These are the Common Restaurant Vocabulary You Should Know

restaurant vocabulary

There are some common terminologies and vocabulary associated with restaurants. Apart from the fact that it is right to know them, it is also cool when you use them in the right context. Some of these restaurant vocabularies are popular while some are not even known to all. I will be unveiling some cool restaurant vocabulary that you can use the next time you visit a restaurant. Please feel free to use them at any point. To many people, it might sound like another jargon. However, to the pro, these are just not just some jargons. Therefore, you should know their meanings.

List of Restaurant Terminologies or Common Words used in Restaurants

These are the common restaurant vocabulary you should know:


86 is when an item on the menu is no longer available. It also applies when the restaurant cannot fulfil an order because some of its ingredients are no longer available. 

à la carte

à la carte is when you order an individual dish from the menu. It could also comprise a side dish. A la carte is also used for freshly cooked food that you can order on request, unlike when you order already cooked food. A la carte is one of the most popular restaurant vocabularies.

Happy hour

This is another popular restaurant vocabulary. Happy hour is a marketing tactic to drive traffic to the bar. It is the time frame in which restaurants offer special discounts. During this period you get special offers or free meals and drinks on some items. They do this to drive traffic during the off-peak period. 

Front Of House

Front Of House (FOH), is the place at the restaurant where guest sits, eat, dine or wait. The Front of House is the place in the restaurant where guest are only allowed to stay. It can either be the sitting area of a restaurant or a bar. It is a popular restaurant vocabulary used by staffs and restaurant owners.


Back of House

Back of House is everywhere in the restaurant that is out of bounds to the guest. For example, the kitchen, the store, office area, storage and staff quarters. 

kitchen, chef, restaurant vocabulary

Signature Dish

A signature dish is a special dish on the menu which is only available in that particular restaurant. It could also be a dish unique to the restaurant or the chef. 

restaurant vocabulary


Walk-in often refers to a customer or guest who comes into the restaurant without a reservation. 

Al Fresco

The Al Fresco is the term used to describe the outdoor dining area of a restaurant. It often has chairs, tables and sometimes giant-sized umbrellas.  


An appetizer is usually like a starter or a small portion of food taken before the main meal. An appetizer is also known as starters, it is a meal eaten before the main course.


A bartender is someone in charge of a bar and skilled in the art of mixing and serving alcoholic and non-alcoholic drinks at the bar. Bartenders are also known as the mixologists, barman barkeep, barmaid etc. It is also used for someone that mixes drink such as cocktails, mojito, etc. 


A chef is a professional cook skilled In the art of making different kinds of meals. It’s the shortened form of chef de cuisine. Most chefs have formal training. 

Nuke it

It is the term used to tell the staff to microwave the food. 


Virgin is the terms used for drinks without alcohol. For Example, Pina Collada is an alcoholic drink while Virgin Collada is non-alcoholic. 


Upselling is when a server or staff tries to influence or convince a customer to add more side dishes from the menu. Sometimes they may introduce ]other side dishes or promos. It is done to increase the overall bill of the customer.


A runner is staff responsible for serving food at the restaurant. A runner is also responsible for emptying the table once the guests are done eating.


Corkage is the extra cost you pay for bringing in your food and drinks. Some restaurants may allow you to bring in food and drinks. In addition to your food, you will be charged a token for bringing food or drinks. The extra money you pay is called corkage. 


It is a list of guest waiting to get a seat at the restaurant. This often occurs when there is a full house and the guest are waiting to get a table.


VIP is the acronym for Very Important person. The term is used when important guests like a celebrity, politician, a top businessman or special customer visits.

VIP Area

VIP Area is the section of the restaurant reserved for VIP. Sometimes it is often more expensive than the regular. In cases where it is not, you may need to order a particular amount of food once you are using the VIP. 


Eat-in is the term used when you eat in the restaurant. It is the term used to describe when you dine at the restaurant. Eat-in means you plan to eat at the restaurant. If you are buying to take home its take out or takeaway as it is popularly known. It is a common restaurant vocabulary.

Take out

Take out is when you order a meal to take home. It is often called takeaway. 


The menu is the list that contains all the available food and drinks that you can order at the restaurant. It is often printed on a sheet of paper or written on a notice board. The menu is divided into sections like Starters, main course, Dessert, Side Dishes, Drinks, etc.


The beverage is a liquid drink that you can consume. It could either be milk, tea, coffee, soft drinks etc.

Hot Chocolate

Hot chocolate is a hot drink made up of processed cocoa powder or melted chocolate, milk and a sweetener.  


A tip is an additional money given to a waiter or staff at a restaurant for a good service. A tip is often not compulsory, however, you should make it a good practice. It is not a fixed amount, it is advisable to always tip well. This is because some of the staff are underpaid. 


a dessert is the final course of the meal, it is sometimes made up of cakes, ice cream, biscuit, cheese etc. It is consumed at the end of the meal. It is also the final part of a three-course meal. 



These are high-end restaurants associated with culinary beautifully designed dishes. Gourmet is another website vocabulary that is used to describe restaurants characterised by aesthetically produced meals elaborately. 


Espresso is a kind of coffee. It is brewed by allowing hot water to pass through a finely grounded roasted coffee bean.


It is usually the name given to a small restaurant that serves moderately-priced meals. It is usually a small and inexpensive restaurant where you can get cheap food. Bistro is a common restaurant terminology used which has been widely used by many restaurant.


A restaurant is a place that has a dining area and a kitchen where people pay to eat. The food is prepared in the kitchen while the meals are served in the main restaurant. 

Service Charge

A service charge is an additional amount added to your bill, which is paid to the staff for their service. Service charge usually varies from 10 to 20 per cent. 


These are the menu that is only available at a specific time and sometimes not included in the main menu. 


A canteen is a restaurant provided by an organisation, school, factory etc for its workers.  


These are easy and quick to prepare foods usually made in large quantities. 


A reservation is when you pre-book a table at the restaurant before visiting. 


A bill is a document that contains the list of food and drinks that you ordered with the total cost. When you are done eating or about to leave, you can call on the waiter/waitress to bring your bill. For instance, a service charge of 10 to 20 per cent may be included in your bill. 


A cafe is a small restaurant that offers light meals and soft drinks. They are sometimes known as coffee shops. 


A course is one part of a whole meal. Some countries have up to four courses. The common one is the three-course meal which has the starter, the mains and the dessert. 

Side Dishes 

These are meals that you can order in addition to the main meal. It is another common restaurant terminology.


A starter is the smaller dish that comes before the main meal. Depending on the type of restaurant, it could be spring roll, pepper soup, bread, calamari, prawns etc. It is sometimes known as the appetizer.

Table Reservation

Table reservation is when you call ahead or reserve a table before visiting a restaurant. 


A mixologist is a person at the restaurant, bar or lounge who is skilled at the art of mixing drinks. 

Main Course

The main course is usually the main dish that you can order. It forms part of the three-course meal which includes the starters, the mains and the dessert. The main course is the heaviest meals at the restaurant. It is also referred to as the main.


It usually consists of several dishes where guest are allowed to serve themselves. Buffet often consist of different meals arranged on a table. Guest are allowed to walk around and can take as much quantity as they want. This is a popular restaurant vocabulary that you must have heard before.


A host or hostess is the staff that welcomes the guest and shows them to their respective tables at the restaurant. This is another common restaurant vocabulary used to describe restaurant staff.


Your order is a list of food or drinks that you choose from the menu. 


A waiter or waitress is the staff that takes your order and also bring your food. The male is known as Waiter while the female as a Waitress. 

Point of Sale (POS)

A point of sale is the computer system at the restaurant that employees use to book order. It is also used to make a daily account of food sold. It can also be used to track record of employee sales and the transaction for the day. 


They are also known as the food runner. A runner is a person responsible for taking food to the guest. In a small restaurant, a runner may also do the job of a hostess and a waitress.


Cutler is the set of spoon, knife or fork.

Lastly, these are words you should know if you are seeking a career in the food industry. In other words, If you own or work in a restaurant, this will project you as a professional. Perhaps if you are a frequent visitor to restaurants, you should get familiar with these terms too. 

Have you learnt a new word? Share with us in the comment below. Perhaps, did we miss any word, kindly comment below.

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