A Quick Primer on Restaurant Lingo

By Andrea Victory

Illustration of man reading a book and background with food and restaurant lingo words

“Can you 86 the Jam Ling on the POS? The kitchen is in the weeds, the bar is juiced, Josh just got triple sat so he’s buried, and we’ve got a wait list because the game is on and everyone around the wood is camping. I need an ETA on dessert for table 16 because we’ve got a reso in 10.”

For some, you may have read the above passage with the anxious sigh of recognition that comes from a busy night. Others may have read that passage completely flummoxed.

Here’s the direct translation: “There’s no more jambalaya linguine, take it off of the point of sale system. The kitchen is at maximum capacity, the bar is at maximum capacity. Josh just got three tables at once so he’s going to be very busy. There’s a wait list because everyone is sitting around the bar waiting for the hockey game to be over and they’re not going to leave any time soon. A reservation is coming in so an estimated time of dessert arrival is needed in order to ensure the table is clear in time and that reservation has their seats.”

While restaurant jargon has a myriad of origins and can serve to annoy some, it does have a purpose. Often replacing expletives, restaurant jargon preserves the guest experience or a compromised ambiance due to a busy night. These culinary terms keep customers relaxed and unaware of behind the scenes issues, while communicating an urgent message to staff, quickly.

A short overview of commonly used restaurant terms

86: In restaurant lingo, 86, or sometimes 86’d, means you’re out of a particular menu item. The origins of the term are arguable: eight feet long, six feet under, some claim the term was appropriated from the metrics of a grave. According to, “One of the earliest documented usages of this term was at the bar Chumley’s in downtown Manhattan during Prohibition. The bar had an entrance on Pamela Court and an exit at 86 Bedford Street. Police would call ahead to warn the bartenders of a possible raid, telling them to ‘86’ their customers out of the 86 exit door.”

All day: All meals that are on the kitchen’s docket at a single point in time.

BOH: Back of house or the kitchen staff.

Camping: Customers who occupy tables or a seat for an extended period of time and don’t order anything.

Chits/Tickets: The order receipt that tells the kitchen what the order is and the runners what dishes should be up in the window.

Comp: “Comping” an item means to give it compliments of the house.

Cupcaking: When a bartender or server spends an excessive amount of time with an attractive patron.

Deuce: A table of two.

Double, triple, quadruple sat: When a host seats two, three or four tables at once in a single server’s section.

Drop/ run: Delivering food or drinks to a table.

ETA: The estimated time of arrival of food or incoming guests.

FOH: Front of house or servers, bartenders, barbacks, and hosts.

Kill it: Like a filet mignon, well done, “kill it” refers to overcooking a piece of meat at the customer’s request.

No show: A reservation that did not show up.

POS: Your point of sale system.

Reso: A reservation.

SOS: Not a distress call, just sauce on the side.

Still mooing: Steak so lightly seared, it’s almost alive. Otherwise known as “blue” or “rare.”

The Weeds / Juiced / Slammed /Buried: Within so many names, it’s clear that being busy to the point of overload is not an uncommon feeling in the restaurant business. For servers it can refer to being overwhelmingly busy, due to being double, triple, or quadruple sat by the host. In bartender terms it’s also overwhelmingly busy, but usually means a long list of drink orders, or complex drinks, like complex cocktails that significantly slow them down has come in all at once. And for the kitchen an influx of chits/tickets from orders being punched in all at once or a big group or party has ordered.

The Wood or Bar Wood: The area around the bar.

Photo of Andrea Victory
by Andrea Victory

Andrea was a Content Marketing Specialist and Editor at TouchBistro where she wrote about restaurant and dining trends, restaurant management, and food culture. A self-affirmed food geek, Andrea devours cookbooks and food blogs. She also knows how to make a killer kale salad.

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