When you go to a restaurant, you usually know what is going to happen and that is because eating at a restaurant usually follows a set script. The waiters aren’t given one to memorize, of course. But even so, waiters and waitresses usually stick to a very narrow range of English phrases. Here is what you can usually expect to hear when going to a restaurant.
From the host or hostess
When you first enter, the host or hostess will want to know how many people are eating with you. They might ask:
Or, in an upper class restaurant they may say:
How many are in your party?
If they can see how many people walked in together, they might simply ask:
Some popular places expect you to have a reservation before you come. In that case, the hostess might ask:
Do you have a reservation?
If the place is really busy, you might have to wait. They’ll say:
It’s going to be about a 15-minute wait.
If you decide to wait, they’ll write your name on a list:
Can I get your name?
And then, when it’s your turn to sit:
Mr. Knight, your table is ready.
The host or hostess will take you to your table with one of these phrases:
Right this way.
Follow me, please.
If it’s a nice restaurant, they may ask:
Would you like me to take your jackets for you?
And then they say goodbye:
Jacob will be your server tonight.
Enjoy your meal.
From the waiter or waitress
The waiter will usually start off by introducing him- or herself:
Welcome to D’Angelo’s. My name is Rebecca.
Depending on the atmosphere of the restaurant, they may try to make some small talk:
How are you doing this evening?
If the restaurant has daily specials, the server will tell you about them:
Let me tell you about our specials today. We have a miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass with a side of mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach.
Then you’re expected to order drinks:
Can I get you something to drink?
If you’re not sure, the server will offer to come back again in a few minutes:
Do you need a little time to decide?
They’ll go around the table to each person, using phrases like these:
And for you sir?
And for you miss?
What can I get for you?
Then they’ll leave:
I’ll be right back with your drinks.
Restaurant English: The main food order
When the waiter or waitress returns, he or she will ask you to order your food:
Are you ready to order?
If the dish you order has a choice of side dishes, they’ll offer to let you choose:
That comes with either fries or a baked potato. Which would you prefer?
Would you like fries with that, or a baked potato?
If you ask for something, the server will say:
Or at a fancier restaurant:
But if you ask for something that’s not available, you’ll hear:
Oh, I’m sorry. We’re all out of the salmon.
When the waiter or waitress brings you your food, they’ll probably ask:
Can I get you anything else?
Would you like anything else?
After you’re finished eating everything, someone will come to collect your dishes:
Would you like me to take that?
Then the server will come out to ask about your meal and offer dessert:
How was everything?
Can I interest you in our dessert menu?
Restaurant English: The bill/check
When you finish with your meal, they’ll offer to bring you the check:
I’ll bring the check right out.
And sometimes there are questions about the check:
Would you like me to split it?
Do you need any change?
May I help you?
How many people?
Are you ready to order?
Here is your menu.
Would you like another menu?
Are you finished with this?
Please use the buzzer when you are ready to order.
Smoking (kitsuen) or non-smoking (kinen) sections…
I’m very sorry that’s sold out.
Here are 20 common vocabulary terms used in restaurants:
- Menu: A list of food and drinks offered by a restaurant.
- Dessert: A sweet dish served at the end of a meal.
- Buffet: A self-serve dining option where guests can select items from a set display of food.
- Host/Hostess: A restaurant worker who greets and seats guests.
- Chef: A professional cook who is in charge of a restaurant’s kitchen.
- Bartender: A worker who mixes and serves drinks at a bar.
- Appetizer: A small dish served before the main course.
- Entrée: The main dish of a meal.
- Side Dish: A dish served alongside the main course to complement it.
- Dishwasher: A worker responsible for cleaning dishes and kitchen equipment.
- Plating: The presentation of food on a plate, including the arrangement and garnishing of ingredients.
- Server: A restaurant worker who takes orders and serves food and drinks to customers.
- Sommelier: A wine expert who advises on wine selection and pairing.
- Al a carte: A type of menu where each dish is priced separately.
- Busser: A restaurant worker who clears and resets tables and assists servers.
- Line cook: A chef who specializes in preparing food on the line, such as sauces, entrées, and sides.
- Amuse-bouche: A small bite-sized appetizer offered as a preview of the meal to come.
- Table d’hôte: A type of menu where guests choose from a set number of courses for a fixed price.
- A la minute: A cooking method where dishes are prepared to order.
- Mise en place: Preparing and arranging ingredients and equipment needed for cooking.
Here are 15 common cooking-related idioms:
- “to cook up a storm” – to cook with great energy and enthusiasm
- “to bring home the bacon” – to make a living or earn money
- “to be the icing on the cake” – to be the best part of something
- “to have a taste for something” – to have a liking or desire for something
- “to be in the same boat” – to be in the same situation as someone else
- “to be the spice of life” – to add excitement and variety to life
- “to have a recipe for success” – to have a plan or formula for success
- “to stir the pot” – to cause trouble or create conflict
- “to be in a pickle” – to be in a difficult situation
- “to bake one’s cake and eat it too” – to have everything one wants
- “to be left with egg on one’s face” – to be embarrassed or made to look foolish
- “to cook someone’s goose” – to ruin someone’s plans
- “to make a meal of something” – to make something into a big deal or make more of it than necessary.
- “to have a finger in every pie” – to be involved in many different things
- “to cook up an excuse” – to make up a false reason for something.