English expressions that waiters, waitresses, and restaurant staff use

When you go to a restaurant, you usually have a good idea of what's going to happen. That's because eating at a restaurant usually follows a set script. The wait staff isn't actually given a written script to memorize, of course. But even so, waiters and waitresses usually stick to a very narrow range of phrases. Here's what you can expect when you go to a restaurant.

The host or hostess

When you first go in, the host or hostess will want to know how many people are eating with you. They might ask:

How many?

Or, in a fancier restaurant:

How many are in your party?

If they can see how many people walked in together, they might simply ask:

Two?

Some popular restaurants expect you to have a reservation before you come. In that case, the hostess might ask:

Do you have a reservation?

If the place is really busy, you might have to wait. They'll say:

It's going to be about a 15-minute wait. 

If you decide to wait, they'll write your name on a list:

Can I get your name?

And then, when it's your turn to sit:

Mr. Knight, your table is ready.

The host or hostess will take you to your table with one of these phrases:

Right this way.

Follow me, please.

If it's a nice restaurant, they may ask:

Would you like me to take your jackets for you?

And then they say goodbye:

Jacob will be your server tonight.

Enjoy your meal.

The waiter or waitress

The waiter will usually start off by introducing him- or herself:

Welcome to D'Angelo's. My name is Rebecca.

Depending on the atmosphere of the restaurant, they may try to make some small talk:

How are you doing this evening?

If the restaurant has daily specials, the server will tell you about them:

Let me tell you about our specials today. We have a miso-glazed Chilean Sea Bass with a side of mashed sweet potatoes and sauteed spinach.

Then you're expected to order drinks:

Can I get you something to drink?

If you're not sure, the server will offer to come back again in a few minutes:

Do you need a little time to decide?

They'll go around the table to each person, using phrases like these:

And for you sir?

And for you miss?

What can I get for you?

Then they'll leave:

I'll be right back with your drinks.

When the waiter or waitress returns, he or she will ask you to order your food:

Are you ready to order?

If the dish you order has a choice of side dishes, they'll offer to let you choose:

That comes with either fries or a baked potato. Which would you prefer?

Would you like fries with that, or a baked potato?

If you ask for something, the server will say:

Sure.

Or at a fancier restaurant:

Certainly.

But if you ask for something that's not available, you'll hear:

Oh, I'm sorry. We're all out of the salmon.

When the waiter or waitress brings you your food, they'll probably ask:

Can I get you anything else?

After you're finished eating everything, someone will come to collect your dishes:

Would you like me to take that?

Then the server will come out to ask about your meal and offer dessert:

How was everything?

Can I interest you in our dessert menu?

When you're finished with your meal, they'll offer to bring you the check:

I'll bring the check right out.

And sometimes there are questions about the check:

Would you like me to split it?

Do you need any change?

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