Now that I've been working in the food & beverage industry for a year and a half, I have a handle on some of the lingo and thought it would be fun to provide a handy guide for those of you out there who may be trying to break into the exciting business of waiting tables. If you don't have any experience, you'll probably have to make up some to get hired (my first resume created for a restaurant job was definitely a piece of creative writing). And to "pass" as someone with experience, you have to talk the talk as well as walk the walk.
B and B: Not a cozy inn, but rather a small plate for bread (and butter).
Deuce: A table that seats two people.
Eighty-six: To be out of something, i.e. "86 lobster tacos." There are various theories about the origin of this expression.
FOH: Abbreviation for "front of house" staff.
On the books: refers to the number of reservations on a given night. "How many are on the books?" translates to "how many reservations do we have?"
Pre-meal: Sadly, not a meal, but a meeting for the FOH before service.
Sat: As in, "You just got sat." Means a table in your section has just been seated.
Sidework: Stuff you do when you're not busy, like polish silverware and fold napkins.
Sous: Short for sous chef.
Stodge: Can be a noun or verb; refers to a trial or apprentice shift.
Walk-in: A large refrigerator, big enough to walk into.
Weeds: As in, "I'm in the weeds." Not a good place to be; means you're slammed and falling behind.
Working in a restaurant is tough and knowing the slang is only one small part; balancing trays, communicating amidst chaos, dealing with the occasional wretched customer, it's all more exhausting than you'd think. Honestly. I worked Friday night, Saturday night, and brunch this morning and I'm wiped. I must have filled 500 glasses of water; when one women commented on my water-refilling vigilance, I said solemnly, "I am a water sentinel."
In searching for some kind of picture to represent "water sentinel," I stumbled upon the lyrics to a song recorded by Ella Fitzgerald called "I Want the Waiter (With the Water)." Many of the lyrics are nonsensical ("He's got a menu that will send you and befriend you") but I still enjoy it. Ella, had you walked into my restaurant, your water needs would have been fulfilled...and refilled.
Finally, I'm betting my tips would be better if I were allowed to wear this: