Ordering At A Restaurant: How To Choose The Best Dishes

Elly Kimreviewed byNataliia Afonina / more about Editorial Process12 min
Created: Sep 21, 2022Last updated: Jan 24, 2024
Ordering At A Restaurant

Ordering at a restaurant in English may be terrifying to some of us, especially those who are learning English as a second language. The good news is that with a bit of practice, it can be much easier than you think. After learning some restaurant words and phrases in English, you will be able to order food confidently. If you are interested, keep reading this article. In the sections below, we will go over what you need to know to order food, including restaurant vocabulary, common phrases, questions to ask the waiter, and other aspects.

Restaurant Terminology: 20 Words you Need to Know to Order Food

Let’s start this article by going over the essential English restaurant vocabulary. You will need to know this terminology to understand the menu and to communicate with the waiter, and the other staff. Below are 15 useful words and word combinations you may need to remember:

  • Menu – a list of all the food and drinks available at a particular restaurant.
  • Starters menu – a list of small dishes or snacks as the first course of a meal.
  • Bartender – the person who serves you alcohol at a bar.
  • Chef – the person responsible for preparing and cooking food in a restaurant.
  • Specials – dishes that the chef recommends and changes daily.
  • Dish – a particular type of food served as part of a meal.
  • Appetizer – a small dish eaten before a meal to whet your appetite.
  • Main course – the principal dish of a meal, usually meat or fish with accompanying vegetables.
  • Side dish – a small dish served with the main course, often to add contrast in texture or flavor.
  • Dessert – a sweet food eaten at the end of a meal.
  • Beverage – a drink, such as water, tea, coffee, or alcohol.
  • Vegan option – food that contains no animal products, such as meat, milk, or eggs.
  • Vegetarian option – a dish that does not have meat.
  • Halal – a dish that is prepared according to Islamic law and can be consumed by Muslims.
  • Kosher – a dish that Jewish people can eat.
  • Check/bill – the total amount of money you owe for the food and drink you have ordered, including taxes and tips.
  • Eat-in – to eat your meal at the restaurant.
  • Takeaway – to take your meal away with you.
  • Waitlist – the list of people waiting to be seated at a restaurant.
  • Reservation – a booking made in advance for a table at a restaurant.

These restaurant terms are just the tip of the iceberg. There are many more words and phrases you need to learn to be able to order food confidently in English. However, these should be enough to get you started with restaurant English.

The Most Common Restaurant Phrases to Use When Ordering Food

Now that you know some essential restaurant vocabulary, it’s time to move to the next step: learning common restaurant phrases. You can communicate with waiters and understand what they mean. These phrases will come in handy when ordering food, asking for the bill, or doing anything else you need to do in a restaurant.

Asking for Table in English

To start ordering at a restaurant, you must know how to ask for a table. In most cases, the waiter will ask how many people are at your party and then show you to your table. Let’s learn how to do this in English.

  • Can I have a table for (number), please? It is the most common way to ask for a table at a restaurant in English. Just fill in the number of people you have with you, and you’re good to go!
  • Do you have any tables available? You can use this phrase if the restaurant is crowded and there are no free tables.
  • I have a reservation for (time). My name is… If you made a reservation in advance, tell the waiter your name and the time of your reservation. They will then show you to your table.
  • May I have a table by the window, please? If you want to sit by the window, use this phrase.
  • Is this table available? You can ask about a specific table if you see something you like.

These are all the restaurant phrases you need to ask for a table in English. You can use them in any restaurant, whether it’s a casual restaurant or a formal one. Also, don’t forget to say thank you after the waiter shows you to your table.

Ordering Food

In this section, let’s look at how to order in a restaurant in English. We will learn how to order food and drinks, as well as how to ask for the bill.

  • Can I have…, please? It is the phrase you will often use when ordering in a restaurant. You can use it to order food or drinks.
  • I’ll take/have… These phrases commonly mean the same thing: ordering food at a restaurant.
  • What do you recommend? If you’re unsure what to order and need some help from the waiter, ask them for a recommendation. They will likely suggest you one or two options that are popular among guests or something to their taste.
  • What are your specialties? Another great question to ask if you don’t know what to order – asking about the restaurant’s specialties will give you an idea of what they’re known for and what kinds of dishes they excel at making.
  • How much is this dish? Sometimes menus don’t list prices next to each dish, so feel free to ask the waiter how much does it cost before ordering food in a restaurant.
  • Can I get this without…? If you have dietary restrictions or don’t like certain ingredients, you can ask the waiter to make your dish without them. For example, “Can I get this salad without onions?”
  • I’ll have the same thing. If you’re dining with someone, who ordered something that sounds good, say that you’ll have the same thing.

You can order food and drinks like a pro if you learn these restaurant phrases and food service terminology. And don’t forget, you can always ask the waiter for help if you’re unsure what to order. The waiter’s job is to help you have a great dining experience, so don’t be afraid to ask them any questions you have.

Paying the Bill

Here, we will learn some common phrases for paying the bill in restaurants in English. Whether you’re splitting the bill with friends or paying for your meal yourself, these phrases will come in handy.

  • Can I see the bill, please? It is probably the most common phrase you will use when paying the bill at a restaurant.
  • Can I get separate bills? Ask for separate bills if you’re dining with others and need to split the bill. The waiter will then bring you each of your checks.
  • Including tip? Sometimes restaurants automatically include gratuities on your bill, so it’s always good to double-check before leaving a tip.
  • Can I pay by credit card/cash? When asking for the bill, you must specify how you would like to pay. If you’re paying by credit card, say so.

Asking for the bill is usually simple – just remember to say how you would like to pay before giving tips. It’s common to leave around 10-15% of the bill (depending on the service level).

Dealing with Problems in Restaurants

Even if you know how to order food in English and how to ask for the bill, there may be times when you encounter problems while dining in a restaurant. In this section, we will learn how to deal with common issues so that you can handle them easily.

  • The food is cold/undercooked/overcooked… If your food isn’t cooked the way you want it, tell the waiter right away. They will likely take your dish back to the kitchen and have it fixed or replaced.
  • I’m allergic to… Tell the waiter about any allergies you have before ordering food. This way, they can ensure that your meal is safe for you to eat and doesn’t contain any ingredients you’re allergic to.
  • This isn’t what I ordered… Again, if there’s something wrong with your dish or if it’s not what you ordered, tell the waiter immediately so they can fix the problem.
  • I dropped my fork/spilled my drink… Things get dropped, and drinks get spilled from time to time in restaurants. If this happens during your meal, just let the waiter know, and they’ll bring you a new one.

If you encounter some of these problems when ordering at a restaurant or dining, you will know how to deal with them. Just remember to stay calm and polite, and the waiter will likely be able to help you solve it.

Making Comments on Food in English

In this section, we will learn how to make comments on food in English. Whether you compliment the chef or give constructive feedback, these restaurant conversation English phrases will come in handy.

  • This is good! Use this phrase to compliment the chef on a job well done.
  • Wow, that was amazing! Another great way to give positive feedback about the food you just ate.
  • I’ve never had anything like this before! If you’re trying a new dish for the first time and enjoy it, let the waiter know – they will be happy to hear it.
  • The portion size is too small/big… If you think your portion size is too big or too small, mention it to the waiter when commenting on your meal. They may be able to adjust it for you next time. 
  • Too much salt/pepper… Seasonings are often added after a dish has been cooked, so if there’s too much of something (salt, pepper, etc.), let the waiter know so they can adjust it accordingly.

This feedback will help the chef know what is done well and what needs improvement. The next time you’re dining out, don’t forget to make some comments about the food – whether they’re positive or negative.


4 Tips to Order Food in English

When you know all the essential phrases on how to order at a restaurant in English, it’s time to move on and learn some tips. If you follow our advice, we are sure that English-speaking people will love serving you!

Be Polite but Do not Exaggerate

It’s important to be polite when you order food in a restaurant, especially if English is not your first language. However, don’t overdo it by using too many, please and thank you. In short, be respectful but not excessive. It is the best way to show that you’re a good customer and deserve their attention. Also, remember to smile when you talk to the waiter. And with the restaurant terms and definitions from the previous sections, you can do it easily.

Appreciate any Suggestions from the Server

The waiter may make some recommendations about the food. It’s always nice to listen to what they say and show that you’re interested in their opinion. For example, if you don’t know what dish to order, you can ask them for suggestions. Or, if you want to know more about a particular dish on the menu, feel free to ask the waiter. Words to order food and beverages will help you do it most naturally.

Tip whenever You Can

Tipping is not required in all restaurants, but it’s always appreciated. Of course, you don’t have to tip if the service is terrible or you had a bad experience at the restaurant. But if everything is fine and you’re happy with the service, feel free to leave a tip. The standard gratuity is 15%, but you can also give more or less, depending on your budget and how much you liked the service. You can also use the learned phrases and restaurant language to express your satisfaction.

Don’t Be Afraid to Ask for Help

Don’t hesitate to ask the waiter if you’re unsure about anything or need help. They will be happy to help you and make your dining experience more enjoyable. Also, if there is something wrong with the food or service, don’t hesitate to tell the waiter. The best way to do this is to start the restaurant conversation in English with phrases like I’m sorry to say this but… or Excuse me, could you please… This way, you can politely complain about the problem and ask them to fix it.

Learning Restaurant English with Promova

Learning restaurants English can be difficult, but it can be much easier with the right tools. Promova is a language learning platform that can help you to improve all aspects of your English, including speaking, listening, reading, and writing. We provide both group and private classes with native English teachers. The groups are small, so you can get the individual attention you need. And with our private classes, you can customize your lessons to focus on what you need to learn.

We provide a safe and supportive environment during the classes. You can make mistakes without feeling embarrassed, and the teacher will be here for you. For example, you can practice a real-life restaurant English conversation with the tutor to be confident and order food easily in an English-speaking restaurant. Also, you can learn other topics, such as grammar, vocabulary, and idioms.

Promova has a mobile app with a restaurants dictionary and other materials to help you order food in English like a pro. The app contains all the phrases and words you need to know, plus audio recordings of native speakers so that you can hear how they say things. You can also save your favorite sayings in the app to review later or use them in real-life conversations.


Ordering food at a restaurant is simple if you know the necessary words and phrases. Using the correct terms, you can communicate with the waiter and ensure that your order is correct. And if you follow our tips, we are sure your dining experience will be even better. We hope the words to describe food on a menu and phrases from this article will be helpful, and it’s time to put your knowledge into practice! The ordering process will be a breeze the next time you go out to eat!


How Can I Learn Restaurant Terminology?

You can start by memorizing the most common words and phrases to learn restaurant terminology. Then, practice using them in conversation with friends or family. You can also try role-playing with someone to get more experience. And finally, read books or articles about restaurants to learn more restaurant terms.

Is Restaurant Vocabulary Hard to Learn?

Of course, it can be challenging to learn all the new words and phrases. However, it will become easier if you take your time and practice regularly. Start by memorizing the most common words related to restaurants, then move on to more difficult ones. You can also use online dictionaries like WordReference or Urban Dictionary to look up unfamiliar words.

What Are Some Tips for Ordering Food in a Restaurant?

Some tips for ordering food in a restaurant include being polite during a restaurant English conversation, listening to the waiter’s recommendations, and tipping if you’re happy with the service. Also, don’t hesitate to ask questions if you’re unsure about anything.

Do I Need to Know all Restaurant Vocabulary to Order Food?

No, you don’t need to know all the menu terms and other words on this list to order food. However, it will be helpful if you know some basic phrases like “Can I have… please?” or “I’ll take…”. This will make it easier for you and the waiter, and your dining experience will be more enjoyable.


Lexie PatelSep 21st, 2023
I love dining out, and this article has given me the confidence to order like a pro))
GeorginaJun 22nd, 2023
I really enjoyed reading this article on ordering at a restaurant. The tips and phrases shared are not only practical but also culturally insightful.