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Vocabulary

Note: Many English words and expressions about food come directly from French. This is why some words about food are written with an accent (for example: à la carte). However, you may also see such words written without accent.

Vocabulary
part of speech
MeaningExample sentence
à la carte
adjective
without a side dishIs it possible to get the steak à la carte? I don't eat potatoes.
à la mode
adjective
with ice creamWould you like your apple pie à la mode?
alcohol, liquor
noun
a distilled liquid such as rum or whiskeyThis beer has 5% alcohol.
all you can eat
adjective
customers pay one fee and can eat as much as they wishThese are all you can eat fries, so let me know if you want more.
appetizer
noun
small snack before a mealWould you like some garlic bread or another appetizer to start?
appetizing
adjective
looks pleasing to eatI'm afraid these pancakes don't look very appetizing.
apron
noun
a cloth covering worn over the clothes while cookingRemove your apron before you come out to the dining room.
awful (taste)
adjective
very bad tasteThe customer said that her pasta was awful.
bar
noun
place in an establishment where people go to get a drink (especially alcoholic drinks)If you sit up at the bar you don't have to order any food.
barbeque
noun/verb
southern style of cooking over a grillThe barbeque wings are our specialty.
barstool
noun
tall seats that customers use at the barThe guest fell off his barstool before he even ordered a drink.
bartender
noun
staff member that mixes, pours, and serves alcoholic beveragesI do part-time work as a bartender in a local pub.
beverage
noun
drinkCan I bring you some beverages while you look at the menus?
bill, cheque, check
noun
the slip of paper that tells the customer how much to payTable 3 would like you to bring them their cheque.
black coffee
adjective + noun
coffee without any milkShould I bring some cream, or do you take your coffee black?
boil
verb
style of cooking that involves placing food in a deep pot of extremely hot waterWe usually boil the potatoes first so that they will cook faster.
book off
verb
mark a day that you cannot workI need to book off the first week of May.
booster seat
noun
a plastic unit that fits on top of a chair to help small children reach the tableWill your child be needing a booster seat today?
booth/bench
noun
type of seating in which people sit side by side on a cushioned areaWe'd prefer a booth if you have one available.
booze
noun(idiom)
alcoholYou've been into the booze already, haven't you?
bottle opener
noun
a device used for opening beer bottles that don't twist offAll of the servers keep bottle openers on their keychains.
bread basket
noun
slices of bread and butter served before and with a mealI'll bring you a bread basket to hold the kids down until dinner.
breaded
adjective
rolled and cooked in bread crumbsThe shrimp is breaded in our homemade batter.
buffet
noun
self-serve tables of food that are set out for the customer to pick and choose fromThe plates and everything you need are up at the buffet.
burnt
adjective
overcooked to the point of turning blackThe toast is burnt around the edges.
buspan
noun
rubber tub used for collecting dirty dishesThe buspan is stacked so high it's too heavy for me to carry.
busboy, busser
noun
a person who helps out in a restaurant (especially clearing and setting tables)Ask the busboy to help you bring out all of the food.
cash
noun
paper money paymentI don't have any cash. Do you accept Visa?
cash out
verb
counting and submitting the payment of all of the customers bills at the end of one's shiftDon't forget to include any coupons from tonight when you cash out later.
cashier
noun
staff member responsible for collecting customer's money at the front of an establishmentWe don't have a cashier; you have to pay your server.
charge
verb
to add a feeI will have to charge you an extra dollar to add ice cream.
check on
verb
make sure the guests are satisfiedYou should always check on your guests about two minutes after you serve the meal.
chef
noun
staff member who is professionally trained to prepare foodOur head chef is one of the best cooks in town.
clear
verb
remove finished or unused items from a tableYou need to clear this table and set it for four.
cocktail
noun
an alcoholic drink with juiceWould anyone care for a cocktail on this warm sunny day?
coffee maker
noun
machine that dispenses coffee into a glass container for pouringYou need to teach the new waitress how to operate the coffee maker.
coffee round
noun
an offering of coffee and refills around a section of a restaurantLet's ask the busboy to do a coffee round while we take a smoke break.
combo, combination
noun
mixtureThe combo platter has veggies, ribs, and chicken fingers.
comment card
noun
a piece of paper that customers are given to record their dining experienceWhen she asked for a comment card I knew she was going to complain about the food.
complaint
noun
a problem with service or foodThe guest brought his complaint to the manager.
condiments
noun
types of sauces that are added for flavouring (i.e. mustard)All of the condiments you should need are on the table.
cook
verb/noun
prepare and heat food until it is ready to serveThe guest says that this chicken isn't cooked enough.
corkscrew
noun
tool for removing the cork from the top of a wine bottle.You will need to learn how to work a corkscrew before you start bartending.
counter
noun
flat area often used for placing dishes on or preparing foodI left one of the salads on the kitchen counter by mistake.
coupon
noun
a slip of paper that offers the customers a discounted rateYour coupon is only valid for food, not for alcoholic drinks.
complimentary
adjective
free of chargeThe desserts are complimentary because the dinner took so long.
creamer
noun
small plastic container of cream for coffeeWill you need more than two creamers for your coffee?
credit card
noun
a plastic card that allows people to pay for something later
You forgot to sign your credit card slip.
customer, guest
noun
person who goes to an establishment to be servedIt is our policy that the customer is always right.
customer service
noun
treatment of guestsOur restaurant got the award for having the best customer service this year.
cutlery, silverware, utensils
noun
tools for eating with (fork, knife, spoon)In a fine dining restaurant the staff has to polish the silverware.
cut off
verb
stop serving a customer any more alcoholI cut off the man with the beard because he'd had too much to drink.
debit
noun
use bank card to pay directly from bank accountCan we pay by debit here, or do you only take credit cards?
deep fried
adjective
cooked in a large pot of oilMost of the appetizers on our menu are deep fried.
defrost, thaw
verb
remove frozen food from the freezer to prepareDon't forget to defrost some pies for tomorrow.
delicious
adjective
very good tasteThe cookies were so delicious they were gone in half an hour.
delivery
noun
food brought to the homeDo you have delivery or do we have to come in to eat?
designated driver
adjective + noun
person in a party who agrees not to consume alcohol in order to drive everyone home safelyIs there a designated driver in your party or are you taking a taxi?
dessert
noun
sweet treat after a mealI think we're too full to have dessert tonight.
dessert tray
noun
a plate of all of the desserts that customers can view and order fromI'll bring the dessert tray around and see if I can tempt any of you with a slice of cake or pie.
dirty dishes
adjective + noun
plates that customers are finished withI'll just clear these dirty dishes and make some room for you.
discount
noun
at a cheaper costWe got a discount because we are regular customers.
dishpit
noun
area in the restaurant where the dirty dishes are placed.Jody is not going to want to go into the dishpit today.
dishwasher
noun
the staff member/machine that washes the dirty dishesCan you bring the dishwasher these pans to clean?
doggie bag
noun
unfinished food that is packed up for the customer to take homeI can't finish my steak, but I'll take a doggie bag.
double
noun
two shots of alchohol in one drinkMake that a double in a tall glass, please.
draft
noun
beer from a keg that pours out of a tapWe have a selection of local beers on draft.
dressing
noun
liquid topping for saladsWould you like Italian or French dressing?
dry
adjective
no sauceI'll have dry toast with two eggs.
entrée, main course
noun
the largest part of a meal (after appetizer, before dessert)The entrées are after the lunch specials on page 6 of the menu.
fast-food
noun
an eatery that offers quick inexpensive foodWe don't provide table service. This is a fast-food restaurant.
fine dining
noun
a very expensive eating establishmentThe waiters wear bowties because it's a fine dining restaurant.
float
noun
small amount of cash used to make change at the beginning of a server or bartender's shiftI need a roll of quarters for my float.
free refills
adjective + noun
beverages that can be filled again without any costHave all of the soda you want; it's free refills here.
fry
verb
cook over an element in oilDon't fry the vegetables too long or they will go soggy.
garnish
noun/verb
food that is added to a plate for appearance or colour(i.e. parsley or fruit)Don't forget to garnish all of the entrees that go out.
glassware
noun
group of drinking glassesMake sure the glassware doesn't have any spots before you put it away.
gloves (plastic)
noun
covering for the hands to prevent the spread of germsWhenever you are handling food make sure you are wearing gloves.
gratuity/tip
noun
extra money given as a thank you for serviceWhen we have a large party we're allowed to add a 15% gratuity to the bill.
greet
verb
say hello and welcome customers to the establishmentYour priority as a hostess is to greet the guests at the door with a smile.
grill
noun/verb
cooking over iron slats that allow for oil and fat to drop downThe healthiest way to prepare meat is on a grill.
hairnet
noun
a covering worn on the head while preparing foodIf you don't want to wear a hat, you can wear a hairnet.
happy hour
noun
short amount of time when alcoholic drinks are on saleWe're expecting a rush because it's almost happy hour.
highball
noun
alcohol served with sodaOur highballs are on for half price today.
highchair
noun
a tall chair with a plastic tray designed for a babyThe party is for ten plus a highchair.
hold
verb
leave off/withoutI'll take a hamburger, hold the bun.
homemade
adjective
made from a recipeWe serve the best homemade soup in town.
host, hostess
noun
staff member in charge of greeting and seating customers in a restaurantPlease wait and the hostess will seat you.
ingredients
noun
all of the different foods that are combined in a recipeI'll check the ingredients to make sure there aren't any nuts.
kettle
noun
pot for boiling water for teaI'll put the kettle on and make some fresh tea.
last call
noun
the last chance for a person to get an alcoholic drink before the establishment closesWe'll have two more screwdrivers for last call.
lemon, lime wedge
noun
a small segment of lemon or lime put on the rim of a glassI'd like a lemon wedge for my ice water please.
lineup
noun/verb
a number of people waiting for somethingIs this the lineup to pay or get seated?
liqueur
noun
alcohol that has a syrupy/sweet tasteCan I offer you a coffee liqueur to go with your dessert?
make change
verb + noun
give customers money back from a paymentWe can make change if all you have is large notes.
manager
noun/adjective
person in charge of a section of a restaurantI'd like to speak to the floor manager about the service.
melt
verb
warm to soften (i.e. cheese/butter)First, melt two tablespoons of butter in the microwave.
menu
noun
a booklet of all of the food that can be orderedDo you have a children's menu we could see?
microwave
noun
a small appliance that heats and cooks food quicklyWe can heat your dinner in the microwave if you like.
mild
adjective
not spicyI'd like a half dozen mild chicken wings.
nightclub
noun
establishment where adults go to dance and drink alcoholic beveragesIf you work at the nightclub you will have to stay until 2 AM.
non alcoholic beverage
adjective + noun
a drink that resembles a certain drink without the alchoholCan I order a non alcoholic beer?
notepad
noun
paper that a server uses to write down ordersJust let me grab my notepad and I'll take your order.
on the rocks
preposition + noun
on iceI'll take a whiskey on the rocks.
on the side
preposition + noun
request for a food item to NOT be put on top of another food itemFor the nachos, can we have the sour cream on the side?
order
verb/noun
make a request to a serverIs everyone ready to order lunch now?
over charge
verb
give a customer a bill that is too high (by mistake)I think you over charged us for our drinks; we only had one each.
pack up
verb
put in a take-out container for the customer to bring homeWould you like me to pack up the rest of that pizza?
party
noun
group of people at or waiting for a tableA party of twelve just walked in without a reservation.
patio
noun
outdoor seeatingWe closed the patio because it looks like it's going to rain.
paycheque
noun
money given to the staff every week or twoYou'll get a paycheque every other Monday.
pitcher, jug
noun
a container with a spout to pour water, beer, or other beverages out ofWe'll take a pitcher of beer with four glasses.
portion
noun/verb
a separate amount of foodThe chicken fingers are already portioned in the freezer.
pour
verb
dispense liquid from a containerCan I pour you folks another glass of water?
prepare
verb
get food readyThe servers have to prepare the salads themselves.
pub
noun
establishment that specializes in casual food and alcoholic beveragesI can wear whatever I want when I work at the pub.
punch clock and punch card
noun
a machine that staff members place a card into when they begin and finish a work shiftI don't want staff members hanging around the punch clock.
punch in, out
verb
put a card in the punch clock to mark the time you start and end a shiftYou can punch out as soon as you finish sweeping the floors.
punch something in
verb
enter an order into a computer systemI'm going to punch in a large order now, so get ready.
rare
adjective
cooked meat that is pink insideThis steak is too rare for me to eat.
recipe
noun
list of ingredients and instructions for preparing a certain type of foodOur chef is so talented that he almost never bothers with a recipe.
regulars
noun
people who come into an establishment oftenYou can give the regulars a complimentary drink from time to time.
reservation
noun
a request to have a table saved for a certain amount of peopleWe don't take any reservations; it's first come first served here.
restrooms
noun
place for people to use a toilet and wash handsThe restrooms are to your left and down the stairs.
roll-up
noun
a set of cutlery wrapped in a napkinBefore we punch out we have to prepare enough roll-ups for the night shift.
rush
noun
a large amount of customers arriving at the same timeWe always have a rush after church on Sundays.
rush
noun/verb
prepare quickly for a certain reasonCan you put a rush on this spaghetti; I forgot to punch it in.
sauce
noun
liquid flavouring added to foodWhat kind of sauce would you like on your ice cream, butterscotch or chocolate?
schedule
noun/verb
a notice of the time and date each staff member has to work in a certain period of timeIf you want to book off a day, let me know before I make the schedule.
seasoning
noun
dry flavouring added to foodHe wants the chicken plain without any seasoning.
self-serve
adjective
the customers bring their own food items to the table and do not pay for serviceWe have a buffet on, so it's self-serve for lunch.
senior's discount
noun
a reduced price for people over a certain age (i.e. over 65)We have a senior's discount of 25% off on Mondays.
separate cheques
adjective + noun/verb +noun
a different bill for each member/group sitting at a tableWe asked for separate cheques but it all came on one bill.
serve
verb
look after a customer, bring items to a customerIs there someone in charge of serving out on the patio?
set
verb
get a table ready with items such as cutlery and glasswareI need you to clear and set table five for a party of eight.
shade
noun
place outside that is not in the sunWe'd like to sit on the patio if there is any shade.
shot
noun
one ounce of alcohol served in a small glass (shot glass)Let's do a shot to get this party started.
shooter
noun
an ounce of alcohol and juice combinedIs there a shooter that has orange juice in it?
side dish
noun
choice of food that goes with a main mealThe two side dishes are mashed potatoes or french fries.
sour
adjective
acid or fermented tasteI think the milk has gone sour from sitting out of the fridge too long.
sous chef
noun
staff member who works under and assists the main chefOur sous chef is leaving to become the head chef at another restaurant.
specials
noun
items that were prepared particularly for a certain day and are usually at a reduced priceWould you like to hear the specials before you decide on lunch.
specialty
noun
food item that a restaurant is popular forHomemade fish and chips is our specialty.
spicy
adjective
hot flavourAny item with three chilies beside it means that the dish is very spicy.
stay
verb
to eat in the restaurantAre these coffees to go or to stay.
stir, mix
verb
spin round and round with a spoonStir the soup for a few minutes before you serve it.
straw
noun
long hollow plastic stick for drinking out ofCan I please get a straw for my ice tea?
straight up
adjective
alcoholic drink without any mix or iceHe always has a straight up glass of rum after his meal.
substitute
verb
replace one item for anotherCan I substitute the carrots for corn?
supervisor
noun
staff member in charge of watching over things and dealing with problemsWhen I'm not here George will be your supervisor.
sweet
adjective
taste with a lot of sugarIf you like sweet things, you'll love our chocolate cheesecake.
take-out
adjective/verb
food that is packed up and eaten at homeYou can either eat in or order food to take-out.
two-minute check
noun
a visit to a table approximately two minutes after the food has been served to check for satisfactionDon't forget to do your two-minute check to make sure the steak is cooked properly.
terminal
noun
computer system for punching in food ordersThere's one terminal in the kitchen and one on the bar.
till
noun
drawer of a cash register that money is kept inYou need a key to open the till and make change.
to go
verb
to take out of the restaurantWe're just going to order a pizza to go.
toppings
noun
food items that go on top of other food items to add flavourWhat type of toppings would you like to have on your pizza?
uniform
noun
clothing that staff members have to wearThe uniform here is black pants and a white shirt.
waiter, waitress
noun
staff member in charge of taking orders and serving food and beveragesWhen I got promoted from a hostess to a waitress I started making tips.
waiting list
noun
list of groups who want a table to eat atWe have a twenty minute waiting list tonight.
warm up
verb
heat food to an enjoyable temperature for eatingWould you mind warming up the baby's bottle for me?
well- done
adjective
cooked for longer than averageThe meat was so well-done it had no flavour.
wine list
noun
a menu of all of the wine you can order from the glass, litre, or bottleYou will notice that we have a lot of local wine on our wine list.
winery
noun
a place where wine is made, tasted, and soldThere is another winery up the hill that you might enjoy stopping at.
wine tasting
adjective
sampling different types of wineIf you are intersted in trying some wines you should go on a wine tasting tour.

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