Restaurant Terms, Slang and Jargon To Know

Nick Garnder

In the dynamic world of restaurants, effective communication is key to smooth operations. Understanding the unique terminology and slang used in the industry is crucial for any hospitality professional. In this guide, we’ll provide you with a comprehensive list of essential restaurant terms and slang that you should be familiar with.

Keeping Up With Kitchen Slang

Familiarizing yourself with kitchen slang is essential for seamless communication in a bustling kitchen environment. It helps avoid misunderstandings and keeps operations running smoothly. Staying up to date can be difficult at times. Some terms evolve and new ones are added all the time, but there are some industry standard phrases and words that are universal and steadfast. And don’t hesitate to create your own! Sometimes there are terms unique to your operation that your team needs to know. If so, we’d love to hear them, and maybe they’ll make the list!

What is Restaurant Slang?

 The distinctive set of terms and expressions used by chefs, cooks, and restaurant staff is used to communicate quickly and efficiently in a high-pressure environment. It is far more than flashy fast-talk, and serves an important purpose.

Why is Knowing Restaurant Slang Important?

Knowing kitchen slang helps facilitate clear and concise communication in the fast-paced environment of a restaurant kitchen. It enables the team to work together effectively, ensuring orders are prepared accurately and in a timely manner.

Common Restaurant Slang Terms

Here are some commonly used kitchen slang terms:

Campers, Camping Out: The less than favorable title given to guests when they linger at a table well after they are actively ordering food or drinks. The act of “Camping Out” is frowned upon by restaurant staff as it prevents the use of that table for another party of guests who may be waiting to sit down.

Clopen: A set of shifts scheduled back-to-back as a closing shift at night followed the next morning with an opening shift. Typically undesirable, especially on weekends when a close might be later than usual, and an open might be earlier for a brunch or breakfast service.

86, 86’d: A slang term used among restaurant staff to inform each other that a particular item is no longer available either permanently or temporarily. It could be due to the item being sold out, unavailable, or discontinued. “86 the Caprese Salad” means that there are no more Caprese salads available to sell.

Double: Working a “Double” means working two shifts back to back on the same day. This is not the same as a “Split Shift” or a “Clopen”.

Heard: A response of confirmation in a kitchen to acknowldege that someone has heard, and understands, what has been asked of them. Crucial in avoiding miscommunication.

Loss Leader: A pricing strategy in which a specific item is sold at or below ideally profitable price so as to attract consumers under the assumption that those customers will purchase additional items with much higher profit margins.

On Fire: The status of an item when it is actively being cooked or prepared. Important for expeditor timing. Ex: “I have 5 steaks all day, 3 on fire” means that there are 5 steaks ordered and that 3 of them are already on the grill cooking.

On the Fly: Meaning that an item is to be prioritized or prepared with extreme speed. Needing something “on the fly” is typically a result of having missed part of an order, or, when something has been dropped or ruined and needs to be replaced immediately. “Can I get that on the fly?” is an urgent request.

Open Menus: Asking how many “Open Menus” there are is asking how many guests are seated that have not ordered yet. typically asked by the kitchen staff it is meant to give the Chef and their team an idea of how many orders they may expect to see in the near future.

S.O.S: Universal shorthand for “Sauce on Side”. Identifies that any sauce for that item be served on the side.

Turn & Burn: Common description of establishments that provide rapid service. Turning many tables and cooking food quickly to get those guests served and gone in order to seat the next group as quickly as possible.

BOH: “Back of House” refers to the areas and staff dedicated to kitchen operations, food preparation, and storage. It includes positions like chefs, line cooks, dishwashers, and other kitchen staff members.

FOH: Front of House – areas accessible to customers.

Walked, Walking, Walking Out: Term applied to prepared menu items that have been taken from the pass and are on their way to a table.

Refer to our comprehensive Restaurant Terms Glossary for an extensive list of restaurant terms and slang.

There’s even more terms for Restaurant Owners and Operators

Slang evolves quickly. If you find yourself overwhelmed by the abundance of restaurant terminology, you’re not alone. Our restaurant glossary includes not only restaurant jargon, but important restaurant accounting and bookkeeping terms. Here at Hone, we help streamline your understanding and enhance your proficiency in restaurant operations. Request a demo here.

With this knowledge, you’ll not only feel more confident in your role but also contribute to a more efficient and harmonious restaurant environment. Remember, language is the key to seamless communication in the bustling world of hospitality.

Nick Garnder
Nick Gardner kickstarted his culinary journey in Upstate NY’s VOTECH program, later graduating from the prestigious Johnson & Wales in Providence, RI. His talents led him to work at multiple James Beard-nominated establishments in Providence and the lively kitchens of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Transitioning to esteemed venues, Nick made a mark at “The Country Club” in Brookline, MA and later at Lord Hobo in Cambridge as Chef and General Manager. When the pandemic redefined the culinary landscape, Nick pivoted to chef consulting, ultimately finding his niche at Hone, where culinary prowess meets restaurant accounting.

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