Restaurant terminology | How To Be A Good Server Blog | <</div> Restaurant terminology | How To Be A Good Server Blog Restaurant terminology | How To Be A Good Server Blog

Restaurant terminology

Restaurant terminology

Today I want to cover the topic of restaurant terminology. If you’re new to serving you might find that you’re hearing some words around the restaurant that make you scratch your head. So let’s clear the air a little and go over some of these terms so you don’t feel out of the loop.

Here is a list of some commonly used terms that you’ll be hearing.

M.O.D. – Stands for Manager On Duty

Full hands in, full hands out – This is great for time management, it simply means when you’re entering or leaving the dining area, kitchen, service bar you should always have your hands full. This is working smarter not harder and makes your job a lot easier.

(an example is if you’re coming back to the kitchen with dirty plates you should take some food out to tables when you’re leaving, of if you bring glassware to the service bar area then run any drinks waiting to be taken)

Soft sell – This is also known as up-selling. Basically if someone orders a scotch on the rocks you can ask them if they want a double or if someone orders a meal then you can ask if they want an appetizer first or a side dish with their main. This helps increase your average check and in return will increase your tip.

Cutting the board – A term used when dividing the dining area into sections for servers.

Chit/Ticket – The piece of paper that prints to the bar or kitchen when you send an order through the P.O.S.

P.O.S. – Stands for Point of Sale and is the computer system used for ordering food or drinks and more.

Board/line/pass – I’m also sure there are other names for this but it refers to the area where a server would pick up food from the kitchen.

On the fly/to sell – You forgot to order someones garlic bread or cocktail or simply a guest wants to add something to their meal they have just received. These terms let the kitchen or bar know that you need to get what you have just asked for out to the guest A.S.A.P.

Behind – If you’re walking behind another server who is clearing a table or has their hands full (or you do) then calling out “behind” lets them know you’re there. I’ve seen many disasters which could have simply been avoided if they just called out “Behind”.

Sharp – Usually used in the kitchen this allows others around know that you have a knife or something sharp while you’re moving around.

On line – A kitchen term that let’s other cooks know that a cook is back or currently in their section.

Off line – Let’s other cooks know that you are not at your station (perhaps you need something from the fridge or store-room).

Hot around/Hot behind – Informs others that you’re carrying  something hot when coming around a corner or are behind them.

Day dots – A self-adhesive sticker used to track the dates which food or beverage items have been prepared

FIFO – Stands for “First In, First Out” – Refers to a method used both in the kitchen and bar area. Obviously you would use something that was prepared on Monday morning first, and not the same thing that was prepared Monday evening right?. Same goes when taking out food and drinks to a table. If there are 4 different tables orders ready at once you’re going to run the one that was ordered first, just refer to the times printed on the chits.

86’d – A very popular and often used term in the restaurant industry. Simply put “86’d” means that the restaurant has run out of something or it is unavailable.

(this restaurant terminology term and it’s origin is something I have looked far and wide for, if you’re interested in looking at a few different theories then an article I read recently had some pretty interesting ones. You can find that article here)

Flow/glide path – You’re constantly on the move as a server so you need to choose a smooth flowing “flow/glide path” to help you work more efficiently with less effort. Have a mental blueprint of the best way you can walk through your section, bar, dish pit and kitchen. This will help you with your time management (remember above when I said to work smarter and not harder?).

All day – This is a consolidation or total number of a single menu item currently ordered. For example: “There are 4 caesar salads all day”.

E.T.A. – This stands for Estimated Time of Arrival.

Hands – This normally gets called out by the kitchen or bartender. It’s basically a call for servers (or anyone) to run food or drinks out to a table because they are ready.

Open count – An open count is the number of potential orders that could be coming to the bar or kitchen. This can be determined by the number of menu’s that are still on tables.

Virgins – Not what you think but along the same lines. This is a term used for people who have never been to your restaurant before.

The wood – Another term used for the bar.

Pick up/fire – If a table had appetizers then this is the term you use when wanting the kitchen to start on their main course or from main course to desert etc.

So hopefully this will help you understand if someone tells you “Hey buddy, we are 86’d bacon” (Noooooo!) or “Can I get hands please” or any of the other terms you may hear while working.

If you have found that I have missed a restaurant terminology word above and you want it to be explained, or you heard something that you have never heard before then please leave a comment below.

Thanks and have a fun-filled week.


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18 Comments to “Restaurant terminology”

  1. Springs1 says:

    “Full hands in, full hands out – This is great for time management, it simply means when your entering or leaving the dining area, kitchen, service bar you should always have your hands full. This is working smarter not harder and makes your job a lot easier.(an example is if your coming back to the kitchen with dirty plates you should take some food out to tables when your leaving, of if you bring glassware to the service bar area then run any drinks waiting to be taken)”

    This isn’t good service to do that though when you have ORDERS PENDING, because that PURPOSELY DELAYS the customer’s orders.

    • Nathan says:

      Hey Springs1,

      Great point and you are 100% correct. I should have been more specific and mention that things like orders pending or other urgent matters should definitely take priority over clearing or running.

      Really appreciate your comment.

      • Springs1 says:

        Thanks for seeing my point of view. I just hate when I see my server after I gave an order or request, they go to buss table. As if I would want to wait longer on purpose, you know? I just feel the server should act like it’s them waiting, as if they would really want to wait longer for what they asked for if they were the customer. I bet they wouldn’t is my point.

        I feel if let’s say you just asked for your check, that your server should go get it and then go to buss the table. In other words, don’t delay what you asked for. They can always take the dirty dishes while we are reading our check over and getting the method of payment out. One time recently this happened. It’s like WHY. I almost felt like getting up to ask our server “Can you please go get our check, we’d like to leave please.” As if we wanted to be held hostage. It also is in the best interest of the server for us to leave faster so they can make more money. It’s a win, win with that, but for some weird reason, some servers don’t see that. I don’t get it, I really don’t?

        • Nathan says:

          Oh I have been in those shoes before. It’s just like when you ask for a condiment like ketchup for fries and by the time it gets to you your fries have gone stone cold.

          It’s funny that you mentioned getting up and going over to ask for a check because a few weeks ago my girlfriend and I were out at an Irish pub having a beer and a burger. We asked our server for the check and we watched her walk up the bar (past the P.O.S. mind you), lean on it and start chatting with the bartender.

          A few minutes passed so I walked up to her with my debit card in hand and said “I’ll save you the trip” with a big smile on my face :). Sadly she seemed completely oblivious to what just happened.

          Now it’s understandable if you have a full section, you’re in the weeds and running around like a maniac that it might take you a little longer to get something for a table who requested something, but her section consisted of another couple sitting in a booth and then us. Ghost town.

          I don’t get upset by these situations (I’m a very patient and tolerant person) but I think it’s a shame that the industry suffers from such silly, easily avoidable things.

  2. Stefanie says:

    Here are some others I have had to teach my trainees:

    Front of House – Servers/Bartender/Bussers/Hostesses – basically anyone who works in view of the public.

    Back of House – Cooks/Chefs/Expediter (aka Expo) – basically anyone who works in the kitchen

    “On your back” – another way of saying behind you

    Calling “Corner” – when you walk in or out of the kitchen or around a corner

    At the well – this can be a few different things: either where a bartender keeps the liquor bottles frequently used or the service area for servers picking up bar drinks, ex. “Can you run my drinks from the well to table 42 please, I’m weeded.” Another way well is used is as in the ice well (bin) – where the ice is that we use to fill glasses for guest’s drinks.

    Pit – this is referred to as the dish pit, where we put our guests dirty dishes.

    Window – where the kitchen pushes the finished dishes for an expediter to plate up for servers to run the food (or servers pull their own food from the window)

    Dead or Dying – food in the window that has been there too long

    Duece – party of 2 at a table. Can also use 3 top, 4 top, 10 top (the number indicating the amount of people in the party.

    Some restaurants have servers who are called seagulls. While I have not and would never, these are the servers who have no qualms eating off a guests plate once they bring it back in the kitchen for dumping in the pit. (A little gross for me, but it is reality.)

    Push – might be that something is about to go out of date in the kitchen or at the bar, so a manager might ask us to “push” (try to sell it out) a product.

    Side work AND RUNNING side work – side work is what a server does at the end of their shift – clean their section, do certain cleaning duties, rolling silverware and running side work is what a server keeps us during the shift, such as keeping app plates stacked, some places keeping the ice stocked in the well.

    Skate – this is a server that does not do their side work or check out with anyone before leaving (“He/She skated tonight.”)

    Hokey – the non-electric vacuum cleaner used when cleaning carpeted section floors.

    Dragging – when a party’s dishes are ready however, you are “dragging” green beans (or whatever) for one of the dishes.

    “Heard (insert item heard)” – a response between servers and kitchen, servers and managers, servers and servers when asked to do something. It is verbal acknowledgement that what was asked of you (or them) was heard. Ex. “Grab me that quarter pan.” “Heard that, quarter pan.”

    Grat – gratuity added to large parties. “Can you grat this check please?”

    “In the water” – if there is a fry station, it is the frying grease. You may hear expo, or yourself as a server can ask the fry cook if something is “in the water.” Ex. (“I need those fries in the water asap!”)

    These are a few I can think of…I’m sure there are tons more. I know there are more derogatory ones about guests, other servers or kitchen staff, but I am choosing not to list them.

    Good luck to all the newbies and if anyone asks you to get a can of A. I. R. please put the letters together and read it as a single word…. 🙂

  3. You are = You’re

    In the weeds






    • Nathan says:

      What is B.E.O. Steven? Not sure I know that one. Thanks for adding to the list.

    • stine says:

      i think the “you are = you’re” is probably the most important term here :]
      not sure how people who don’t know that difference are able to write articles.

      • br8eyes says:

        I’m guessing that you must be perfect, except the fact that you apparently don’t know how to form full sentences or use proper punctuation. The article is meant to help people who are new to the industry. No need to nitpick. We are all human.

        • stine says:

          considering I’m not the one writing the article, i don’t think my grammar is important. I’m not the one who pointed it out in the first place either. nitpicking about being nitpicky? lol that’s a first.

          • br8eyes says:

            Well, if your grammar isn’t important, I sincerely hope you don’t work with the public. At least Steve had some terminology to add to the list. You, on the other hand ONLY focused on a typographical error. If you have nothing of value to add to the list, or grammar is oh-so important to you, or you have no interest in the industry, then move along little doggy. Negativity is not needed here. Nathan has very useful articles and while, human as he is, he has helpful information for us. Instead, perhaps you could go buy newspapers and write to the editors about all their typographical errors (meaning “A mistake in printing, typesetting, or typing, especially one caused by striking an incorrect key on a keyboard,” defined just in case your vocabulary is as limited as your grammar) or any other more important errors that are made. Probably a better use of your time than behaving negatively on this site. Best of luck to ya!

  4. Nathan says:

    Come on guys, no need to be like this. I’m no writer that’s for sure, and I want to thank you for pointing out my grammar, this way I can better myself with my writing.Thanks @stine and @br8eyes.

  5. Lyndsie says:

    Hi Nathan!

    Thank you so much for your blog. I’m well on my way to becoming a better server thanks to you. So, my question is…. How can I effectively communicate with the kitchen staff without pissing them off? I am on the shy side, yet friendly, complimentary and a team player. That said, I have found that at my previous restaurant (busy seafood place) it was hard to communicate well with the cooks when I (or they) screwed up or I needed something on the fly. I always felt like I was bothering them, regardless of how apologetic, grateful and direct I was. Most times I had to ask if they heard me (b/c there was no response) and what the wait time would be so I could let my guest know. Any suggestions on how to have a successful working relationship with your kitchen staff?


    • Nathan says:

      Hey Lyndsie,

      In a lot of restaurants (at least the bigger ones) there can be a segregation between relationships of the front and back of house, purely because they spend more time working among one another.

      Whenever I start at a new restaurant I make sure I go into the kitchen and introduce myself to everyone (you should know everyone you work with).

      I will do what I can to build relationships with the hard working kitchen people by offering to grab them drinks, start conversations and treating them like any person I would meet outside of work.

      Whenever I need something I go out into the kitchen and if there isn’t an expeditor I would ask “kitchen, may I?” If people don’t respond I’ll ask again “kitchen, may I?”. If they aren’t responding then there is an issue.

      We are here to work together with the common goal to make money and make our guests happy. Like a car engine (cliché line) but if one part isn’t working then the entire engine is useless.

      You’re doing everything you should be doing, it’s just sometimes others aren’t so good at the communication thing.

      I hope things work out for you Lyndsie, all the best.

  6. DB says:

    In addition to “Hands” there is also “Runner” as in “I need a runner!” (usually yelled by Chef.)

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