And don’t forget to add your own terms to the comment section below!
* Back of the house – The back end of the restaurant, the kitchen and storage areas, where the chefs, cooks, prep people and dishwashers primarily work.
* Bev Nap – The little square paper napkin which a beverages rests on.
* Brigade System – The kitchen organization system instituted by Auguste Escoffier. Each position has a station and a set of well defined responsibilities.
* Bubble Dancer – A disrespectful name for one of the most valuable and unrecognized of kitchen staff – the dishwasher.
* Buried – See “In the weeds”. Way behind. Overwhelmed.
* Cambro – A large plastic pan used for storage of perishables and non-perishables. The term Cambro derives from the company that makes these containers. Also referred to as a Lexan (from a competing company).
* Campers – Customers that hang out at a table all night long and even turning off all the lights doesn’t get rid of them at closing time.
* Can’t cook his/her way out of a paper bag – Someone who can’t cook well, usually applied to describe someone thats a terrible cook/chef but thinks that he or she is the greatest. The origin of this phrase is used for many different things. A good expanation of some is found at: http://forum.wordreference.com/showthread.php?t=28317
* Chef de Partie – Station chefs. In the brigade system, these are the line cook positions, such as saucier, grillardin, etc.
* Commis – An apprentice. A cook who works under the Chef de Partie to learn the station and responsibilities.
* Comp – To give something away free. Usually done by owners or managers to get brownie points from important customers. Also used to smooth over problems. i.e. “Table 12’s chicken was raw!” “Comp the whole table desserts and coffee!”
* Cover – A customer, i.e.”It was a slow night, We only did 20 covers tonight.”
* Credits – An amount that is due back to a restaurant from the vendor for a mispicked, damaged or out of date product. See mispicked.
* Cremate it or Kill it – To almost burn something or be very overcooked. i.e ” Table 5 wants his burger cremated” extra extra well done.
* Cryovaced – Generally used with meat products, but many dried goods are packed this way to retain freshness. Cryovacing is a process used to remove any excess oxygen from a bag, and
than then the bag is heat sealed to make it airtight. When receiving meat products that have been cryovaced, keep a look out for products that are discolored and brownlooking, this means the airtight seal has been broken and you should send the product back.
* Deuce – A table with only two seating spaces. For example, “Seat this deuce at Table 12″ See Top.
* Double – Two shifts in a row. “I’m exhausted, I just pulled a double.”
* Double/Triple Sat – When more than one table is seated in a particular station at the same time.
* Dupe – The ticket/information that gets submitted to the kitchen so the cooks can cook orders of food.
* Drop the Cheque – Taking a guest’s bill to their table for payment.
* Drop – Start cooking the accompanied item. “The mussels are almost done, better drop the calamari.”
* Drop Food/Order – The moment at which the kitchen begins to prepare a guest’s food or the moment a server delivers an order to the customers. “I just dropped the drinks on table 4.”
* Dying/Dead – Food that is nearly or totally unservable, either due to temperature, appearance, the waitstaff talking to look to pick up from the hot line or wrong ingredients. For example, ‘My shrimps dying in the window because I don’t have veg (accompanying vegetables) to go with it!” Also called beyond in the weeds.
* Early Bird – Generally elderly people or tourists who want everything included for very little money. The $12.95 all you can eat buffet.
* Early Bird Special – A cheap meal that is generally available for a limited amount of time when the restaurant opens for service.
* Eighty-six, 86 – “We’re out of Sam’s! (Sam Adams) 86 it!” or the kitchen is out of the item ordered. To remove an item from an order or from the menu because the kitchen or bar is out.
* Expeditor, Expo – Person in charge of organizing food from the kitchen and sending it to the dining room; a mediator of the line.
* Fire, Fire it – Order given by the head of the line to the other cooks to begin preparation of certain orders, such as “Fire those shepherds pies!”
* Foodie – (Depending on context) The bane of cooks and chefs everywhere, a Wanna-Be professional cook/chef. There is nothing more irritating then going to a dinner party or meeting at a restaurant with a group of people and there is always at least one “Foodie” attending who proceeds to tell you all about how he/she made the most fabulous chicken dish. etc etc. until you just want to strangle them ZZZ……………
* Food cost – What a menu item costs to prepare. The cost of a chicken entrée with meat, sauce, vegetables and starch is your food cost. Most restaurants run between a 30-40% food cost, this does not include the cost of overhead that needs to get added in before you start making a profit.
* Front of the house – The front end of the restaurant, the dining room and bar where the customers are served and wait staff, bartenders, bussers and dining room managers primarily work.
* Garde-Manger – Pantry chef/station. The postion responsible for cold food preparation, including salads, cold appetizers and plating desserts.
* Hockey Puck – A well done hamburger.
* In the Weeds – Can have meanings for both the front and back of the house. The kitchen being in the weeds can mean having only one 2 ft by 3 ft grill and having 40 people order medium well steaks in the space of five minutes. In the front of the house, it could mean one server just had two parties of 15 seated at the same time and they all want separate checks.
* Jeopardy/Wheel of Fortune Crowd – Early bird diners. Need to be home early or looking for cheap meals that include everything.
* Kill it – To make something very overcooked; see Cremate it.
* Mispick – An item that is ordered from a vendor that has a label on it that does not match the product it contains.
* No Call/No Show – Employee who does not show up and does not call or a Reservation that does not show up and does not call.
* Nuke it – to Microwave.
* On a Rail or On the Fly – Something needed quickly, like yesterday. “I need table 2’s salads on a rail!” Or, “Give me a well done tender…on the fly.”
* Overhead – The added in factors when you are costing out menu products to make sure you are making a profit. Overhead may include electricity costs, paper and chemical products, employee salaries and any additional costs that may be relevant in serving an item.
* Paddy Well – A term used very frequently in Irish Pubs and Restaurants, which means to cook it until there is no possibility of life remaining. The next level above Cremate it.
* Party – A group of people at a table.
* Pittsburgh Rare – Burnt outside, rare inside.
* Pump it out – Getting food out quickly.
* Push- “Sell” it. Put it in the window or “We only have two orders of sole left, push it.”
* Redneck – The non-tipping public, not related to a rural type person, meaning a cheapskate. See stiffs.
* Rollup – Silverware rolled into a napkin, usually linen but can be paper.
* Sacked – Fired, usually employees are considered sacked after a major screw up, like serving a banquet of 200 people the $100.00 bottles of Dom Perignon champagne instead of the $12.95 bottles that they were supposed to get.
* Saucier – Sauté Chef/station. The chef de partie responsible for all the sautéed items and their sauces.
* Server – The preferred term for waiter or waitress, for example, “Could you find my server, please, I need a refill on my Pepsi.”
* Shelf life – The amount of time in storage that a product can maintain quality, freshness and edibility.
* Sidework – Work performed by front of the house staff (e.g., refilling salt and pepper shakers, polishing silverware).
* Shoe – A slacker cook/chef. Someone who doesn’t cook well. The only origin for this word that I know of was told to me by a European Chef I worked for. The term Shoe came from the fact that in Europe most Chefs in the Northern regions wore wooden clogs in the kitchen. A bad or clumsy chef/cook used to stumble alot and was made fun of by the other cooks and chefs.
* Shoe Chef – (The Sous Chef) See Shoe, sometimes accompanied by the phrase “The Shoe Chef at (my restaurant) can’t cook his/her way out of a paper bag.”
* Shorting – An unscrupulous method used by some vendors to charge a restaurant for more product than they actually receive.
* Sizzle Platter – Heavy grade metal oval plate that is used to reheat or cook something in a high temperature oven.
* Skate – Leaving without doing sidework.
* Slammed – Busy. See “In The Weeds”. Perhaps not as out of control as “in the weeds”.
* Sommelier – Wine Steward or wine waiter.
* Sous Chef – Generally the second in command in a kitchen; there can be an Executive Sous Chef, generally found in a larger kitchen with a lot of staff. The Sous Chef runs the kitchen when it’s the Chef’s day off or he/she is not available.
* Starch – Starch can be potatoes, rice, grain or pasta, the other accompaniment besides the “Veg” to an plated meal.
* Station – The set number of tables waited on by a particular server.
* Stiffed – A customer has left the restaurant without tipping the server.
* Stiffs – Non-tipping customers, see redneck.
* Still Moving or Still Mooing – Ultra rare, “they want the tender (tenderloin) still Mooing.”
* Stretch It – To make four orders of hollandaise sauce last through an entire shift by “stretching it” with whatever is available and edible.
* Table Turn – Number of times a table has had the full revolution of service from being seated to getting the check and then reset for the next group of customers.
* Tare – The weight of a container that the product from a vendor is delivered in. This weight should legally be deducted from the actual weight of the product. See shorting.
* Tender – A tenderloin.
* The Man, the Boogie Man – Health Inspector. “Wash your hands, The Man is here!” “Better mop the walk-in, the Boogie Man’s coming in 10 minutes.”
* Top – The number in a dining party. For example, an eight top is a dining party of eight. A three top is a party of three.
* Toss – An unscrupulous method used by some vendors to make a box look like its full of product.
* Totes – Plastic containers that are usually used to deliver fish. They are frequently rectangular but sometimes square or round. Totes are horded by kitchen staff because once washed and sanitized, they make excellent airtight storage containers for just about anything.
* Tourne – Vegetables that are cut to resemble a small, slightly tapered cork, but instead of being smooth they are cut to have seven equally large facets. Generally root vegetables, potatoes, carrots, but sometimes zucchini or other soft vegetables are used. Traditionally, they are boiled, steamed or roasted.
* Turn & Burn – Turn a table quickly (usually because there is a long waiting list for tables). see Table Turn
* Tron – Old 80’s slang for a waiter or waitress.
* Two second rule – The amount of time between when a piece of food hits the floor and when it’s picked up and placed in a sauté pan or on a plate, generally accompanied by a guilty look to see if anyone else saw it.
* Upsell – To suggest a higher priced item. “I’d like a glass of merlot, please.” suggesting Iron Horse at $6.00 a glass as opposed to the house vino at $4.00 a glass.
* Veg – The vegetable accompaniment to a plated meal.
* VIP – A very important customer, perhaps well known and deserving of extra special treatment. Food critics fall into this category. Generally accompanied by many Comps.
* Waitron – Coined in late ’80’s to avoid using “sexist” terms “Waiter/Waitress”. Was replaced in the ’90’s by Server.
* Walk-in – A refrigerated room for cold storage of perishable items.
* Walked – A customer has left without paying the bill or a employee get fed up and just left in the middle of their shift.
* Window – A shelf, usually heated and connected to the kitchen, upon which the food is placed after preparation and awaiting delivery to the table.
* Well drinks – “Well” drinks are made from the inexpensive house liquors on hand. i.e. If you ask for a unspecified gin and tonic you will get whatever gin they serve as opposed to a Tanqueray and tonic.
Add your restaurant slang terms in the comments below!
Thanks to Heather Turner, Chief Log-roller at Forfeng Designs, a company who specializes in the hospitality industry, also blogs about the foodservice and lodging industries, for contributing these terms!