Skip to main content
CAKE | Restaurant Management System & POS

Restaurant Glossary of Terms

A brief guide to restaurant terminology.

If you’re new to the restaurant world or you’ve hired someone that is, you may find the words & phrases being tossed  around a bit confusing at first. CAKE’s compiled a list of some of the more common restaurant terms that fly around 
the front of the house and back of the house and put them in one handy place. You can print a PDF of this glossary by clicking on the PDF icon to the left of this page. 

86'd: Either the restaurant has run out of something or a particular order is supposed to be served without something.


À la Carte:  Individual entree that does not include sides.


Al Dente:  Literally means “to the teeth /to the bite”. The term is used when evaluating the correct degree of doneness 
of dishes, particularly vegetables and pasta. It is considered just right when biting into an item offers a slight resistance without being hard.


Al Fresco: Literally translated “in the fresh air.” This term in the restaurant industry refers to outdoor dining spaces. 


All day:  A modifier to let the kitchen know how many total of a particular item is needed based on the tickets in the
window. 


Appetizer: A small portion of food or beverage taken before a meal to stimulate the appetite.


Barista: Italian for bartender, a Barista is a person proficient in the art of preparing and pulling espresso-based and other beverages at a coffee shop or any other type of restaurant. 


Bartender: Also known as a barkeep, barman, barmaid, bar chef, tapster, mixologist, alcohol server, or an alcohol chef.


Behind/Corner: You shout this when you're either walking directly behind someone carrying something heavy/hot or coming around a blind corner. This is potentially the one restaurant customers are most likely to actually hear. 


Bev Nap: The little square paper napkin on which a beverage rests.


Blue-Plate Special:  Senior citizens meals, typically smaller and specially priced.


BOH/FOH: Back of House/Front of House. Back of House employees include cooks and dishwashers. Front of House includes servers, hosts, bussers, and either a food runner or an expo if one exists. 


Busboy/Busser: An assistant waiter who helps lay out tables, clear dirty dishes and support the service experience, usually with   less direct guest contact than the waiter.

BYOB: An acronym for "bring your own bottle", "bring your own beer", "bring your own beverage", or "bring your own booze."

Campers: Campers are people who finish eating and remain long after they’ve finished.


Cash Flow:  The movement of money into and out of a business that affects its liquidity. It is a measure of financial efficiency.

Casual Dining:  A restaurant which offers a casual ambience and food at moderate prices where formal dressing is unnecessary. Table service usually involves food being served either pre-plated or on platters with or without a buffet option.


Charcuterie: Cooking devoted to prepared meat products, such as bacon, ham, sausage, terrines, galantines, ballotines, pâtés, and confit, primarily from pork.


Chaser: A drink that immediately follows another drink. For instance a beer after a straight shot of hard liquor.


Chef: A Chef is a highly trained and skilled professional cook who is proficient in all aspects of food preparation of a particular.  cuisine. The word "chef" is derived (and shortened) from the term chef de cuisine. 


Chef's Table: Located in the kitchen of the restaurant it is reserved for VIP guests and family.


COGs: Cost of Goods sold. In the case of Food & Beverage for instance, it would include not just the materials used to produce that particular category of food & beverage, but also materials “consumed” through wastage, spoilage, theft or complementaries, thereby allowing one to keep a tab on actual versus budgeted COGs.


Combo Meal: As meal that comes with a combination of menu items.


Commissary: A kitchen facility where food is prepared for distribution to multiple locations. 


Comp: To give something away for free.  


Corkage: Restaurants that allow guests to bring their own alcohol may levy a charge called corkage for consuming liquor. 
(originally drawing the cork of each bottle of wine, now other liquor as well) bought “off the restaurant premises”.


Counter Service:  When you place your order at the counter. This is used in fast food restaurants or quick  service restaurants.

Cover: A customer. Covers are considered an actual guest count. This is used to determine the amount of business for a night.

Credits: An amount that is due back to a restaurant from the vendor for a mis-picked, damaged or out of date product.


Cross Contamination: The unintentional transfer of bacteria or other micro-organisms through hands, clothes or kitchen tools from a food or non-food source with harmful human effect.

Dead Food: Uneaten food that a customer sends back, either because it was prepared improperly or wasn't what they ordered. 
Dead food doesn't usually get thrown away; instead, when an item gets sent back to the kitchen, servers, bussers, and occasionally cooks and dishwashers descend upon it like a pack of angry vultures.


Dine & Dash: When a guest does not pay their check/bill.


Double: Two shifts in a row; e.g. “I’m exhausted, I just pulled a double.”


Double/Triple/Quadruple Seating: When the host seats a server with multiple tables at once. Double seating is generally simple enough to handle unless it's a difficult table, but anything more than that can rapidly become a nightmare.


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; e.g. “I just dropped the drinks on table 4.”


Drop the Check: Taking a guest’s bill to their table for payment.


Duece: A table with only two seating spaces. For example, “Seat this deuce at Table 12.” (also called a 2-top).


Dupe: The ticket/information that gets submitted to the kitchen so the cooks can cook orders of food.


Early Bird Dinner: Afix and special priced dinner menu offered at a specific time, typically used to draw business in earlier than the normal dinner crowd will arrive.


EOD/End of Day: This is the report generated to track the entire business day.


Exhibition Kitchen: This is an open kitchen where guests can view the food being prepared from the dining room.


Expeditor, Expo: Person in charge of organizing food from the kitchen and sending it to the dining room; a mediator of the line.


Family Meal/Style: Food that is served in a larger portion and shared.


FIFO: First-In, First-Out is a method of inventory management based on the premise that goods bought first (first-in) are the goods sold first (first-out). This is logical from the store’s perspective in the case of perishable goods as well as from the accounts perspective since during inflation, it yields the best value of closing inventory (the cost of goods bought first, thus cheapest, correspond best with cost of goods sold first).


Fire: You know when you order an appetizer and an entree at the same time, but they don't show up at the same time? 
The reason that happens is because while a server might send both orders to the kitchen at once, the entree order will be held back until the customer will  be ready for it. When that happens, cooks are told to "fire" the order.


Fixed Costs: Salaries, rent, CAM charges, loans, anything that is a monthly expense that does not change.


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.


Happy hour: A designated time when alcahol is served at a lower price to attract business.


Hockey Puck: A well done hamburger.

Holding Time: The amount of time you can hold a dish after it is prepared, until the time it may be served without compromising on 
the quality & safety of the food. It also applies to the holding of raw food. Whether you are holding raw food or cooked food, ideal 
hold temperature plays a crucial role in food safety of the dish.


In the Weeds: Being "in the weeds" means you're so far behind that you're having trouble seeing a way to not being completely
slammed all night. It can happen to both servers and cooks and both are equally likely to use the expression.


Kid’s Meal: A smaller portion meal tailored to children that usually has an age limit for ordering.


Kill it: In contrast to "dead food," the kitchen is told to "kill" something when the customer wants it horribly overcooked: extra well 
done steak is the most common, but it can be used for any item for which a customer wants the scourge of flame to be used to burn away all semblance of flavor.


Line Cook: A line cook is one responsible for looking after a particular line or section of responsibilities in the kitchen. He may be assigned the task of stocking up plates at the pick-up counter, cleaning the cooking surfaces of his station, prepping sauces at the 
snack counter, or cooking food at the grill section on a particular day. 


Main Course: The main dish is usually the heaviest, heartiest, and most complex or substantive dish on a menu. The main ingredient 
is usually meat, fish or another protein source.


Maître d'hôtel: This is the head waiter or floor lead.


Mise en place: The preparations to cook, having the ingredients ready, such as cuts of meat, relishes, sauces, par-cooked items, spices, freshly chopped vegetables, and other components that are required for the menu and recipes ingredients to be measured out, washed, chopped and placed in individual bowls; and equipment such as spatulas and blenders prepared, and oven preheated. 
(literally it means "set in place")


Mis-pick: An item that is ordered from a vendor that has a label on it that does not match the product it contains.


Mixology: The science and art of preparing mixed drinks.


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: Using the microwave.


On the Fly: When someone sends something back, or an order is forgotten, or anything happens that results in a particular order needing to be done right now, a server will tell the kitchen they need it on the fly. It then goes right to the head of the line of stuff 
the kitchen needs to do, circumventing everything in there before it.


Online Food Ordering: A process of ordering food from a local restaurant through a web page or app.


OS&E: Operating Supplies & Equipment. Small ware including cutlery, crockery, glassware, linen, silverware, bar tools, kitchen tools, disposables etc.

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.

Party: A group of people at a table.


Pittsburgh Rare: Burnt outside, rare inside.


Platter: A platter is often a main dish served on a platter with one or more side dishes, such as a salad or French fries.


Pop-Up Restaurant: A temporary restaurant where a chef can test-launch his food or a restaurateur can test-launch his concept in a brick & mortar format for just a few days or weeks with a live audience. 


Portion Control: The establishment of standards in a restaurant for the weight, size and number of items in each dish that the organization will serve consistently regardless of when or by whom.


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.”


Rollup: Silverware rolled into a napkin, usually linen but can be paper.


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


Sheet to Shelf: The inventory and ordering system that refers to the sheet used to track the items in your walk in cooler or dry storage. The sheet/list is organized in the same order that the stock appears on the shelf.


Shelf Life: The amount of time in storage that a product can maintain quality, freshness and edibility.


Shorting: An unscrupulous method used by some vendors to charge a restaurant for more product than they actually receive.


Sidework: Work performed by front of the house staff (e.g., refilling salt and pepper shakers, rolling silverware).


Signature Dish: This is the Chef's individual dish that he has created a a special menu item and it will reflect the style of cooking the Chef is best at achieving.


Skate: Leaving without doing side-work.


Slammed: Busy. See “In The Weeds”. Perhaps not as out of control as “in the weeds”.


Small Plates: Small plates is a manner of dining that became popular in Western food service after 2000. Small plates may either refer to small dishes resembling appetizers which are ordered à la carte and often shared (such as tapas), or to the small courses served as part of a more formal meal.


Soft Launch: A method of announcing the opening of a restaurant to a limited audience with little fanfare. The intent is to first get their buy-in, before making it available to the general public.


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. 

Speed Rail: A bottle holder usually made of stainless steel in easy reach of the bartender to facilitate speedy service to guests. Based on the bar menu, the bartender keeps within it the most often used bottles of spirits, other liquors and mixers.


Station: Where the server will prepare non-alcoholic beverages, rings in orders and finish out tickets/guest checks.


Stiffed: A customer has left the restaurant without tipping the server.


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 Reservation: A table reservation is an arrangement made in advance to have a table available at a restaurant.


Table Service: The preparation of you food or a specific dish at your table.


Table Sharing: Table sharing is the practice of seating multiple, separate parties (individual customers or groups of customers) who 
may not know each other at a single restaurant table.


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.


Take-Out: Food that is prepared to take home with you.


Tasting Menu: A pre-fixed restaurant meal that offers a variety of dishes served course-wise in small portions.


Three-Martini Lunch: The three-martini lunch is a term used in the United States to describe a leisurely, indulgent lunch enjoyed by businesspeople or executives.


Top: The number in a dining party. For example, an eight top is a dining party of eight. 


Turn & Burn: Turn a table quickly (usually because there is a long waiting list for tables).


Upsell: To suggest a higher priced item. 


Variable Cost: Labor, utilities, vendors, maintenance, any expense that changes from month to month.


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


Waitlist: A list of guests waiting to be seated at a restaurant while it is full. restaurant. 


Walk-In: A refrigerated room for cold storage of perishable items. Can also refer to guests that walk-in to a restaurant without a call ahead or reservation.


Well Drinks: “Well” drinks are made from the inexpensive house liquors on hand. 


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


Year to Date/YTD: The period starting at the beginning of the current year and ending at the current day. It is often used to see how the business is actually faring up to the current day versus its budget for that period in terms of sales, profits etc. for instance.

 

  • Was this article helpful?