I’ve been a server for longer than I care to admit, and we have a bunch of expressions that I think are commonplace but have little meaning in the real world. I decided to list a few of them so you understand what I mean if I accidently use Server Speak around you.
- Cut. This is one of the best words that you can hear on a shift. Cut means that you’re not taking any more tables. It means that your shift is almost over. All you have to do is wait for your current tables to finish up, do your side work, then you can do your paid out, then you can clock out.
- Side Work. Side work is all the stuff you have to do when you’re not taking orders, running drinks/food, and handling payments. It’s stocking glasses, refilling the ice wells, changing the soda, emptying the dish pit. It’s all the bitch work that you don’t get tips for.
- Paid Out. This is called different things in different places, but it’s all the same thing. It’s when you find out your total sales, add up all your credit card and cash payments, tip out the bussers, food runners, bartenders, and find out how much money you made during that shift.
- Walk Out. This is the worst phrase that you want to hear. It’s when a table leaves without paying the bill. You might have to pay the bill out of pocket, you might get a write up, or you might get fired.
- 86. This is restaurant code for being out of something. If you run out of bread, it’s 86’ed until they make more. It’s a 68 when they bake more. You can also say 86 if someone dies or gets fired.
- In the Weeds or Weeded. Whenever you’re so busy and flustered that you don’t know what to do next, you’re in the weeds or weeded. It happens when one table wants a side of ranch, another table wants another round of drinks, another table needs to order but needs you to explain every item on the menu, and then you get double-sat. You don’t know what to do first, but you know that it should have been done five minutes ago.
- Double-Sat, Triple-Sat, Quadruple-Sat, Etc. If you get sat, that means you got one table. You’re double-sat if you get two tables at the same time. Triple-sat is when you get three tables at the same time. Quadruple sat is when you get four tables at the same time. It doesn’t seem like much to take drink orders, appetizer orders, entrée orders, but it gets complicated and stressful when people want to modify the menu, ask for separate checks, and are unsure if they want a regular Coke or a Diet Coke. Each table feels like they are the most important table and they don’t care if you’re running around like a chicken with its head cut off.
- Corner. Servers move at a quick pace. Everything is fast tempo. So you shout out “Corner!” whenever you walk around a corner so you don’t smack into someone and break a bunch of plates. It’s a safety thing. And you get weird looks if you accidently blurt it out at the grocery store rounding the aisle.
- Behind. Saying “Behind!” is like saying “Corner!” It means that you’re walking right behind somebody. That way they don’t bump into you and break more plates. Nobody wants to break plates.
- Stiffed. Stiffed is another terrible term, up there with walk out. This is when the customer paid his bill but left you with little to no tip. All you can do is bite your lip until you can go to the break room and vent to your fellow servers about those motherfuckers.
- Campers. Campers are people that stay at your table for way too long. They might pay their bill and linger for another hour before leaving. They might sit in a booth for thirty minutes without ordering because they are waiting for a friend. The worst is when they only order a coffee and ask for the Wi-Fi password while busting out their iPad. They don’t seem to realize that they are taking up real estate and costing you money. It’s all about the turn and burn.
- Turn and Burn. Turning and burning tables is how a good server makes money. You want to greet a table and get their drink and food orders as fast as possible so that their drinks and food comes out as fast as possible so that they leaves as fast as possible so that you get a new table to make more money off of. You want to be fast and efficient without rushing your guests though. They won’t tip you if they feel like you don’t want them there.
- Table Snatcher. A table snatcher is a fellow server that takes a table in your section and feigns ignorance. They stole your table, they stole your tip, they stole your money. They are scum, they are low, and they are worse than any customer ever could be because you have to work with them all the time. And you feel violated because you trusted them like they are family.
- Family. Your coworkers are your family if you work in a restaurant. They are the people that you see 6 days a week. They see you at your best, they see you at your worst, but they love you and you love them. Not to mention the fact that you spend every practically every single weekend and major holiday together. They know your pain and they know how you feel after a double better than anyone else.
- Dead. Dead is almost always a bad thing to hear, but it’s a godsend to a starving server. Dead food is something that’s unsellable but otherwise unharmed. It happens when a server rings in the wrong item or forgets to modify it, when a customer changes or cancels their order, or if a cook makes the wrong thing. I’m going to notice a delicious New York Strip that’s been left neglected under the heat lamp. And if it can’t go out to a table, it might as well go into my belly.
Those are just a few words and phrases of Server Speak. I’m sure that I’ll think of more or that you guys will point out ones that I missed, so stay tuned for a potential Server Speak Sequel.
Critically Rated at 13/17
Written, Rated, and Reviewed by Brendan H. Young