If you don’t often go out to eat in the United States, eating at an American restaurant can be intimidating.

There are gigantic menus with overly descriptive terms, fast-talking servers who check on you every five minutes, and truly enormous portions of food.

But you can make the whole process less overwhelming by learning some common expressions for eating at a restaurant.

Here are some terms you should know.

Arriving at the restaurant

At a restaurant, you’re normally greeted by a hostess (female) or host (male). This person is responsible for greeting and seating guests.

Here are some things your host or hostess might say to you.

• How many?
• How many in your party?
• Do you have reservations? What name is the reservation under?
• There is a 30-minute wait.
• Would you like a table or a booth?
• Do you need a high chair?
• Do you need a booster seat?
• Your server will be right with you. (server = gender neutral term for waiter or waitress)

Here are some things you might say to your host or hostess.

• We have reservations for 7:30. It’s under “Diana.” 
• How long is the wait?
• Could we have a table by the window, please?
• Could we have a booth, please?
• I think we’ll sit at the bar.
• Could we have a booster seat, please?
• Could we have a high chair, please?

A booth. (Photo by PublicDomainPictures from Pixabay)
A baby in a high chair. (Public Domain Image from Wikimedia commons)
Booster seats. (Public Domain Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

Ordering

After you’ve been seated by the host or hostess, your server will come to your table. Here are some things your server might say.

Before taking your order:

• What can I get you to drink?
• Would you like to start with any appetizers/starters?
• Our specials today are…
• Would you like to hear our specials?
• Do you need a few more minutes, or are you ready to order?

While taking your order:

• What can I get you?
• How would you like that cooked? (This is for beef dishes. The options are rare, medium rare, medium, medium-well, and well-done.)
• That comes with two sides. 
• What sides would you like? (sides = side dishes)
• Soup or salad?

Here are some things you might say to your server.

• We’d like to split the check. Is that okay? (If you want to split the check, you should mention it at the beginning of the meal.)
• I think we need a few minutes.
• I think we’re ready to order.
• What do you recommend?
• Do you have any specials tonight?
• Do you have any vegetarian options?
• Do you have any vegan options?
• I’d like the…
• Can I have the…?
• Can I get the….?
• I’d like it rare/medium-rare/medium/medium-well/well-done, please.
• What sides does that come with?

During your meal

During your meal, your server will check on you several times. Here are some things your server might say to you.

Right after your meal has been served:

• How’s everything?
• Is everything okay?
• Did everything turn out okay?

If you haven’t finished your meal:

• Would you like a box?
• Would you like a doggy bag?
• Would you like that wrapped?
• Would you like to take that home with you?

At the end of your meal:

• Would you like to see the dessert menu?
• Are we doing dessert tonight?
• Can I get you guys anything else?

Here are some things you might say to your server.

Reordering:

• Could I have another…, please?
• Can I get a refill, please?
• Could I have another…when you get a chance?

If you’d like to take the rest of  your meal home:

• Could I have a box, please?
• Could I get this wrapped up, please?

Communicating problems:

• Could we have some silverware, please?
• Excuse me, is our order almost ready?
• Excuse me, this isn’t what I ordered.
• Excuse me, I ordered the…
• Excuse me, this seems to be undercooked.

Paying

Here are some things your server might say to you after you’ve finished your meal.

• Can I get you anything else, or are you ready for the check?
• I’ll take that whenever you’re ready. (said as the check is being left on the table)
• Here you go. No rush. (said as the check is being left on the table)
• I’ll be right back with your change.

Here are some things you might say to your server.

• Could we get the check, please?
• Can we get the check when you get a chance?
• I don’t need change. Thanks. (to communicate that your change is the server’s tip)
• That’s yours. Thanks. (to communicate that your change is the server’s tip)

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In addition to these phrases, there are a couple other things you should know about eating at a restaurant in the United States.

• In the US, you are expected to tip between 15-20% if you receive good service. Here is a helpful article on tipping in the United States.

• If you pay with a credit card, you are given two receipts. One says “merchant copy” (or something similar) and the other says “guest copy” (or something similar). On the merchant copy, be sure to add a tip, calculate the total, and sign your name.

Enjoy your meal!