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Comprehensive Food Service Industry Glossary

There is plenty of jargon or slang when it comes to restaurants and foodservice. We've started a collection of a ton of terms you'll when working in restaurants, grocery stores, catering companies, and more. Have something you'd like to see added? Tweet us @ACityDiscount #FoodieTerms.

FoodService Glossary: From A to Z, terms heard when working in a restaurant.


À la carte:
Listed food items that can be served separately from the full entrée.
Alcohol Abuse:
A form of wit used when beer or another form of alcohol is spilled.
All Day:
Refers to the total amount of an item needing to be cooked. For example – table 1 orders 3 burgers and table 2 orders 2 burgers. That’s “5 burgers, all day”; which tells the cook handling burgers he need 5 burgers going for his orders.


Back 40 or BFE (bum f*ck Egypt):
Undesirable station or set of tables.
Back of house:
(BOH): area that typically includes the kitchen and prep area, staff break areas, and manager office space. This is also used to describe staff such as chefs, cooks, bakers and dishwashers.
Serves as back up to the bartender, ensuring glasses are cleaned and liquor options are stocked.
A technique of brushing food with cooking juices while it’s cooking to prevent it from drying out, and to add flavor.
Often called out to indicate that one person is passing behind another to reduce chances of collisions, burns, and spills.
Slang term for a 100 dollar bill.
Casual, European styles restaurant that is usually intimate or cozy in size.
Blue Hairs:
Elderly patrons that show up for early bird specials.
Commonly used in retail or food service to indicate a “By one, get one” promotion.
Bone or Debone:
Removal of the bones from meat using a sharp boning knife.
Wait staff order pads.
Employee who guards the door or helps maintain order in an establishment as necessary.
Break Even Point:
Minimum amount of sales that a restaurant must clear to covering all costs.
A slang term for a casual dining establishment staffed with scantily clad women. Ex. Hooters
Process of cooking (usually meat or fish) using an intense radiant heat.
Broiler or Charbroiler:
Sometimes called a salamander, a broiler is a piece of cooking equipment that allows you to cook directly under high heat to quickly cook meat.
To clear off tables and reset them between guests.
(1) To overcook.
(2) To get rid of such as disposing of ice, expired sides, and leftovers.
Buried or In the Weeds:
A term used to describe being overloaded or extremely busy.
A term that means “bring your own booze”. Often used in casual establishments or restaurants with pending liquor licenses.


A large, plastic storage container that comes in a variety of sizes. These are also called food pans but the manufacturer, Cambro is such a well known term they are the de facto term for the food storage items.
A customer that stays for a lengthy amount of time, which means a table doesn’t turn over.
Chef's Knife::
Typically an 8 inch long knife, the chef’s knife is known as the workhorse of the kitchen. It is used for chopping, slicing, and dicing a variety of food.
China cap:
a cone shaped strainer with holes used to remove matter from foods such as seeds, and other fine particles.
Combination Oven or Combi:
An oven that operates by both conventional heating and microwaves.
Commercial equipment:
(Relating to industry) cookware and appliances designed to function in a non-residential kitchen environment, built to handle the demands of a foodservice business; this includes increased temperatures, corrosive environments, recovery times and capacities.
To give away for free. Meals, dishes or courses may be “comped” for VIP customers or to pacify upset customers.
Conduction Heat:
Heating the surface which emits heat to the food from the bottom up.
Convection Heat:
Heating with hot air that moves around by a fan.
Conveyor Oven or Toaster:
An oven that cooks using radiant heat or infrared heat.
The amount of tables seated and served. Example: 5 tables filled 4 times each is 20 covers.
Cremate or Kill it:
To cook something extra well done. Often used for burgers and steaks when a customer wants it cooked beyond well done.
Cross contamination:
Occurs when bacteria, chemicals, or other harmful substances are transferred from one to another product.


Dead Plate:
A meal that is unfit to be served due to temperature, appearance, or improper preparation.
A container such as a plate for serving food. This can also refer to a prepared meal.
Commonly known as ice cream scoops.
Dish Pit:
The dish or ware washing area. Usually consists of a 3 compartment sink for rinsing, washing and sanitizing dishes but may also include a dish machine or dish washer, sanitizer, disposer system and large drain tables.
Dish Rack:
A rack used to place dishes on for drying.
To work shifts in a row.
Server delivered item; such as “downed 2 burgers and fries”.
: In the back of house, to start cooking a specific item; in the front of house, to deliver a specific item.
Duplicate. This can refer to a number of things such as layered tickets for courses or multiple plates.
Dying on the Pass:
Hot food that sits too long at the window or pass thru and becomes unappealing or inedible; usually due to busy or neglectful wait staff.


Early Bird Deal:
A discounted meal served during a specific time.
Eighty-Sixed (86’d):
A term used to describe a dish that has run out; is not longer available.
The main portion of a meal, usually accompanied by side dishes.
Executive Chef:
Also known as the head chef, this person is in charge of monitoring what goes out of the kitchen, as well as managing kitchen staff relations.
The time when a food item should be used before it becomes spoiled or ineffective.
Expedite or Expeditor or Expo:
To corral the process, and finalize plates leaving the line. May refer to a position on the line, a staff member or an area that connects the front and back of house; can be a table, a window, a shelf or any area where a finished dish can be handed off.


A menu item that can be made fast to fill in a gap when the line is dragging on finishing an order. Can be used to keep a guest from getting upset about the amount of time an order is taking.
A call from the chef to start cooking something, usually somewhat out of order from expected process.
A griddle.
Eating utensils used by front-of-house guests for food consumption. Also referred to as silverware.
A term to describe a food enthusiast. A foodie can be a home cook, an inspiring restaurateur or one who thoroughly enjoys trying new foods.
Food Pan:
See Cambro.
Front of House:
(FOH): This describes area of a food service establishment that houses guest such as the eating area. Also describes the staff member that makes direct contact with the customers such as wait staff, hostess, cashier, delivery drivers, bartenders and the like.
A large, container purposed for frying food.


Garde –Manager:
The position who prepares cold foods such as, including salads and desserts.
Also known as a gridiron, a unit used for cooking food, especially meat over an open fire.
A spray nozzle on hose for sodas.


Happy Hour:
A discount period for alcoholic beverages.
A request to omit an item. (Ex. “I need a Greek salad, hold on the feta.”)
A device containing a fan with the purpose of removing airborne grease, unwanted fuclude grease, heat, ventless, and condensation amongst others.
Hotel Pan:
Stackable metal pans used to store food, bake products, and serve food in steam wells. There are many pans of different sizes and shapes that relate in volume to the hotel pan: for example, three ? pans or 3 pan can fit into a full size pan. There are also terms for the depth of the pan – deep or shallow.


Induction Cooking:
A newer technology used for heating cookware and thus the food by using magnetic energy.
In The Weeds:
A hectic time frame at a foodservice establishment, when staff members are extremely busy with both current orders and incoming orders.


Kids Meal:
A meal made for children that is in smaller portions that the regular entrée.
Keep It Simple Stupid; keeping things as simple as possible to increase productivity.


Last Call:
A warning from the bartender to order your last alcoholic beverages before the bar shuts down.
The main cooking area in a restaurant. This is where you will find the cooks fulfilling tickets, putting finishing touches on plates and passing food out to the front of house. Usually a lineup of multiple cooking stations that makes up the bulk of working area in a kitchen. Can also refer to the expediting area where finished orders are passed between kitchen and wait-staff.
Line Cook:
A cook that works the main cooking line.
Line Up:
A group huddle meant to explain special assignment, events or information to staff before start of shift.


To grill something until it has visible grill marks.
A process of combining a bottle’s contents into fewer bottles. A common proactive that is not deemed best practice in the restaurant industry.
Mise en Place:
A French cooking term that means to “put into place”. It entails having all of your cooking ingredients in place before you begin preparing the meal.
Mispick or Mislabel:
Falsely labeled or branded food items.


No Call/ No Show:
An employee who does not show up for or call into work for his or her scheduled shift.
No Fire:
A term used in an effort to avoid shortages. It means “don’t make”. Common if an order has been changed last minute.
To heat something in the microwave.


On Deck or On Order:
New ticket that has just come into the kitchen. Usually will be called out to the line so cooks so they know what to prep to cook the items on the new ticket.
On the Fly:
To request that an entree or item be rushed out quickly.
On the Rocks:
On ice.
Out of the bag:
Refers to utilizing a cash or change bag when POS systems go down and manually calculating change.


Group at a table.
POS System:
Also, known as the point of sale system. This usually includes a cash register, cash drawer, receipt printer, scanner and screen monitor.
Prioritize selling a particular item.


Quick Service:
Also known as QSR, refers to a typically fast food restaurant.


Container used to move dishes through a dish machine or store quantities of dishes and cups.
Rail or Board:
Refers to the area where tickets are held that the kitchen is working on. Many places now have electronic screens and ticketing systems.
To re-ignite or redo a part of an order.
A frequent visitor to your establishment. Someone who is like a fan or a friend of the business.
A brand well-known for food processors, juicer, and mixers. Pronounced “ROBO-coop”. So established its almost synonymous for a food processor.
Roll or Rollup:
Rolled napkin and flatware.
To take a finished item from the kitchen to the customer.
The timeframe when a restaurant becomes very busy. (Ex. “We get a rush around 12 pm every weekday.”)


To fire (a staff member).
Technique where the food item is browned in a pan using a small amount of oil or butter.
Gender free term for wait staff.
Shelf Life:
Length of time before a food item loses its quality.
To miss a component of a dish or drink.
Extra duties performed by front of house staff such as refilling condiments, rolling silverware, or stocking restrooms.
When an employee leaves work without doing end-of-shift tasks.
Wine expert or steward.
Sous Chef:
The chef under the Executive Chef, who is responsible for managing daily operations.
Front of house, the tables a server is responsible for; back of house, the area of the line a cook is responsible for.
Customer that does not tip.
To substitute.


Includes flat ware, drinking and serving tools such as glasses, plates, forks and knives.
Food prepared/order to go rather than dine in.
A detailing of a customer’s order that is given to the back of house staff to prepare.
An additional amount of money provided to wait or bar staff to show gratitude for excellent service. Tipping is common, and is often expected in US but is not in every culture.
The number in a party.
# Top:
Referring to the number of guests that can be seated at a table. “6 top” is a table that seats 6, where a “4 top” seats 4. Single, seating 1, and deuce, seating 2, are also used.
Turn & Burn:
To turn over a table quickly.
Turn over:
(1) number of times a table has gone through the entire service from seating to service to payment to resetting.
(2) employee rotation where many employees start and leave jobs at a particular place.


Meaning that plates are ready to be picked up and run to customers.
A fork, knife or other tool used for eating or cooking. See flatware.


Variable Costs:
Costs that do not remain constant such as inventory.
To list of menu modifications.
Very important customer such as a food critic or a special guest.
Take off the check without costing restaurant anything. Usually an item that was double rung up or cancelled before the kitchen fired it.


Wait List:
List managed by the host or hostess which keeps track of the guests waiting to be seated at the restaurant.
Wait staff:
All the servers on staff - potentially the hosts as well.
A customer or employee has left without proper notice (A customer did not pay, or a staff member quit).
Refrigeration unit that can both store food items, and be walked into.
Wax it:
Giving VIP or special treatment to a table or customer.
(1) Steam well where hotel pans keep food ready to serve, such as on a buffet.
(2) A cheaper alcohol that is used when a customer doesn’t specify a brand.
Process of blending anything in a food processor, or blender.
A round cooking unit mostly used for stir frying and steaming.
Food that is cooking.


Year to Date is the time beginning at the current year to the current date.


Italian name for the word soup.

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