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Restaurant Lingo
 

A B C D E F G H I J K L M N O P Q R S T U V W X Y Z

A
All Day - The total amount. E.g., if table 1 orders 2 burgers and table 3 orders 4 burgers, that's 6 burgers, all day.
Alley  - An area containing everything servers need to service their customers --order-entry terminal, soda fountain, glasses, etc.
Alley Rally - A pre-shift meeting, usually with FOH staff. Also "Pre-Shift", "Curtain Call", "Huddle-up Club".

B
Back of the House (BOH) - All parts of the restaurant behind the kitchen doors. Usually synonymous with the kitchen.
Bev Nap - Beverage Napkin
Buried - See "In the weeds".

C
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 - A party that stays at a table for a long time.
Check back, check down - Bringing the check with the first instance of checking if the meal is satisfactory--usually at lunch so doesn't have to wait for the bill.
Cook's Best Friend - Manager's term for a spatula (good for food cost).
Coupon - Refers to a person; any cheap or "early bird special" type
Cover - A customer in a seat at a top. "We did 500 covers tonight."
Cremate - Burn something.
Cut - A slice of meat. Or, to reduce staffing level. (See "phase")

D
Daypart - A segment of the day associated with a meal period. E.g., "Breakfast" is a daypart.
Dead - Food that's been sitting around too long to be served.
An empty or near-empty restaurant
Deuce - A table or party of two.
Dine & Dash - Eat and leave without paying the bill.
Double - Two shifts in a row.  
Double Back - Closing the night before, then opening the next day.
Double-Seat - Seating two parties concurrently to a single server. An order of magnitude less stressful than being "triple-sat".
Douse it - Smother in sauce.
Down - An instance of being sat. "I have a new down on table 3." Or, "I just got 5 new downs."
Dragging - Items not ready with the rest of the order. "I'm dragging the fries with that burger!"
Drop - Start cooking the accompanied item. ("This burger's cremated, better drop those fries")
Dry storage  - The area in where non-perishable items are stored, canned foods, fryer oil, take-out containers, etc.
Dying - Food that's been sitting around but not yet dead. Also, beyond "in the weeds". You are now slowing down the entire restaurant.

E
"86" - 1. To refuse to serve (an unwelcome customer) at a bar or restaurant.
2. a) To throw out; eject; b) to throw away; discard. 3. To be out of an item.
History of "86" in November's "Ask Dave" column.
"86" Spinoffs: - "68" - The "86'ed" item is now available. E.g., "First the chef 86'ed chicken soup, then he 68'ed it. "851/2 Speech" - A serious conversation with an employee warning them of behavior problems. If the problem doesn’t get fixed, then that employee will be terminated or “86’ed”.
Expeditor ("Expo") - Person in charge of organizing food from kitchen and sending to the dining room. "Who's on expo tonight?"

F
Fire - Same as "cook" but as in "cook it now!"
Four-Top - A table of four. Also "6-top", "8-top", etc.
Front of House (FOH) - The part of the restaurant from the kitchen doors to the lobby. Any area the customer might normally see.

G
Get a Camera - Cook say this when they believe their food looks great.
Guest - Management-speak for a "customer".

H
Hell - See: "Check from...", "Order From". Also, any number of variations (day from, guest from, manager from, server from, chef from...).
Hockey Puck - A well done hamburger.I
In The Box - A product is currently cooking -- usually in an oven. "Is that pizza in the box?"
In The Weeds - In way over your head, and to even mention that you need help would take more time and energy than you can afford because three more tables were just sat in your section, and the cooks are screaming at you to grab the two orders that just came up and you still need to stop at the bar to pick up table 5's drink order because the bartender is giving you the evil eye.

J, K, L
Jumpin - Adjective describing a very busy restaurant: e.g., "This joint is jumpin!" 
KM - Kitchen Manager
Lexan  - A large plastic pan used for storage of perishables and non-perishables. The term Lexan derives from the company that makes these containers. Also referred to as a Cambro (from a competing company).
Line - Where food is prepared/plated for service.

M
The Man - Health Inspector. "Wash your hands, The Man is here!"

N
No Call/No Show - Employee who does not show up and does not call.
Reservation that does not show up and does not call.
Nuke - Microwave (verb)

O
On a Rail or On the Fly - Something needed quickly. "I need table 29's food on a rail!" Or, "Give me a well done Ribeye...on the fly!" Also, "On the hoo-hah."
Off The Wait - The moment when the last party on the waiting list for tables is sat. Usually announced by a FOH manager to the kitchen by shouting "We're off the wait!" Then, the expeditor walks off the line and all hell breaks loose because, in order to get "off the wait", 23 parties were sat!
One Trippers - Guests at a table who ask their server for one item at a time forcing him to repeatedly go back and forth across a restaurant. More

P
Pans - There are many different holding-pan sizes. There is the FULL PAN (also called a hotel pan, which is the size of a full chafing dish), the HALF PAN is obviously exactly half the length, the THIRD PAN is 1/3 of a full, A NINE (or NINTH) PAN is the smallest in common use. The SIX (or sixth) PAN is 1/6 of a full pan. The whole meaning here is that pans are denoted by their size compared to a FULL PAN. If you haven't worked in a restaurant, this info will fly over your head. Also, there are pans made to fit any given request by a restaurant... FOURTH PANS and even the rare TWO-THIRDS PAN.
Party - A group of people at a table.
Pearl Diver - Offensive name for a dishwasher.
Phase - Cut staff. Also, "phased". "It was dead, so the manager phased 3 servers."
The Pit - Usually the dish area. Also, any area that no one wants to work. "What section are you in?" "They put me in the pit!"
Pittsburgh Rare - Burnt outside, rare inside.
Pump it out - Getting food out quickly.
Push - "Sell" it. Put it in the window.

Q
Quote
- The length of time being told that the next available table will be available. "What's the quote?" "15 min".

R
Rednecks - The non-tipping public (see "stiffs")
Rollup - Silverware rolled into a napkin, usually linen but can be paper.
Runner - A designated person who does not pick up a section but just takes food to the tables. Also, anyone taking food to a table. Kitchen manager's favorite thing to yell.

S
Salamander - Top Broiler
Sandbag - (Mainly to bartenders and cooks.) Stocking your prep (food or booze) in preparation for a busy night.
Sat/Seat - An instance of bringing a party to a top. "I'm sorry I can't take your order right now, the manager just triple-sat me!"
Satellite - An area located away from the alley that contains server-involved items, usually a soda fountain with ice and glasses. Often has an order-entry terminal.
Sell - To put a completed food order ticket in the window with all of the food, ready to be delivered to the table. 
Separate Check Hell - A version of "Special Order From Hell". 
Sidework - Work performed by hourly restaurant workers other than serving guests (e.g., polishing silverware).
Skate - Leaving without doing sidework.
Slammed - Busy. See "In The Weeds". Perhaps not as out of control as "in the weeds".
Snake - Pick up a table not in one's section, without permission from management or server to whom the table belongs.
Sommelier - The wine expert.
Special Order From Hell - Parties of 4 or more who special order you to death. 
Station or Section - A group of tables assigned to a server/busser, usually numbered. (As in, "I'd help you but you're not in my section.")
Stiffs - The non-tipping public (see "redneck")
Still Moving (or Still Alive) - Ultra rare
Stretch It - To make four orders of vinaigrette last through an entire shift by "stretching" with whatever is available and edible.

T
Top - Table
Triple-Seat - Seating three parties concurrently to a single server. "Whip me, beat me, triple-seat me."
Turn - One cycle of seating, serving and clearing a party at a table. "I've only had 2 turns on that table."
Turn & Burn - Turn a table quickly (usually because there is a long waiting list for tables).

U
Under like a rock - Way in the weeds.
Upsell - Suggest a higher priced item. "I'd like a Gin & Tonic, please." "Tanqueray?"

W
Waiter/Waitress
- What we used to call "servers"
Waitron - Coined in late '80's to avoid using "sexist" terms "Waiter/Waitress". Nearly every server working back then claims inventing the term. Lost favor in '90's to "Server".
Walk-in - A refrigerated room for cold storage of perishable items.  
Walkout - Someone who leaves without paying the bill. (See "stiff" or "redneck")
Weeded - See "in the weeds". 
Weed Whacker - Coined by a busser who considers himself to always be there if you're "in the weeds"!
White Out - When the cooking line order slip holder is completely filled with production orders, or when the cooking line order slip 'Carousel' is full of orders in production.
Window - The area in the kitchen where food is placed when it is ready to be delivered to the customer.
Work - Start the named dish.
Work Push - Start a dish ASAP and Sell it.

©2003 by Todd Lejnieks.  Dinersoft. All rights reserved.

 

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