As you may be aware, we restaurant staff kinda have our own language. Here are some serious and fun terms we use in the biz, both front of house and back of house. Some are mundane, some will have you cracking up, some will be familiar and some new. And this list is by no means complete. Add your favorite terms in the comments – I want to learn too!
This is going to be a fun post. Enjoy!
86, 86’ed – basically means no more. Can refer to a product or a customer who has been ejected.
Alcohol by Volume – (ABV) used to measure the alcohol content of a beverage. A beverage’s ABV is equal to half of the proof.
Alcohol Abuse – a pun used when a beer or cocktail is spilled on accident. Also known as a party foul.
All Day – slang term meaning total of like dishes being prepared. e.g. “I need two more BLT’s. That’s six all day.”
BAC – Blood Alcohol Content; a measurement of how much alcohol is in the bloodstream; milligrams of alcohol per 100 milliliters of blood.
Back of the House – refers to the parts of the restaurant the customers do not usually have access to: the kitchen, prep area, dishroom, offices, store rooms. Can also refer to the personnel who work in those areas. At the Red Robin, we refer to it as “Heart of House”.
Bank – the money carried by a server to make change throughout their shift.
Bar back – a bartender helper who restocks and runs errands for the bartender. Duties can vary from pouring drafts, running food and bevs, stocking anything and everything, calling cops, running to the bank or store.
Barista – a coffee bar tender, maker of espresso, cappuccinos and the like.
Bar Fly – one who frequents or hangs at a bar.
Bar Time – Bar time is usually 15-20 minutes faster than the rest of the clocks in the time zone. It doesn’t matter what your watch says. It’s a bar, its bar time, don’t argue.
Behind – a verbal warning called out when walking behind others so as to prevent them from stepping short or back or sideways into you and knocking a tray of food or drinks (or worse) out of your hands.
Benjamin – slang for $100 bill; $100 American; a very nice tip.
Burn – to throw away or write off wasted or overmade product.
Bus, Busser – to clean tables; one who, among very many other duties, cleans tables.
Bistro – a laid back informal European style restaurant, generally on the small side (Sips only has 8 tables plus 5 seats at the bar). Believed to be taken from Russian, meaning fast.
Bouncer – a typically large employee who watches the door and keeps order, physically when necessary.
Breastrant – slang term for a “dining establishment” with scantily clad waitstaff. ex-Hooters is a very popular breastrant.
Call – refers to a named spirit used in a drink; above the well liquor. Absolut is a typical call vodka, whereas some cheap swill like Popov would be the low-budget well vodka in the speed rack.
Campers – people who dawdle at their table long after they are finished, usually wrapped up in conversation or making out. Not really a problem unless they’re tying up tables or keeping people on the clock who want to leave. If you want to camp, remember you can pay your bill and still linger. Your server can close out your ticket as long as you’ve signed your credit slip. And remember; that table (especially in the bar area or whatever my section is) is Prime Real Estate. Tip accordingly if you are preventing that table from being reused (aka turned around).
Carafe – a glass bottle with a flared opening used to serve wine.
Chaser, Back, Sidecar – Beverage accompanying a shot used to help one deal with the aftertaste of whatever they’re drinking. May I suggest that if you don’t like the flavor of what you’re drinking you may want to try drinking something else. Like milk, you sissy. ;P
Chew and Screw – dine and dash; walk out on the bill. Not cool. When I’m on, don’t even let me hear you joke about it.
Chimneyfish – someone who smokes like a chimney and drinks like a fish. Not often found in, but rather outside of, CA bars since smoking has been banned since, like 1997.
Church Key – thin metal combo bottle and can opener.
Class 6 – classification that alcoholic beverages would fall under in the military. According to an ex-Air Force friend of mine “Class 6 is what you would consider to be a Cumberland Farms or a Wawa for the Military. Except that is where you buy all your liquor if you are military.” (For my non-East Coast readers, a Wawa is a convenience store like the Stop N Save, 7-11, or Circle-K, only WAY friggin’ better.) He also noted that Class 6 is typically Air Force and is not sure if the Army/Navy/Marines call it that.
Clinking – the act of tappng 2 glasses together, which makes the glass holders drink. It is bad manners (and bad juju) to not take the glass directly to your mouth after clinking. Also known as toasting or tapping.
Clusterfxxx – a disorganized, messed up situation generally occurring when too much input comes from too many sources who think they are helping but are really being counterproductive.
Comp – short for complimentary; refers to food, drink, swag, whatever given to a guest for free for many different reasons. Could be a VIP, or to make up for shortcomings, or as a marketing device. Or to catch a hot mama’s phone number.
Corkage – the fee charged by an establishment to a guest who brings their own wine. The price of corkage will vary from restaurant to restaurant – at Sips, Bill is apt to waive corkage for those buying wine in our wine shop. However, you shouldn’t argue the corkage fee, since the establishment is still paying for the glasses and the washing of the glasses, and the presentation and opening of your bottle…
Corked – wine ruined by a faulty cork; air has entered the bottle.
Corner – a verbal warning called out to warn others when you’re coming around a blind corner. As with “Behind”, this warning can/will/has prevented many a disaster.
Cougar – an older lady searching for and maybe even hitting on a much younger man / men.
Coyote Ugly – description for a bedmate with whom you wake up and they are so ugly you’d rather gnaw off your own arm to get away from them rather than wake them.
Cut off – occurs when the bartender stops serving you drinks
Dash – approximately 1/2 tsp.
Dead Soldier – empty beer bottle.
Decant – to pour out a bottle of wine into another container to aerate it, or to remove sediment.
Designated Driver – lucky person who stays sober to drive when necessary, and eventually take embarassing pictures of their friends doing crazy stuff, or in odd passed-out positions.
Dick Beaters – derogatory slang term for fingers and/or hands. Ex.; “This barfly just dick beatered the cherries in my fruit tray. Now I have to burn ’em and pull out some fresh ones.”
Distillation – a process to purify or separate a substance by heating.
Dive – a lower-class drinking establishment; can be warm and friendly or full of trouble. Usually the drink prices are lowest at your favorite dive.
Droddle – that which is left in an abandoned drink glass.
Dry – pertaining to wine it means without sweetness; pertaining to a martini it refers to little or no dry vermouth
Dutch Courage – British slang from Anglo-Dutch wars; now used as a term for a drink before a challenge.
Echo – Red Robin phrase for “I hear you and I understand”.
Fermentation – a chemical reaction where yeast produces alcohol from a sitting starch, ie sugar.
Finish – the last taste left by a drink in the mouth
Fire – means to start cooking or preparing. As in, “Ok, my guest has her burger. You can fire that milkshake now.”
Flea – bad tipper, because their little arms are too short to reach down into their pockets. Don’t be a flea. The only Flea I like plays bass for the Chili Peppers.
Freddy – a pint of Heineken, named for Freddy Heineken who died Jan 5, 2002.
Free Pour – to pour a cocktail without the use of a measuring device, such as a jigger; measuring by eye and memory. You must practice to free pour successfully. In my opinion, it’s the only way for me to pour. There is no shame in surrendering to jiggering, for those who need to! (Love ya, Heather!)
Front of the House – refers to the part of a restaurant that a customer sees. The bar, dining room, hostess station are all Front of House. Also refers to the staff who work in these areas.
Fruit Tray – the tray of fruit garnish at the bar, usually consisting of lemon and lime wedges and / or twists, orange wedges, cherries, olives, cocktail onions and any other garnishes necessary for the establisments’ house drinks.
G.T.F.O. – Get The Fxxx Out; acronym often used at the end of my shift…”Hey, Zack, if you don’t need me anymore I’m gonna G.T.F.O.”
Giggle Juice – liquor; any alcoholic beverage, really.
Ground Control – somebody who stays sober (enough) at a party to keep an eye on their overindulgent (girl/boy)friend.
Hair of the Dog – a drink taken to combat hangover. Commonly a Bloody Mary. I recommend a vanilla milkshake made with real vanilla bean ice cream, altho it has no alcohol.
Head – BE CAREFUL WITH THIS WORD – 1. the rest room. 2. slang for a particular type of sexual activity. 3. foam on top of yer beer.
Hophead – a beer aficionado.
In the Weeds – beyond busy and on the way to tubed. An extremely hectic and unpleasant working environment. Can happen when a server is seated too heavily, or when a single guest makes requests one after another and monopolizing the server time instead of asking for everything at once or in advance.
Jug Bug – fruit flies commonly found floating in uncovered liquor bottles. They love the sweet stuff.
Last Call – fair warning from the bartender to order your last request, as the night is wrapping up. When it’s over, it’s over.
Level 3 – Red Robin terminology for an inebriated guest. Level 3’s get no more liquor and the attention of a manager.
Line, The Line – section of the restaurant where food is prepared from the back-of-house side and presented and prepped for running on the front-of-house side. The BOH side of the line is sacred ground and not to be tread upon by non-cooking feet. Seriously. The FOH side of the line is the crucial point where the plates are presented, examined, checked for accuracy and completed with all necessary garnish in order for precise and prompt delivery to occur.
Marry – process of combining two or more bottles into fewer containers, ie. ketchup or wine. It is an illegal, but common practice. Not that I’ve ever done it.
Mickey Finn – an ancient term for a drink that has been drugged or overdosed with intention to knock somebody on their a$$.
Mist – a term meaning “on the rocks”, preferably with shaved or crushed ice. It comes from the fact that certain clear liqueurs cloud or mist when poured over ice
Mixologist – clean term for bartender; flip side of the coin would be intoxicologist
Muddle – mashing ingredients together (i.e. mint and sugar) to release essential oils and fragrances from herbs or fruit.
Neat – a drink served straight up, no ice, not mixed, not chilled. Just liquor in a glass.
No Fire – don’t make. This phrase is used on an order ticket when the item has already been made to prevent over-making. Not using this instruction can cause serious inventory shortages.
One Edward – a dismissive, sarcastic and/or smartass way of saying “Whatever”. Best used in jest.
On The Fly – I need it immediately, asap, yesterday. Or faster.
On The Rocks – on ice
Peet – to drink. From “A Clockwork Orange”.
Perfect – describes a drink made with equal amounds of dry and sweet vermouth
Puma – younger lady at a gathering spot actively seeking attention and or affection. Likely to evolve into a cougar.
Punt – the indentation at the bottom of a wine bottle. Originally, punts were a way of preventing the jagged pontil mark from scratching the surface of a table. When mold-made bottles were introduced, the punt remained due to the stability it adds to the upright bottle. But with Champagne bottles, the story is a little different. During the second fermentation (the happy party when the Champagne gets its bubbles) massive pressure is built up inside the bottle’s glass wall. The punt allows for a more even distribution of pressure inside the bottle.
Regulars – kind “fans” who come frequently to an establishment. A solid set of regulars can really make your business. I like to gift mine with Hershey’s Kisses.
Runner – the kind person who brings you your food or beverages when your main server is unavailable. They are also responsible for ensuring the goods come out complete and correct, as well as making sure the guests are all set to enjoy their meal before walking away.
Running Duties – the mundane tasks, ideally tackled during the slow parts of one’s shift, that are needed to keep an establishment running efficiently. They include stocking, sweeping, wiping walls, prepping fruits or juices, rolling silverware, or folding napkins.
Saint Lawrence – the Patron saint of restauranteurs, cooks and Chefs, winemakers, brewers and students. Feast Day is 8/10
Saint Martha – Patron saint of service staff, maids, innkeepers and travelers. Feast Day is 7/29
Saint Monica – the Patron sain of alcoholics and alcoholism, homemakers and disappointing children. Feast day is 8/27. Coincidentally, St. Monica’s was the name of the Catholic school attended by Mary Katherine Gallagher…
Sea Monster – a trashed chick that will not leave you alone
Sediment – a natural and common collection of particles at the bottom of a wine bottle
Shot – a type of drink typically thrown down the throat. This pour will generally measure 1 to 2 oz, depending on how much your bartender likes you.
Soldier – a full beer bottle
Speed Rack – stainless steel wells used to hold bottles behind the bar. Filled and organized strategically for maximum drink-making efficiency.
Spirit – any alcohol that is distilled
Splash – approximately 1/2 tsp
Steps of Service – the structured guidelines to service standards for a given establishment. Red Robin has seven. I have worked at an establishment that had ten. This will be the subject of a blog in the near future, because steps of service create and lead to successful, professional service.
Tannin – very basically, a natural acid that escapes the grape skins and stems into the juice and adds color and tartness to the wine.
Tip – an additional sum of money given to show extra thanks for services rendered. Soon to be the subject of its own post.
Top – refers to the number of people at a table. ex; a 2 top has 2 guests sitting at a table.
Top Off – to refill a glass or freshen up a drink.
Top Shelf – refers to the finest liquor available, usually kept up on the highest shelves. I don’t mind climbing for them, though.
Training Wheels – the salt and limon (verde o amarillo) which typically accompany a shot of Tequila.
Tubed – this occurs when your station is full, or your line is full of tickets, you can’t possibly catch up. Then, all of a sudden, a softball team comes in and orders 14 milkshakes. Then you’re going down the tubes…you’re tubed.
Turn Over (tables) – every time a party leaves and a new party comes is a turn over. Turning over tables is crucial to waitstaff income, which is why you should be tipping extra for monopolizing a table.
Ullage – The space between the cork of a wine bottle and the wine, or the bottle cap and the beer. Also is the 1st or last beer out of a keg, generally discarded.
Vermouth – a wine which has had brandy added as well as 50 or more herbs and spices
Vintage – the year of the grape harvest in any given wine. Non-vintage means grapes from 2 or more years were used
Weeper – a wine bottle with a leaky cork. This doesn’t necessarily mean the contents have spoiled, but they may have.
Well – the generic liquor used in a basic drink. If one orders a vodka collins, the well liquor will be used.
Wounded Soldier – a beer that has been opened, partially drank and left do die. Not cool.
Are you still here? This has definitely been a marathon post. Thanks for sticking thru ’til the end…or coming back and finishing. And altho I typed this all by myself, I in no way could have accomplished this without the help of many a professional. The bulk of my terms and definition help has been from “The Bartender’s Black Book” 7th Edition by S.K. Cunningham. I love this book. If you are a bartender, or want to know anything about bartending I highly recommend you pick up this book. Also, Karen MacNeil’s “The Wine Bible” was an invaluable source in rounding out some wine knowledge details. Bill Rehling, my revered wine guru. Thanks for the constant info. I hope you read, enjoy, and learn from what I’ve thrown up here. Rob LePre, the Military Man, I always appreciate you letting me pick yer brain. And Dr. Dawn, my complimentary opposite, I always appreciate your knowledge and …just you! Love ya.