Restaurant Lingo 101

Restaurant Lingo 101

Whether you are thinking about starting your career in the food and beverage industry, opening a restaurant, or just looking for a part-time hustle, working in this industry isn’t just picking plates up at the expo line and bringing it to the table to feed your guests. It turns out, when you work in this industry, you also have to learn a whole new language. This language we like to call, “The Hospitality Vernacular” or more simply- Restaurant Lingo 101.

Over the years, the hospitality industry has developed its own terms—one that is unique (and sprinkled with lots of different four-letter words). While each restaurant has its own unique way of communicating between the Front of House (FOH) and Back of House (BOH), many restaurant terms are commonly used across the industry.

There are some restaurant terms that can be confusing for the newbies. That’s why we reached out to our employees across all five of our restaurant brands at Charleston Hospitality Group (Toast All Day, Eli’s Table, Queology, HonkyTonk Saloon and JohnKing Grill and Piano Bar) from chefs to dishwashers, and everything in between to build a definitive list of restaurant terms, lingo and slang—from basic to the most interesting.

Here are the Top 10 Restaurant Terms That You Need To Know!

  1. 86ed

From time to time, the kitchen is bound to run out of an ingredient for a menu or drink item, and since the pandemic happened, guests and workers alike are seeing this now more than ever. When this happens, it means the item is 86ed, out of stock.

“I am so bummed the scallops are 86ed on a Friday night, it’s the most popular dish I try to upsell.”

  1. Upsell

To upsell means to sell an item to guests that is more expensive.

“Try to upsell by adding lobster or scallops to a steak. That’s an easy way to increase your guest’s check.”

  1. Cut

If you’re cut, this is typically a good thing, so run!! Being cut means you’re “off the clock.” However, if you wanted to stay longer to make more money and let someone leave ahead of you, I am sure that wouldn’t be a problem!

“Finally, I’m cut! I have so much to do today once all my side work is finished.”

  1. Comped

When an item, or meal is removed from your tab, this means it is comped-or given to a guest for free. This can happen occasionally and can be due to many different reasons. Sometimes the dish or drink is favorable to the guest, is delayed for a long period of time, or perhaps it is done as a nice gesture for a regular guest, or a party celebrating a special occasion.

“Can you please comp two glasses of champagne. My table just had a proposal!”

  1. Karen

Not the “Karens”!

These guests will always find something wrong, no matter how hard you try to make them happy. It just happens. If you come across a Karen, stay patient, take a deep breath and above all- stay kind!

“There’s a Karen at table 204, good luck! They hate everything I do.”

  1. Triple-sat

This is when a host seats a server’s section back-to-back-to-back. This can cause stress to your waitstaff. When this happens, teamwork often comes into play and a server might ask another server to greet, take orders and run food as a favor. This will most likely happen to you once a shift, so it’s important to build camaraderie within your team and help others out when this happens, so they, in turn, will return the favor when it’s due.

“What’s with the host triple seating me four times today? My section is full!”

  1. Heard

This means the person you are speaking with is in agreement and taking action. This phrase is often:

“I need a cheeseburger out stat.”


  1. Campers

There are two types of campers. Either, these guests will linger at their table long after they’ve finished their meals or they’re the type that stays for hours and only orders appetizers. If you’re a restaurant server, campers are not favorable. This means that you will have a hard time turning your tables and making money.

“Campers at table 12. They won’t leave and they only ordered appetizers. The worst!”

  1. Fire

When something is fired, this means it is ready to start cooking! Typically, this phrase is heard at fine-dining restaurants, where firing is more common. This action typically takes place after you drop the appetizer or salad off at a table.

“Just brought out the apps, table 210 can be fired!”

  1. Hockey Puck

This phrase often comes when a certain type of beef is way overcooked. It’s charred and tough to cut. This is when you have a hockey puck. Nobody likes a hockey puck- and if you do, you’re probably sitting with a Karen.

“I don’t know why anyone would order a well-done burger or steak, it’s a hockey puck.”

Now that you know a mix of restaurant slang, it’s time to use it in practice! If you speak restaurant lingo, you’re in a better position to get along with your co-workers, keep your guests happy, and most importantly, understand what’s really going on behind the mundane tasks of washing dishes and taking food orders.

Ready to Work in Food & Bev?

What better way to get started than at Charleston Hospitality Group? We’re hiring great people across all of our restaurants, and looking for people like you to come be a part of our family. Apply here today to get started!