Two plus two still makes four.

Restaurant English

restaurantGoing out to eat is a great way to practise your English in a foreign country. You’ll learn many new words and expressions. If you can’t pronounce something on the menu, point and ask “How do I say this?” Most servers are used to dealing with English learners.

Questions your server may ask:

  • Do you have a reservation? (Did you call ahead of time?)
  • How many? (How many seats do you need?)
  • Table for two?
  • Are you ready to order?
  • Do you need some more time?
  • Can I start you off with a drink?
  • Would you like to hear the specials?
  • What can I get for you? (Place your order.)
  • What would you like with that? (Choose your side dish)
  • Would you like an appetizer to start?
  • How is everything? (Does it taste good?)
  • Can I get you anything else? (Are you ready for the bill?)
  • Did you enjoy everything?
  • Did you save room for dessert? (Would you like dessert?)

Questions you may need to ask:

  • May I see the menu/dessert menu/wine list?
  • What do you recommend?
  • Is it spicy?
  • Is it enough to share?
  • Can I have it without…(butter)?
  • Can I substitute the …(chicken) for … (beef)?
  • Can I get this to-go?
  • Can we get the bill, please?
  • Can I have a refill, please?

[Scroll up to play Restaurant English-Part 2]

Showing Gratitude:

  • Thank you it was delicious.
  • I really enjoyed it.
  • I’m full, thank you.
  • Thank you for the recommendation.
  • We’ll come again.
  • I’m afraid I didn’t save any room for dessert.

Concerns and complaints:
To get a server’s attention, make eye contact with him or her. Say “excuse me” when she is nearby (wait until she is finished talking with other guests). Smile and explain your problem or concern. Here are some concerns you may have:

  • We’ve been waiting quite a while.
  • Would you mind heating this up?
  • This isn’t what I ordered.
  • This tastes a bit off. (It doesn’t taste right.)
  • You gave us the wrong bill.

Words that mean the same thing in a restaurant:

  • server/waiter (male)/waitress (female)
  • the bill/the receipt/the check
  • appetizer/starter
  • entree/main event/dinner
  • to-go/take-out/doggie-bag/leftovers
  • hot/spicy
  • beverage/drink
  • right this way/follow me/your table is ready

tip*Don’t Forget to Tip
In many English speaking countries it is polite to pay more than the cost of the bill. This extra money is called a tip. A tip is a gift for good service. Find out who (and how much) you should tip before you travel. (taxi driver, server, hair dresser…) If you don’t tip (in some countries), your server may think you were unhappy with the service.

More restaurant vocabulary (with a quiz)

Written by Tara Benwell for EnglishClub | October 2009
Tara Benwell is a Canadian freelance writer and editor who specializes in materials and articles for the ELT industry.


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