Regardless of the role you’re currently working, being versed in restaurant lingo, terms and slang can go a long way, especially when it comes to communicating with your team when service moves at lightning speed, leaving no time for error or delays. Here are some terms you should have in your repertoire:



86 (Eighty-Six)

To remove an item from an order or from the menu because the kitchen or bar is out of it.

“86 Octo (Octopus)”


Term to let another member of the staff know you are behind them.


Being very behind schedule, overwhelmed with work.


To give something away for free, short for “complimentary.” Usually done by owners or managers to get surprise and delight important customers or to smooth over problems.

“Table 12’s chicken was raw! Comp the whole table desserts and coffee!”


Term that describes a guest as a statistic; typically used at the beginning of and end-of night head counts.

“I did 50 covers tonight.”


Term to let another member of the staff know you are rounding a blind corner.

Comin’ Out

Term to let another member of the staff know you are leaving the kitchen.


A table with only two seats.


Working two shifts in a row.

Expediter / Expo

The person who coordinates all orders in the kitchen.

Family Meal

The staff meal either before or after a shift.


A guest who is a self-proclaimed food enthusiast/connoisseur.
(Often the bane of cooks and chefs, an amateur cook/chef who is aspiring to be a professional.)

No Call/No Show

An employee who does not show up and does not call ahead to inform the team know.

A reservation that does not show up and does not call to inform the business.

On the Books

The total people that have made reservations for the night.  


A staff member who takes food to a table.

Shift Drink

A free drink for staff from the manager when the shift is over. Usually as a reward for hard work (or an unofficial apology for a night of triple seats).


Term referring to an employee being fired; usually employees are considered sacked after a major screw up.


The preferred term for waiter or waitress.

“Could you find my server, please? I need a refill on my soda.”


The period of time staff is scheduled to work.


The act of leaving without doing side work.


Wine Steward or Wine Waiter.


A very important customer.


To take off the check with no financial loss to the restaurant.

Wait station

Area for waitstaff to keep silver, coffee, or water.

This compilation is a small sampling (and a work-in-progress!). If you'd like us to add one that you and/or your team use, please email us at [email protected]!

Click these links to learn more industry terms: