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. Some common restaurant terms are handy to know whether you are considering working in a restaurant or opening your own. 

  • Back of House: Refers to the area of a restaurant where guests are not allowed. The kitchen, dishwashing area, and wait station are the back of the house.
  • Bar-back: An assistant to 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 waitstaff. 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: Typically used on buffets, they are a metal dish filled with water and kept warm with a candle or fuel cell underneath.
  • Eight-Six: If the kitchen runs out of a particular dish, the dish is “86.”
  • Expediter: The kitchen staff who group 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 the front of the house. 
  • Host/Hostess: The person who meets the guests and shows them to their tables. The host is also responsible for keeping track of reservations and waiting lines.
  • In the Weeds: A term that means it is extremely 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 waitstaff. 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, like salt and pepper to the right, olive oil to the left.
  • Plating: Arranging the food on the plate. This includes adding any sauce or garnish before handing over to the expeditor or the server.
  • Point of Sale (POS): A point of sale system is a computer system that helps businesses track sales. It also tracks employee sales and which dishes are sold most often.
  • On the Fly: When something unexpected has to be cooked urgently, like when a mistake is made in an order or additional items are needed.
  • Sections: Most restaurant dining rooms are divided into sections, and each section goes to particular waitstaff each shift.
  • Sharking: Luring an employee from one restaurant to another. 
  • 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 tables for a long time, or the table is sitting empty.