A Guide to Restaurant Service Content from the guide to life, the universe and everything

A Guide to Restaurant Service

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In the world of restaurant service, waiters and waitresses sling the lingo of their business nearly as often as the cooks sling grease. We've all heard snippets of conversation between servers and wondered, 'What's that all about?'

The answer is simple: time. Much like a secretary taking shorthand memos in a meeting, restaurant workers try to abbreviate every message between each other in order to ensure fast customer service. And aside from that, most of it's just really fun to say.

For the most part, restaurant lingo is nothing more than shortened versions of longer words, especially when dealing with food items. Baked potato, for example, becomes 'baker'. Guacamole becomes 'guac'. Then there are some slang terms with no apparent explanation other than traditional usage.

Learning the Language

Although many establishments have their own sayings, the compilation of a short-list of restaurant slang that is used across the board is attempted here. On your next trip out to eat, you may be able to surprise your server with a few key terms or, at least, find out why that steak is taking so long...

  • Server - the preferred term for waiter or waitress, for example, 'Could you find my server, please?'

  • 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.

  • Deuce - a table with only two seating spaces. For example, 'Seat this two top at the deuce.'

  • Station - the set number of tables waited on by a particular server.

  • Drop Cheque - taking a guest's bill to their table for payment.

  • 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.

  • Bev Nap - the little square paper napkin upon which rests a beverage.

  • Table Turn - number of times a table has changed hands between customers. For example, a customer sits down, eats and leaves. That is one turn. The next customer sits down, eats and leaves. That is the second turn. See a pattern emerging?

  • Stiffed - a customer has left the restaurant without tipping the server. Resultant level of danger to the customer is dependant upon the mood of the server.

  • Walked - a customer has left without paying the bill.

  • Fire - order given by the server to the kitchen to begin preparation of certain orders, such as 'Fire those fajitas!'

  • Window - shelf, usually heated and connected to the kitchen, upon which the food is placed after preparation and before delivery to the table.

  • Dying/Dead - food that is nearly or totally unservable, either due to temperature, appearance or wrong ingredients. Usually happens while waiting for other food to be prepared. For example, 'My pasta is dying in the window, here!'

  • Double/Triple Sat - when more than one table is sat in a particular station at a particular time.

  • VIP - a very important customer, perhaps well known and deserving of extra special treatment.

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