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Servittude, Part II: Restaurant Slang June 18, 2007

Posted by flyingsirkus in Servittude.

Here’s one I’ll ask your help with, with a bonus True Story at the end as a Thank You Gift.

I tried Googling “Restaurant Slang” the other day and couldn’t find a decent site listing phrases that those of us in the industry bark and bandy about all the time. All I could find were sites listing cutesy old-time diner speak (like “Adam and Eve on a raft, wrecked” for two eggs over easy on toast…no one in the modern biz talks like that unless they’re in a theme restaurant.)

Here are a few that I can think of off the top of my head from my fourteen years (!!!) as a short order cook, pizza cook, prep cook, restaurant owner, and, of course, waitron. If you’d like to comment with some contributions of your own, let me know under what name you’d like to be credited and I’ll add your suggestion to the list. It’s my list, so I reserve the right to omit suggestions I’ve never heard of or that I don’t think qualify as slang (like a Black and Blue steak, which is an actual cooking style for meat).

(insert number here)-top: Party of (x) number of people, table of (x) number of people. Table capable of seating up to (x) number of people.
All-day:  total number of a specific menu item hanging on the ticket rail (“I got five french toasts workin’ all-day” means that, as of right now, there need to be five orders of french toast in the window fast.)
Clusterfuck: traffic jam created by restaurant staff
Comp: Giving food away to the customer for promotional/retention purposes (see Spill, see Void)
Deuce: table capable of seating up to two people, more if your hostess is creative. Party of two.
Dupe: Duplicate ticket/carbon copy of an order. Also, the pad of paper used by servers to write down orders.
Dyin’ in the window: refers to food that has been sitting under heat lamps waiting for some item to complete the order
Eighty-six: to be or to run out of
Grat: Gratuity, mandatory tip added to a check
Hi-top: tall tables that require barstools/barchairs to seat. Cocktail tables.
In the weeds: So busy you can’t stop or critical mass will be reached and shit will start seriously hitting the fan.
Kill it: Overcook food almost to a cinder.
Meez: your mise-en-place, or set up
Open kitchen: A working kitchen area visible to guests in the restaurant.
Sidework: seemingly neverending list of preparatory tasks performed by waitstaff, like slicing lemons, folding napkins, polishing silverware, etc.
Slinger: server. Often preceded by hash, egg, snail…
SOS: Sauce on side
Spill: taking food that has been prepared and/or served off a bill (see Void, see Comp)
Stiff: to have been left no tip; the person who left no tip
Throw a pie: to make a pizza (see Toss a pie)
Toss a pie: to make a pizza (see Throw a pie)
Two-top: table capable of seating up to two people, more if your hostess is creative. Party of two.
Void: taking food that has not been prepared and/or served off a bill (see Spill, see Comp)
Waitron: Server
Window: heat-lamp area where food transitions from the kitchen to the dining room


This actually isn’t so much about slang as it is about shorthand. I used to work as a short-order cook in a dingy diner on the oceanfront in Virginia Beach. This was in the days before the ubiquity of computers, when waitstaff had to write their orders down on dupes and hang them on the ticket wheel for the cooks to read and fill. We had a typical breakfast menu item: your choice of eggs done your way, one of four breakfast meats, your choice of toasts, etc.

There are universal codes that every server/cook who has worked breakfasts knows: OL, OE, OM, OW, OH for egg styles (over light, over easy, over medium, over well, over hard), WHI, WHE, RYE for toast choices (white, wheat, or rye). Then there are things that servers abbreviate with a little more latitude and a little less consistency, usually the meats: B or BAC for bacon, SAU or SSG for sausage.

Let’s say the menu item number for the standard eggs-meat-toast breakfast is #3. If someone orders over easy eggs, white toast, and bacon, the server would write a dupe that looks like this:


Well, I had only been working as a short order cook for a few days when one day, the waitress hung this dupe on my wheel:


And I stood there, completely puzzled. Count? What the heck did she want me to count? The dupes were starting to pile up on the wheel, the waitress was nowhere to be found, and I could not for the life of me figure out why she wrote COUNT on the dupe.

I should mention that I was working in an open kitchen, so I was only about five feet from an entire counterful of guests.

After turning this over in my head for a while, the light bulb eventually flicked ON. She did not mean “count” like 1-2-3-4 etc. She was making up her own abbreviation for Country Ham!

I was so excited that I figured out the riddle that I said the obvious answer out loud phonetically, and without thinking, and quite loudly, and for the entire counter of guests to hear:


Ever hear an entire breakfast restaurant go silent?



1. BigInfluenceMusic - March 17, 2008

really nice quickie post. every foodie should know this stuff.

best to you from LA, CA

2. Scarlett J. - April 14, 2008

hahaha, niiice.

3. Lisa - June 10, 2008

what do these things mean?
double short
black & blue

4. jeremiah - June 18, 2008

floor spice…..when u drop it on the floor

5. Jake Van Cleve - June 21, 2008

From one of your previous commentors, how about “foodie?” I’ve often said it to “normies” who look at me with a befuddled look on their faces …

6. demandrea - July 24, 2008

Ha! So funny! I said it myself as I read it…. 🙂 laughed out loud! Good thing she didn’t shorten it any more…

7. lauren - February 25, 2009

great post! made me laugh :). here’re a few more i thought of off the top of my head. i’ve got a bunch of bar slang, but there’re probably enough of those to make an entire other list.

“on the fly”: right away…usually when a server skrews up and needs an order out ie: “i need those burgers otf please!”

“neat”: this one’s for the drink slingers…meaning no ice

“slammed”: when you’re in the weeds because your hostess decided to seat your entire section at the same time

“the walk-in”: not sure if this is considered slang, but it’s the big ol’ fridge where most of the prep food/veggies are stored

“back of the house”: the kitchen, prep area, dishwashing station, etc. (and workers) that customers don’t see

“front of the house”: servers, dining room, hostesses, etc. that customers do see

“expo”: the task/person responsible for garnishing the food after it’s up in the window, before it’s run out to the tables

“industry”: short for anything pertaining to the restaurant/food/bar industry….ie: “industry people are their own breed”

8. Dulce de Leche or, Fear In A Can | Sweets - July 10, 2009

[…] fryer full of scorching oil. I worry about falling onto a counter and impaling my eyeball with the dupe spike. I imagine stumbling onto the fiery flat-top, branding the entire side of my face. And every […]

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