Do Restaurants Have Specific Lingo Phrases?

Whether you want to open your restaurant or just start your career working in one, you’ll need more than just the ability to cook a filet mignon and plate a beautiful appetizer. It turns out you will also need to learn a new language of restaurant jargon. 

The hospitality industry has developed its own vernacular, which is distinct and effective. While each restaurant has its distinct lingua franca, many restaurant terms are commonly used throughout the industry.

Every industry has its own set of code words and shorthand messages, maximizing efficiency by spending more time on the job at hand rather than explaining what needs to be done in great detail. In a way, these phrases are used to be a restaurant management tip so that the communications amongst staff will be more efficient. The high-pressure demands of the hospitality industry are no exception, where a communication breakdown can result in customers receiving the wrong meal, not receiving enough of what they ordered, or not receiving anything at all. What they will give you in return is a negative review, which should be avoided at all costs. 

Here is a comprehensive list of restaurant jargon, lingo, and slang:

1. “5 Out”

When a chef exclaims, “5 out! “They’re attempting to inform the other cooks that the dish they’re working on will be ready for plating in 5 minutes.”

2. “86” 

If you have worked in the restaurant industry long enough, you’ve probably heard this term a few times. 86 is used when a restaurant is unable to prepare a specific dish, whether due to an external constraint or simply running out of the necessary ingredients.

3. “A la Carte”

A la carte is the inverse of a fixed restaurant menu, and it refers to when a customer orders a specific dish from the menu.

4. “A la Mode”

A dish with ice cream.

5. “Adam and Eve on a Raft”

Even if you’ve worked in the restaurant industry for years, this may be a term you’ve never heard of, as it is primarily used in the United States. When a customer orders two poached or scrambled eggs on a piece of toast, they are referred to as Adam and Eve on a raft.

6. “All Day”

The total number of items that need to be sent out from the kitchen is referred to as this term. The phrase is typically used at the end of a long sentence. 

7. “Back of House” 

Everything in the restaurant behind the dining room is referred to by this term. The kitchen, storage rooms, offices, and any prep rooms are usually included. The restaurant’s back end, typically includes the kitchen, prep, and storage areas.

8. “Bev Nap”

Bev naps are small square paper napkins used instead of coasters. Customers can use this to wipe their hands or tables, but these are typically meant to be placed beneath a beverage.

9. “Blue-Plate Special”

A blue plate special is a type of dish that is almost exclusively served in the United States and Canada; other countries serve a variation of this concept but do not call them blue plate specials. This dish is a low-cost menu item that changes daily and is commonly served at diners and cafes.

10. “Camper”

A camper is the least favorite type of customer in a busy restaurant. Someone who has already paid for and finished their meal but refuses to leave their table. When a restaurant is full and there is a waitlist, campers cause longer wait times.

11. “Chef de Partie”

A Chef de Partie, also known as a line cook, is a chef who is usually at the start of their career and can fill multiple chef roles. Once promoted, a Chef de Partie’s next position is usually as a Sous Chef.

12. “Dead Plate”

A dead plate cannot be served to customers. This can be due to a variety of factors, including poor presentation, incorrect temperature, taking too long to serve the dish, or using the wrong ingredients.

13. “Dine and Dash”

This is not a difficult term to understand, and people who do not work in the restaurant industry will understand it. Dine and dash refers to a customer finishing their meal and sneaking out before paying the bill.

14. “Dupe”

A dupe is an information passed from the front of house to the kitchen so that the chefs know what to prepare for the customers.

15. “Early Bird Dinner”

An early bird dinner is usually held before peak dinner times and is primarily aimed at elderly couples and tourists who want to eat as much as they can for as little as possible. A popular option for buffets.

16. “Front of House”

A restaurant’s front of house is everything that customers see. This includes the dining room as well as the bar.

17. “Family Meal”

A family meal, also known as a staff meal, is a daily meal served by the restaurant to its employees, usually outside of peak hours. These meals are sometimes prepared with leftover or unused ingredients, and a chef will frequently use family meals to test new recipes.

18. “Free Lunch”

A free lunch is a marketing strategy used by restaurants to attract customers and increase revenue. Restaurant owners hope that by offering a free lunch with the purchase of a drink, customers will order more than one drink or become loyal long-term customers.

19. “Gueridon Service”

This term usually refers to food preparation at the table. This necessitates the use of a gueridon or trolley to transport ingredients to a guest table where a dish is prepared in real time for the customer.

20. “Happy Hour” 

Happy hours are strategies used by restaurants to increase traffic during off-peak hours. Most happy hour promotions include free drinks, a free dish, discounts, or even a free meal.

21. “In the Weeds”

In the weeds is a term used to describe a situation in which the kitchen staff is pressed for time and is required to do a large task, such as dropping the check to 12 tables at once.

22. “Jumpin”

A colloquial term for a popular and busy restaurant.

23. “Kill it”

To overcook something, usually at the request of the customer.

24. “Line Cook”

Line cooks are responsible for preparing ingredients and assembling dishes in accordance with restaurant recipes. Line cooks are critical to the smooth operation of a busy restaurant kitchen.

25. “Mise en Place”

This is a French term that refers to getting everything in order and is most commonly used when kitchen staff is required to follow a specific procedure before they can begin cooking.

If you work in the restaurant industry, you should be familiar with and understand the jargon. Whether you are a new server or cook or an experienced manager, it is critical to learn the lingo in order to be an effective member of the restaurant team. Not to mention that learning restaurant slang can help you avoid embarrassing yourself in front of coworkers.