Monday, June 13, 2011

restaurant terminology M-Z

The final instalment of restaurant lingo.  If I have missed anything or you'd like clarification on any term let me know in the comment section and I'll do my best to respond!

M'aitre D: see 'Host/Hostess' (this is an old term that is rarely relevant anymore).  Though it can refer to the head waiter in situations where it remains relevant.

Mise en Place: Originally referred to the set up of the just kitchen stations but has broadened into use in the front of house. Essentially, it means 'everything in its place'. (Kitchen - garnishes, salt & pepper, olive oil, chef towel, prep) (FOH - extra cutlery, bar garnish, service napkin, pens, float, etc).

Modifier: A change to a menu item to intimate how the customer prefers something (Eg. martini - up, olives OR steak - medrare).

Plating: Putting the food on the plate. This includes adding any sauce or garnish before handing over to the expediter 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.  It is also lovingly referred to as a 'piece of shit' system when it crashes/locks up.

Prix Fixe: Pronounced [PREE-feeks] this literally means 'fixed price' and usually refers to a set menu with a specific number of items for a set price.

On the Fly: Get it done right now! This term pops up when something has been forgotten or added and must be cooked last minute.

Sections: Many restaurant dining rooms are divided into areas that have a certain number of tables in each one, and each 'section' goes to a particular wait staff each shift.

Sharking: Circling a table repeatedly, often because the restaurant is slow (usually while playing the theme from Jaws in your head).  Also can mean luring an employee from one restaurant to another (also while playing the Jaws theme).

Sous Chef: Literally means 'under chef'.  This is the person in charge of the kitchen when the head chef is not around.

Substitutions: Changes to a menu item requested by the guest.  Often an irritation to the kitchen, particularly when they are 'in the weeds'!

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.

Walk in: A table of guests that arrives without reservations.  This is acceptable for small parties of 4 or less but becomes difficult to accommodate when larger than 6 guests are present.  This also refers to a refrigerator/freezer that is large enough to be walked into (Eg. "Can you get me some more cream? It's in the walk in"


  1. Re: substitutions - you should do a whole post on this! I always wonder how much it annoys the kitchen staff. As a picky eater I never know if I should order the dish I *really* want, just without the red peppers, or opt for something else that I wouldn't have to ask them to change...

  2. Happy to oblige, check out the next post!

  3. How about asshat? As in: That asshat customer, that asshat 4 top, that asshat manager, etc., etc.. Just a thought.