Glossary of Restaurant Business Terms

Overhead view of smiling female friends sharing lunch in restaurant
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The restaurant business has a language all its own. If you've never worked in a restaurant before some terms, like In the Weeds may not make sense. Here is a list of common restaurant terms that are handy to know, whether you are considering working in a restaurant or opening your own restaurant. 

  • Back of House: Refers to the area of a restaurant that guests are not allowed. The kitchen, dishwashing area, and wait station are all located in the back of the house. 
  • Bar-back: An assistant for the bartender. A bar-back usually runs glasses through the dishwasher, stocks the coolers and liquor bottles, and pours beer, wine and non-alcoholic drinks for the wait staff. A bar-back can also double as a busser (below). 
  • Bussing: Term used for clearing off and resetting tables after guests have left. In busier restaurants, this is done by the busboy (also called a busser).
  • Chaffing Dish: A metal dish that is filled with water and kept warm with a candle or fuel cell underneath. These are typically used on buffets.
  • Eight-Six: If the kitchen runs out of a particular dish, the dish is “86.”
  • Expediter: The kitchen staff who groups plated food together by table number, for the servers to deliver.
  • Front of House: Refers to the area of a restaurant where guests are allowed. The dining room and bar are all in the front of the house. 
  • Host/Hostess: The person who meets the guests and shows them to their table. The host is also responsible for keeping track of reservations and waiting lines.
  • In the Weeds: A term that means it is really, really busy. For example, if the kitchen has several orders across the board and are having a hard time keeping up, they are “in the weeds.”
  • Line: The line is the area that divides the cooks from the wait staff. It is where the food is placed to await pickup.
  • Mise en Place: Refers to the set up of the sauté station. Essentially, it means everything in its place. Most cooks put certain ingredients in a certain spot each shift (salt and pepper to the right, olive oil to the left).
  • Plating: Putting the food on the plate is referred to as plating. This includes adding any sauce or garnish before handing over to the expeditor or the server.
  • POS System: A point of sale system is a computer system that helps businesses track sales. It also tracks employee sales (who sold the most during a shift) and which dishes are sold most often. Read more about how a POS system can benefit your restaurant. 
  • On the Fly: Get it done right now! This term pops up when something has to be cooked last minute.
  • Sections: Many restaurant dining rooms are divided into sections, and each section goes to a particular wait staff each shift.
  • Sharking: Luring an employee from one restaurant to another is called sharking. 
  • Turnover Rate: How fast tables empty and fill during a shift. A high turnover rate means more people have eaten and gone, while a slow turnover rate means the same people have been at the table for a long time, or the table is sitting empty. Do you have turnover problems? Find out how to hire a great staff and keep them.