Learn the Lingo: A Quick Guide to Understanding Common Restaurant Terminology

Jul 11, 2022

If you’re considering a career in a restaurant you’re going to need to know more than just how to plate or serve a meal. There’s a whole new language of restaurant slang to learn as well.
Out of efficiency, and maybe a little mystique-making, the hospitality industry has developed its own restaurant lingo. While each restaurant may have its own unique slang, there are common terms that are used across the industry.
HWTC’s training team has put together a list of some of those common terms so you can sound like a seasoned pro even on your first day.


Refers to an item that the restaurant has run out of and has been taken off the menu.


Refers to the total number of orders of a particular item (if table two orders three steaks and table four orders two steaks then that’s five steaks all day).

BOH (or Back of House)

Refers to those who work in the back of the restaurant, including chefs, kitchen prep, and storage-area staff.


If you’re walking behind another server who is clearing a table or has their hands full (or you do) then calling out “behind” lets them know you’re there. I’ve seen many disasters which could have simply been avoided if they just called out “Behind”.


There are other names for this but it refers to the area where a server would pick up food from the kitchen.


The piece of paper that prints to the bar or kitchen when you send an order through the P.O.S.

Cutting the board

A term used when dividing the dining area into sections for servers.


Refers to a table for two.


Refers to a waiter or waitress working two shifts in a row.

FOH (or Front of House)

Refers to those who work in the front of the restaurant, including servers, hosts, bartenders, etc.

Full hands in, full hands out

This is great for time management, it simply means when you’re entering or leaving the dining area, kitchen, service bar you should always have your hands full. This is working smarter not harder and makes your job a lot easier. (an example is if you’re coming back to the kitchen with dirty plates you should take some food out to tables when you’re leaving, of if you bring glassware to the service bar area then run any drinks waiting to be taken).

Off line

Let’s other cooks know that you are not at your station (perhaps you need something from the fridge or store-room).

On line

A kitchen term that lets other cooks know that a cook is back or currently in their section.

On the fly/to sell

You forgot to order someone’s garlic bread or cocktail or simply a guest wants to add something to their meal they have just received. These terms let the kitchen or bar know that you need to get what you have just asked for out to the guest A.S.A.P.


A group of restaurant guests. Five people would be a party of five.


Stands for Point of Sale and is the computer system used for ordering food or drinks and more.

Soft sell / Up sell

Basically, if someone orders a scotch on the rocks you can ask them if they want a double or if someone orders a meal then you can ask if they want an appetizer first or a side dish with their main. This helps increase your average check and in return will increase your tip.


Refers to a table and the number of people that can be seated at it (example: a two-top is a table for two people; a four-top is a table that seats four.)

To learn more about the inner workings of restaurants, register for HWTC’s Restaurant Basics. If you give us two days, we’ll get you read to work as a host, server, banquet server, café worker, or busser.


Partner with the hospitality experts.​

Our team of in-house experts are ready to support your research and media engagements. Contact us today to learn more.