When dining at a restaurant or bar, have you ever just sat there to take in what’s going on around you? The fast-paced environment, employees moving quickly, and… are they speaking another language? No, that’s just restaurant lingo.
If you’ve never worked in a restaurant or at another food service establishment, you may not know that employees have an entire language of their own to communicate. Because employees are often constantly moving, having a ‘shorthand’ way of speaking can make communicating your needs easier and faster.
To an outsider, the restaurant lingo may seem confusing. But once you learn it, you’ll probably be using it for the rest of your life. Below, we break down 25 phrases from popular restaurant lingo you need to know to prepare you for your first restaurant gig.
25 Phrases from Popular Restaurant Lingo You Need to Know
2-Top, 4-Top, etc.
Definition: A number with “top” following it refers to the amount of people in a party dining at the establishment.
Example: Hey Michelle, you’ve got a 6-top coming in so be ready.
Definition: When the restaurant (as in bar, kitchen, or service station) runs out of a certain ingredient or menu item.
Example: We’re out of chicken tortilla soup so it’s 86’d for the rest of the night.
Definition: You’ll hear the term “all day” thrown around a lot in or near the kitchen. “All-day” refers to the total number of a dish the kitchen needs to make in a certain time frame. This often helps the kitchen better understand the quantity of what’s needed in upcoming orders.
Example: We need 5 bacon cheeseburgers all-day to get these orders out!
Definition: While this word doesn’t have a unique definition, it’s commonly used to indicate when someone is coming up quickly behind you or two your side and to be aware of their presence. “Behind!” may be accompanied with “to your left!”
Example: “Behind,” I’ve got a large tray!
Definition: BOH stands for back-of-house, meaning any employee who works in the “back” of the restaurant. Cooks (line, prep), chefs, dishwashers, kitchen managers, and sometimes bussers are all considered back-of-house employees.
Example: Can you grab Michelle from BOH and ask her to come to the office?
Definition: A guest that is a camper or is camping has been lingering around their table after paying their check. Until they leave, it can prevent employees from going home or getting another table
Example: I’ll still be here for a while, table 84 is camping out.
Definition: The FOH employee responsible for closing the restaurant. Typically includes signing out other workers, closing drink or service stations, and doing any necessary cleaning.
Example: I’m the closer tonight so I’ll be here all night.
Definition: If something is “comped” or someone is receiving a “comp” from a manager, the customer is receiving something for free. There are several reasons for this that may be positive or negative, including an incorrect order, an employee mistake, or a celebration/gift for the guest.
Example: I’m going to comp the desserts on table 84, they’re friends of mine.
Definition: When an employee is told they can start their work that allows them to go home. For servers and bartenders, being cut means you don’t have to take any additional tables.
Example: Amanda is cut, please don’t sit her section anymore.
Definition: Working a double means that the employee has to work two back-to-back shifts in the same day.
Example: I’m not going out tonight, I’m on a double tomorrow.
Definition: This is a popular kitchen acronym that stands for First In First Out.
Example: Make sure to follow the FIFO rule when stocking the walk-in.
Definition: Based on BOH, you may have already guessed that FOH stands for front-of-house. This phrase includes all the employees who work in the “front” of the restaurant, like servers, bartenders, hosts, and managers.
Example: We just hired a new FOH employee for busy season!
Definition: The word “heard” is used, often by the kitchen, to signify that they’re received an order and it’s in the process of being completed.
Example: We need the appetizers for table 84. “Heard!”
In the Weeds
Definition: Being in the weeds or “weeded” means that an employee (often a server but can include any position) is falling behind or especially busy. “In the weeds” implies that they’re so deep in work that needs to be done that they can’t see a way out.
Example: Don’t sit me for 10 minutes, I’m in the weeds right now!
Definition: MIT stands for Manager in Training and is exactly how it sounds; Either a new hire or a current employee who is training to become a manager. While they may not have the same power as a full manager, they should be respected the same way.
Example: Ken is our new MIT for the next several weeks until he receives his certification.
Definition: An abbreviation that stands for “No Call No Show” and refers to when an employee (or sometimes customer) misses work without any explanation or call to management.
Example: Amanda was a NCNS today, can you help cover her section?
Definition: Non-slip or slip-resistant footwear are specific shoes with a rubber sole designed to prevent the wearer from slipping or falling on slick surfaces. They’re often required by both FOH and BOH staff to prevent accidents in the workplace.
Example: You can’t wear sandals to your shift, all employees must wear non-slips.
On the Fly
Definition: When something is on the fly, it needs to be completed immediately or as urgently as possible.
Example: I forgot to ring in table 84’s appetizers, can you make them on the fly?
Definition: The FOH employee responsible for opening the restaurant. Typically includes reopening stations and stocking. Example: Who’s the opener tomorrow? They need to be here early.
Definition: No, not piece of…POS stands for “point of sale” and refers to the system that’s used to enter orders, manage tables, and accept payment from customers.
Example: I’ll grab your check from the POS and be right back.
Definition: Dining utensils that are wrapped in napkins; often rollups are a part of servers’ side work.
Example: I need to do 50 rollups before I can finish my shift.
Definition: When servers are asked to run something – usually a food or beverage item – they’re being asked to bring the item where it needs to go.
Example: Can you run this side of ranch to the bar?
Definition: Side work refers to the duties that need to be completed before leaving for the day and typically applies to servers and bartenders.
Example: Don’t forget to have your side work checked out by the closer before you leave.
Definition: Upselling is a technique that encourages customers to purchase or add more expensive menu items, effectively increasing the amount of money spent.
Example: I tried to upsell table 84 into getting a bigger steak but they said no.
Definition: A walk-in refers to the refrigerator or freezer that stores food and drink items that you can walk in to. Not to be confused with “walking in,” which culinary staff may use when an order arrives in the kitchen.
Example: Can you grab more ranch dressing from the walk-in please?
Now that you know common restaurant lingo, it’s time to get on your first shift! Have a definition you want to add? Leave it in the comments below.