Grab Your Apron: 32 Kitchen & Restaurant Terms Defined

by | Dec 21, 2022 | Operations

Photo from Chuzai Living

Kitchens are the heart of your home—and your restaurant.  As you know, the back of the house is constantly busy, so your team needs to streamline every process, including how they communicate. That’s why almost every kitchen has its own lingo, full of acronyms and abbreviations that only make sense to those in the know. While some vary from restaurant to restaurant, there are a few consistent ones in the industry. From order tickets to expediting, there’s a lot of new vocabulary to learn if you’re just starting in the restaurant business. To help you get up to speed, we’ve compiled a list of common kitchen and restaurant terms from A-Z—along with definitions and explanations of how they’re used. Here’s a list of all the most common kitchen terms you need to know to run your business or work in a kitchen.

32 Common Restaurant Terms: Kitchen Slang

When you just start working in the restaurant industry— i’s like learning a new language. Luckily, it’s a lot easier once you get the terms down. These are some of the ones you’re most likely to hear if you work Back of House.

  • 2-top, 4-top, 6-top: The number before “top” refers to how many people are in a party. So a “2-top” is a table for two people, while a “6-top” is a table for six people.
  • 86: This is short for “86’d,” which means an item is no longer available. For example, if a restaurant is “86’d” of chicken, that means there’s no chicken left to order.
  • À La Minute: This is a French term that means: to the minute. In other words, it means dishes are made to order.
  • À La Carte: This French term means “to the menu.” An à la carte menu is a menu where each dish is priced individually, as opposed to meals with drinks.
  • All Day: Refers to the total number of orders the kitchen needs to cook within a specific time frame.
  • Back of the House: The “back of the house,” sometimes called the BOH, is the kitchen and all prep areas, including the dishwashing station. BOH includes the chefs, sous chefs, kitchen prep, and storage area staff.
  • Batch Cooking: Cooking large quantities of food at once that sous chefs can quickly reheat and serve later.
  • Busser: A busser is a restaurant worker whose job is to clear and reset tables.
  • Campers: These are guests who linger long after they’ve finished and paid for their meal. Restaurant servers don’t like these people because they’d rather seat new guests.
  • Chit: Another name for the order ticket that the kitchen receives for every table. 
  • Covers: The number of people served in the dining room. Managers count the number of covers per shift to determine how to distribute work evenly on future shifts.
  • Dead Plate: It is a dish that servers can no longer serve. It is when a customer sends it back to the kitchen, or the chef prepares the food incorrectly.
  • Drop the Check: It is when servers present the check to the guests after their meal.
  • Dupe: Shortcut for duplicate. In restaurant slang, it means a carbon copy of an order ticket.
  • Dying on the Pass: It is when a dish is sitting too long in the window and is at risk of becoming unservable.
  • Expo: Shortcut for expeditor.It refers to the person assigned to read orders as they come in and put in the finishing touches before serving the food to guests.
  • Fire: When you hear this, it’s time to start cooking a dish. For example, “the guests are almost done with their appetizer. Fire the steaks!”
  • FIFO: First in, first out.
  • Floor: Usually used to refer to the dining room.
  • Food Runner: It is exactly what it is, the person in charge of running the food to the table. Food runners are usually new employees who are still in training and getting familiar with the restaurant’s dishes.
  • Front of the House: The “front of the house,” sometimes called the FOH, is everything outside the kitchen. It refers to the dining room, waiting area, and bar. FOH also means the customer-facing employees, including the servers, hostesses, bartenders, bussers, etc.
  • Heard: If you’ve watched Hell’s Kitchen, you’ve probably heard this a thousand times. It is when the chef calls out order tickets, and the cooking staff will acknowledge that they got the orders by saying, “Heard, chef!”
  • In the Weeds: The phrase in the weeds means someone has a hectic schedule and can no longer keep up. It is a situation most staff dread and often happens when a restaurant is understaffed on a busy night.
  • In the Window: When an order is ready for the guest’s table, the chef will put it “in the window.” It refers to the warming area between the kitchen and the serving station.
  • Kill It: It is a kitchen lingo that means to cook a dish extremely well done. For example, killing a steak means overcooking it.
  • Low Boy: An under-counter refrigerator is called a low boy. It is a convenient place where kitchen staff store prepped ingredients for a seamless workflow during shifts.
  • Mise En Place: It’s another French term that translates to “putting in place.” It’s a term that cooks live by as it refers to having all your ingredients measured, cut, peeled, sliced, grated, etc., before a shift starts. It is also used to indicate that all the pans and equipment are already set and prepped.
  • On the Fly: When a server orders on the fly, it means that you need to cook and serve the dish as soon as possible. This happens when a server forgets to fire an order, or a guest is unsatisfied with their meal.
  • OTS: On the side. For example, “one caesar salad with dressing OTS.”
  • POS: Point of sale. It is the technology used to place orders and receive payments.
  • Stretch It: A chef slang that means making ingredients last as long as possible. One way chefs stretch ingredients is by giving smaller portions of it in each dish.
  • Waxing a Table: A term used to infer that you’re giving VIP treatment to a table.

Talk the Talk of Experts

We hope this guide to common kitchen and restaurant terms was helpful! Whether you’re just starting out in the restaurant industry or you’ve been working in restaurants for years, understanding the lingo is essential to success. With this guide in hand, you’ll be able to talk the talk and navigate any kitchen with ease. Need help scaling and streamlining your restaurant operations?  Reach out today to see how we can help with your data and analytics system!

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