How Well Do You Know Restaurant Lingo?


Michael Moraitis

6 Min Quiz

Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

Do you know your front of house positions from back of house ones? Can you tell a bubble dancer from a bev nap, or a dupe from a double? If you know the answers to all these questions, 86 your plans for the next few minutes and see if you can ace this restaurant lingo quiz!

Ask anyone you know how they're doing, and you're likely to hear, "Busy." With more demands on our time then ever, people are wearing their busy-ness like a badge of pride, and doing anything it takes to squeeze even more into their already tight schedules. That means less time for everyday tasks like cooking. 

Fortunately, this tired and busy population is great news for the restaurant industry. In 2017, the average person spent about half of their total food budget on eating out, resulting in just shy of $800 billion in restaurant sales.

While the U.S. is home to more than a million restaurants eager to feed all those hungry customers, nine out of ten of those restaurants are small operations with less than 50 employees, and many work on incredibly tight margins.

To keep customers happy without blowing the budget, restaurant workers have developed their own language that allows them to communicate as quickly and efficiently as possible -- which means customers get their food faster, made correctly, and leave satisfied.

Think you can speak like a server or chef? Take our quiz and see how much you really know about the secret lingo of the restaurant world!

Which restaurant position typically works in the "front of the house"?

The "front of the house" is the area in which customers relax and eat. Positions such as server, busboy and bartender work in this area.


What does it mean when a menu item is "86'ed"?

You can also use the term "86" when something needs to be thrown out because it may have gone bad. While "86" is widely used, there is no concrete history of where the term came from.


What is a deuce?

A deuce is a table that can seat up to two people, but can also be used for a single person. A manager always prefers to seat his single customers at a deuce because he'd prefer to save the bigger tables for bigger parties (three or more).


What are campers?

Customers are campers when they sit for far too long, which is typically considered to be an hour or more. Taking up a table for hours on end and not leaving a bigger tip than check percentage is basically taking money out of a server's pocket.


What is a hockey puck, in restaurant terms?

A hockey puck is a well-done hamburger that also tends to be less juicy. Of course, what is well-done for some may be burnt for others.


What does it mean to "kill" or "cremate" food?

When food is killed or cremated, it is cooked very well-done. Cooking a hamburger to hockey puck status can be considered killing or cremating it.


Where does food that is cooked and ready to go out to the customer sit?

The window is where cooked food sits before being taken by the server to the customer. The window is also the line that separates the servers from the cooks.


Which restaurant position is in the "back of the house"?

The "back of the house" is where the kitchen is in a restaurant. Some establishments can have a manager for both the "back of the house" and "front of the house."


What does it mean if food is "dying in the window"?

While the window is heated, leaving food there for too long is bad. Not only will the food inevitably get cold, but sauces may develop into a solid layer and some items may become overly crisp or crunchy.


What is a "walk-in box"?

Freezers and refrigerators can both be considered walk-in boxes. Upkeep on walk-ins is extremely important, as all of the restaurant's perishables are stored there. You can find everything from french fries to steak in walk-in boxes.


What is a "party," in restaurant terms?

A party is simply a group of customers who have come to the restaurant and are sitting together. Parties can be as small as two and as big as 30.


Which of these can be used to explain what "no call/no show" means?

One of the worst feelings for a manager/owner is when one of his employees doesn't show up for work. Not only does it mean the staff is short for the night, but now the manager must also find a replacement.


Which restaurant position is also called a "bubble dancer"?

When was the last time you went to a restaurant and thought about the dishwasher? Well, you should, because if you like eating off of clean plates and drinking out of clean cups, then you should probably appreciate the dishwasher more.


When a server is "slammed," that server is what?

A server is slammed when he or she is very busy or overwhelmed, typically as a result of being sat multiple times at once. Being seated with a slammed server means a customer will be waiting a long time for everything from drinks to the food they ordered.


What is a "bev nap"?

When serving alcoholic drinks, the "bev nap" or beverage napkin is usually placed underneath the glass. These napkins are normally found behind or on top of the bar.


What does it mean to "comp" something?

The term "comp" comes from the word complementary, which is something given free of charge. A manager may do this to make up for a mistake at a table to keep the customer happy, or a manager may "comp" items for important or famous customers.


What does it mean to work a "double"?

Restaurants are typically broken down into multiple shifts of a day, with morning/afternoon and night shifts. Any employee who works both shifts is considered to be working a "double."


What does it mean when a server is "triple sat"?

The term "triple sat" refers to a scenario in which a server has three tables with people who arrived at the same time. The term "double sat" is also used when a server is sat two tables in a row; however being "double sat" isn't as daunting for a server as being "triple sat."


What is a "dupe"?

Servers pass the orders of the customers to the cooks via "dupes," which are typically carbon copies of orders. These traditional "dupes" aren't used as much nowadays as restaurants have moved to computer systems for ordering. Even so, the printed out tickets cooks get in the kitchen can still be called "dupes."


What does it mean for a server to "drop" a drink or food order?

When a server brings food or a drink to a table, the server has "dropped" it to the customer. This term can also be used when cooks start to prepare and cook an order for the customer.


What does an expeditor do?

Expeditors are the last line of defense for orders going out correctly and on time. Not only does the expeditor organize orders and check them for accuracy, but a good expeditor will also put pressure on a server who is taking too long to pick up an order off the window.


Which piece of restaurant equipment is used to "nuke it"?

The term "nuke it" comes from the belief that using the microwave releases radioactive energy. This has proven to be false, but the thing about not putting aluminum foil in there is very true.


What does it mean to "push" an item?

A manager will tell his staff to "push" a particular menu item when he or she wants to get rid of the remaining stock of said item. The server is then expected to suggest the item to customers.


What happens when a server is "stiffed" by a customer?

Servers make their living through tips, so it is vital customers don't "stiff" them. Busboys also typically get a percentage of a server's tips, so it has a chain effect. Only in extreme, catastrophic cases is it ok to not leave a server a tip.


Which of these is considered "sidework"?

"Sidework" is usually performed by staff who work in the front of the house. Servers are responsible for refilling shakers on their tables, amongst other things.


What does it mean when a server "skates" on their sidework?

When a server "skates" on their sidework, another employee must pick up the slack and complete those tasks for them. It is considered quite disrespectful to do such a thing.


What is a server's station?

Every server has their own station in most restaurants. Some establishments use a rotation system for servers, however that can lead to a lot of complication and servers are usually less effective when having tables in two separate areas that are far away from one another.


If a customer wants their steak "still mooing," how does the customer want it cooked?

"Still mooing" refers to a steak that is rare to very rare, and very undercooked. Aren't these people concerned about food-borne illness?


What does it mean to "upsell"?

Managers will have servers try to "upsell" when they have different versions of the same item at different prices. This also benefits servers because the bigger the check, the bigger the tip.


What does it mean to "turn tables"?

It is especially important for serves to "turn tables" when there is a line of customers waiting for tables at the door. The faster servers can turn tables, the more money they will be able to make when the restaurant is full.


What does it mean when a customer has "walked out" on a check?

As petty as it may seem, "walking out" on a check is considered a crime. Allowing a customer to leave without paying is a systemic failure in a restaurant, from the server to the manager/owner.


What does the term "shorting" mean?

"Shorting" is an extremely dirty method used by vendors to make extra money from restaurants for selling less product. If a vendor is caught shorting a restaurant, that establishment should immediately cut ties with the vendor. This also outlines the importance of restaurants checking incoming orders from vendors.


What does it mean to "drop" the check?

A manager will often encourage staff to "drop" checks when there is a line waiting at the door. This helps "turn tables" faster so customers don't have to wait too long.


What does it mean when a server asks for "more fire"?

This typically happens when burgers or steaks aren't cooked to the liking of a customer, whether it was the mistake of the kitchen or the customer not knowing how to order their meat.


Which of these best describes a reason why a manager may have to "cover" a shift?

Along with front and back of the house responsibilities, a manager must also take care of scheduling. Part of that responsibility is covering or filling in shifts when something unexpected happens with an employee. Having an employee cover someone else's shift can lead to that employee working a "double."


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