list.

Example: “The customer changed their mind, so we need to kill the chicken sandwich.”


Short for “mid-shift,” referring to the period between the opening and closing shifts.

Example: “I’m scheduled for mid today, so I’ll be here from 11:00 a.m. to 7:00 p.m.”


The act of entering an order or sale into the cash register or point-of-sale system.

Example: “The server forgot to ring in the appetizers; we need to do it now.”


To remove the shells or husks from ingredients, typically referring to shellfish or corn.

Example: “The chef is shucking oysters for the seafood platter.”


A small and quick meal or bite to eat.

Example: “I’m just going to grab a quick snack before my shift.”


When a customer leaves the restaurant without being seated or served.

Example: “The couple walked because there was a long wait for a table.”


To clear crumbs from a table using a crumber or scraper.

Example: “After they finished their meal, the server crumbed the table.”

Dead Plate

An empty or unused plate that was prepared but not served to a customer.

Example: “The chef accidentally made a dead plate of spaghetti.”


A staff member who helps out in various areas of the restaurant as needed.

Example: “We need a floater to assist with bussing tables and refilling water.”


Short for “modification,” referring to a change or customization made to a dish or order.

Example: “The customer wants a mod on the burger with no pickles.”


To remake or re-cook a dish that was not prepared correctly or did not meet the customer’s satisfaction.

Example: “The steak was undercooked; we need to refire it.”


To steal or take a small amount of food or drink without permission.

Example: “The bartender caught the server swiping a sip of wine.”


To expedite or move an order to the front of the preparation queue.

Example: “Bump the fish tacos; they’re for a customer with a gluten allergy.”


When an employee is fired or let go from their position.

Example: “The sous chef was chopped for repeatedly arriving late.”


The act of placing food items into the fryer or hot oil for cooking.

Example: “I’m dropping the fries; they’ll be ready in a few minutes.”


To cook or prepare an order immediately.

Example: “Fire the pasta; the customer wants it extra spicy.”

Low Boy

A type of refrigerated storage unit with low height, typically used to store perishable ingredients or prepared items.

Example: “We need to restock the lettuce in the low boy.”


To open a bottle or container, usually referring to a carbonated drink or a bottle of wine.

Example: “Can you pop a bottle of champagne for table two?”


To accompany or assist a server during service, typically when they are new or in training.

Example: “I’ll ride with you tonight and help you with the tables.”


To work both the opening and closing shifts on the same day.

Example: “I’m swinging today, so I’ll be here from morning until night.”


A term used to describe a close or limited space, often referring to a crowded kitchen or

dining area.

Example: “The kitchen is really tight tonight; be careful moving around.”


A term used to describe a rapid succession of orders or busy period.

Example: “During the dinner rush, it was a bang-bang in the kitchen.”

Cooked to Spec

When a dish is prepared according to the specific instructions or preferences of the customer.

Example: “The steak was cooked to spec, medium-rare.”


To add dressing or sauce to a dish, typically a salad or sandwich.

Example: “Can you dress the salad with vinaigrette, please?”


To turn over or flip a food item to cook the other side.

Example: “Flip the pancakes when the edges start to bubble.”

On a B&B

Abbreviation for “bread and butter,” referring to the basic and essential elements of a dish or restaurant operation.

Example: “Customer satisfaction is our B&B.”


To remove an item or ingredient from a refrigerator, freezer, or storage area.

Example: “The chef asked me to pull some fresh herbs from the walk-in.”

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