Restaurant Glossary

There is a particular vocabulary used by restaurants that can be confusing for those newly working in the industry or those new to dining out. Here are some explanations of some of the terms you will hear at both the front and back of house:

Soy-Glazed Chicken and Tofu with Spring Vegetables recipe


À la Carte: The ordering of individual dishes

Al Dente: Used particularly for vegetables and pasta, it is when the food is still firm when you bite into it

Al Fresco: Dining outside

All day: Simply means altogether. It is used to let the kitchen know the total number of a specific dish, based on the orders confirmed in the kitchen


Back of House: The area of a restaurant that guests are not allowed. The kitchen, dishwashing area and wait station are all located in the back of the house.

Behind/Corner: To keep safe when walking directly behind someone carrying something either hot or heavy or when walking around a blind corner, you say Behind or Corner.

Busboy/Busser: An assistant waiter who helps lay out tables, clears dirty dishes and supports the servers


Campers: Campers are people that stay at the table long after they have finished their meal.

Cover: Calculating the number of covers you have had in the restaurant is simply a guest count.


Dead Food: Uneaten food that a customer has returned to the kitchen because it was not what they ordered or because they were unhappy with the food in some way.

Double/Triple/Quadruple Seating: The number of tables a server has been allocated to deal with at one time. Double seating is manageable, but a triple or quadruple seating can be a challenge.


Expediter: A member of the kitchen staff who groups the plated food by table number ready for servers to deliver.


Front of House:: The area of a restaurant where guests are allowed. The dining room and bar are all in the front of the house.


Host/Hostess: The member of staff responsible fore meeting the guests and showing them to their table. The host is also responsible for tracking reservations and managing waiting lines.

Holding Time: Vital for food safety, this is the amount of time you can hold a dish after it is prepared, until the time it may be served.


On the Fly: When a particular order is urgent, because it was previously forgotten, or a plate was returned, a server will tell the kitchen they need it on the fly.


Push: This means put some effort into selling it.


Section: The set number of tables waited on by a particular server.

Sidework: Front of the house staff work that includes things like refilling salt and pepper shakers.

Signature Dish: An individual dish created by the chef and a special menu item that shows of the chefs best skills.

Sommelier: Wine Steward or wine waiter.

Sous Chef: Usually the second in command in a kitchen, they run the kitchen when the Chef is not available or on a day off.

Station: Where a server prepares non-alcoholic beverages, inputs orders and finalise guest payments.


Tasting Menu: Tasting Menu: 

Top: The number in people in a group of diners. For example, a nine top is a dining party of nine.


Upsell: Suggest a higher priced item.


Window/Expo Window: A shelf that is usually heated and connected to the kitchen where food is placed after preparation and awaiting delivery to the table.


86'd: This is said when an order is to be served without something or it can mean the restaurant has run out of something.