A Guide to Back-of-the-House Restaurant Slang

Sooner or later, almost all college students (well, those without a trust fund, anyway) work in a restaurant, waiting tables, bussing, washing dishes, prepping, or cooking and plating food. If you haven’t done your time in the “back of the house,” (BOH) yet, here’s a handy (though hardly comprehensive) guide to back-of-the-house restaurant slang.

Restaurant Slang With Numbers

  • Two-top, four-top, eight-top, etc. The number of guests seated at a table. “Take them to the four-top in the corner” means seat this party of four at the table with four places over in the corner. A two-top might also be called a deuce.
  • 86. To get rid of something, including a badly prepared dish or an unruly patron. In kitchens, it also may mean the restaurant is out of an item. So to “86 the special salmon” means servers will have to inform diners that they’re out of that special.
  • Six-pan or nine-pan. Refers to the size of a cooking pan. A full pan for commercial or hotel cooking is 12″ by 20″. The six or nine refers to how many of those pans it takes to make up a full pan (a six-pan measures 6″ x 6 2/3″).

Regular Words That Mean Something Different in Restaurant Slang

  • All day. Used to refer to how much of a certain item is left. “Three T-bones all day” means there are only three T-bone steaks left to fill orders.
  • Behind or behind hot. A warning that one worker is coming up behind another, often with a hot pan or tray. Not your booty.
  • Dying on the pass. “Dying on the pass” means food that was put up on the “pass” (the flat stretch where servers pick food up to take to diners) has been left there too long and now is getting cold, or worse, sauces are breaking down.
  • Hockey puck. An extremely well-done burger.
  • Kill it. No, this doesn’t refer to stomping on a spider or swatting a mosquito on the patio. It means to cook something thoroughly, as in the done-est of well-done.
  • Order in. This is what you do when you order food delivery. This means a new order has come into the kitchen and must be prepped.
  • Shoemaker or shoe. A really bad cook who should probably find another profession, like cobbling (making and repairing shoes).

Acronyms That Are Used Differently in the Back of the House

  • GBD. Golden brown delicious. How anything fried should turn out when the chef doesn’t have time to tell you anything more about it.
  • OTS. On the side.
  • SOS. “Sauce on the side,” not a distress call.

When you do get your first restaurant job, you’ll hear a lot more slang than this. Chefs want to treat staff well and run their kitchens efficiently, so study up on BOH restaurant slang before your first day.


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