The Eating out in English guide: Perfect your "restaurant English".

Actualizado: 13 feb

Do you like to “eat out” (eat somewhere outside your own home)?

Here are the most important words and expressions you need to:

  • Enter the restaurant and ask for a table

  • Ask your server for something

  • Understand some typical words on the menu

  • Ask for and pay for the bill

  • And more!

Download a PDF of these materials organized into tables:

Eating out in English
Download PDF • 307KB


“Hello. Could I/we have a table for 2, please?”

“Hello, a table for 3 please”.

Don’t say “We are 2”.

“How many people in your party?”

Party in this context is a synonym of “group”.

“We’re a party of 4.”

“There are 4 of us.“


“Do you have a reservation/booking?

When you call or ask in advance for a table. Some restaurants don't accept bookings, while in others in is mandatory.

Booking = reservation

Going to your table

“Follow me please.”

“Please follow me.”

“Please come with me.”

“I’ll take you to your table.”

“Your table is this way.“

“Here is your table. Your waiter will be with you shortly.”

(All said by restaurant staff)

Restaurant is full

“(I’m afraid) we’re completely booked (up) tonight.”

“We’re booked solid tonight.”

“We don’t have any free tables.”

Booked = Reserved

“There’s a 30-minute wait-time for a table tonight.”

Wating list

“Is there a waiting list?”

“Could we leave our name on the waiting list?”

“You’re free to wait at the bar.”

“Could we wait for our table at the bar?”

Waiter / Waitress / Server

Male / Female / Gender-neutral

Watch this fun YouTube video on Restaurant English using your favourite TV series!

The Menu & Ordering

Asking for the menu

Could I/we have the menu, please?

Could I/we see the menu, please?

Wine List

“Is there a wine list?”

“Could I see the wine list?”

A “prix-fixe” menu

Pronounced /pri:-fi:x/

Less common in English-speaking countries. This is a type of menu where the price typically includes a starter, main dish and dessert, and you choose from a reduced selection for each dish.

An ”a-la-carte” menu

Typical menu where you pick and choose what you want. Some restaurants may have both “prix-fixe” and “a-la-carte”.

To order

“We’re ready to order”

“Are you ready to order?”

“Have you decided (what you’d like to order)?”

You can “make” or “place” an order, but you don’t have to use these words.

A recommendation / To recommend

“I can’t decide. What do you recommend?”

“What’s your recommendation?”

“Can you make a recommendation?”

“Could you recommend a good starter?”

“I would (strongly) recommend the _________”

It’s typical to ask your waiter what he or she thinks is a good choice, based on their experience.

Specials / Off-menu items

“The specials tonight are…”

“What are the specials tonight?”

“Are there any specials tonight?”

“Are there any “off-menu” items?”

“Specials” or “Off-menu items” refer to dishes not on the menu, maybe specially made by the chef that day only. Your server may refer to them without asking.



“Light bites”

Soups and Salads, etc…

All synonymous, more or less.

Main courses



Meat / Fish / Pasta / etc…

“Entree” is pronounced “awn-trei”

Sides / A side / Side dish

A small serving of some food you might eat with the main course, such as vegetables, potatoes, rice, etc.


“For my starter, I’d like/I’ll have….”

“I’ll start with the….”

“For my main (course/dish), I’d like/I’ll have…”

“And then I’ll have…”

“Followed by….”

“I would like the…”

“I’ll (just) have…”

A dessert menu/list

A dish

Although this word is a synonym of “plate”, it also refers to a choice on the menu. Example: “Do you have any vegan dishes?”. (Alternative: “Do you have any vegan choices?”) Exception: Some restaurants may list a “sharing-plate” on the menu.

CLICK HERE to see sample menus from an UPSCALE restaurant!

Other Menu, Food and Cutlery:

Note: In today’s cosmopolitan dining scene, it would be impossible to list all the words and phrases you might find on a “typical” menu, let alone a range of restaurant types. So here is just a limited selection of “menu” words.

Fork / Knife / Spoon

Kinds of “cutlery”

Wine glass / Champagne glass / Water tumbler


Napkin / Serviette

Made of cloth or paper to wipe your mouth

Rare – Medium-rare – Medium – Well done

How would you like your “steak”? (Meaning: How cooked would you like your meat?) “Rare” is the least cooked, “Well done” is the most cooked.

Baked or Roasted

Cooked in the oven


Prepared on a grill, possibly over fire


With water vapour


(From Japanese) Covered in flour and cooked in oil


Fried in a pan with oil or butter


Raw (not cooked) but seasoned


Sauce or vinaigrette for a salad


“Cooked” with smoke, like smoked salmon

Starters / Appetizers / Main courses / Sides

See the “Menu and Ordering” section above.


The bill

The piece of paper with the items you ordered and the price you must pay.

The cheque

Used almost exclusively in the United States (US). Same as “the bill”

Asking for the bill

“Could I have the bill/the cheque please?”

“Could you bring me the bill/the cheque please?”

“Could I pay the bill, please?”

“How will you be paying?”

Cash / by card

To split the bill

“We’re splitting the bill.”

When more than one person in your party is paying, or to divide the bill in half.

“It’s on me!”

An informal way of saying you will pay the bill.

Don’t say “I’ll invite you”.

To pick up the bill

“I’ll pick up the bill”

“Let me pick up the bill”

Another way to say you will pay the bill.

To go Dutch

“Let’s go Dutch.”

To split or divide the bill between different people based on what they have eaten/ordered. Could be pejorative if you have Dutch people (people from the Netherlands) in your party!

“Could I have a receipt please?”

A receipt (pronounced /resi:t/ or /re-seat/) is the piece of paper showing how much your card was charged.

A tip / The tip

A service charge that is at the discretion of the customer. It may be paid for by card using the payment machine, or in cash. Although in theory it is discretionary, strong cultural norms exist around this custom, and in different English-speaking countries the expectation for one may vary enormously. Americans tend to be the most generous tippers. I don’t know what the custom is in Australia or New Zealand, but I suspect the tendency is quite generous!

If the service is reasonably good, the expectation may be:

  • United States: 18-20% of the bill (or more).

  • Canada: Minimum 15%

  • UK/Ireland (perhaps less): 8-12%

In the US and Canada, if you don’t leave a tip, or leave a poor tip, the waiter might ask you why!

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