Food Service Vocabulary

Know These Terms if You're Planning a Career in the Industry

Waiter picking up plates of food.
Klaus Vedfelt/Getty Images

Every worker in the food service industry is expected to have a base-level understanding of food service vocabulary to help them identify tools, responsibilities, rights, benefits, and elements of their jobs. Fortunately, the United States Department of Labor lays out 170 of these vocabulary terms in the "Occupational Handbook."

Terms included in this list are important for service industry workers because they help clarify a common understanding of each element necessary to delivering excellent food service and also lets employees know the legal means in which to discuss issues with particular elements of the workplace or management staff.

 

The full list of essential vocabulary words for food service workers is as follows:

AdditionCustomersMaintainRetail
AlcoholicDemandManageRoom
AreaDepartmentManagerRun
AssistDinersMarketingSafety
AssistantDiningMealsSalads
AttendantsDishesMeatSales
BaggersDishwashersMenuSandwiches
BakersDrinkingMerchandiseSchedules
BarsEatingMoveSection
BartendersEmployeesMovingSelect
BenefitsEntryNonfoodSelection
BeverageEquipmentNonsupervisorySelections
BeveragesEstablishmentNumerousSell
ButchersEstablishmentsOfferSelling
CafeteriaFillOfficeServe
CafeteriasFillersOperationService
CashFishOrderServices
CashiersFloorOrdersServing
ChainsFoodOverseeShifts
ChangeFoodsPackageShop
CheckoutFreshPatronsSmaller
ChefGroceriesPerformSnack
ChefsGroceryPerformanceSpecialize
CleanGroupPlaceSpecialty
CleaningGrowthPoultryStaff
ClerksHandlingPremisesStock
CoffeeHealthPreparationStore
CompanyHospitalityPrepareStores
ComparedHostessesPreparedSupermarket
ComputerHostsPreparingSupermarkets
ConsumerHourlyPricesSupervisors
ConsumptionHoursProcessingSupplies
ContactIncreaseProduceSystems
ConvenienceIngredientsProductTables
CookInventoryProductsTasks
CookingItemsProportionTips
CooksKitchenProvideTrade
CounterKitchensPurchaseTrain
CountersLevelRecipesTraining
CourtesyLineRegisterVariety
CulinaryLocalReplacementWaiters
CustomerLongerRequiredWaitresses
  RestaurantWorkers

 

The Importance of Knowing Proper Vocabulary

Working in the food service industry often offers young workers their first exposure to the idea of corporate speak and jargon used in the workplace to simply and make communication uniform across the full market, from larger companies like McDonald's to locally owned diners in rural America.

For this reason, it's important that employees understand the basic difference between common phrases in the industry as well as how to properly refer to stages of preparation, tools for handling food, economic concerns of the business, and day to day operational tasks like training and hours.

What may be more important to note is that when it comes to legality and contracts, these terms have very strict definitions according to the government, so if, for instance, a contract says that "Training is unpaid," and a person winds up "training" for three weeks, they're essentially providing free labor, but have agreed to such in their contract — knowing these types of words, especially in a legal context, can help protect new employees.

Jargon and Colloquialisms

That said, another key element to a successful career (even if short-lived) in the food service industry hinges upon team building and understanding the language of the workplace, even in a less professional and technical way. 

Because food service relies on a team of individuals, from the line cook to the waiter, the hostess to the busboy, employees of dining and food service establishments often form familial bonds with one another and develop their own jargon and colloquialisms to communicate with one another secretly, even in front of patrons of the establishment.

Understanding the legal, technical, and colloquial vocabularies of food service are essential to being successful in the field because most of this industry relies entirely upon interaction not only with the customers but with coworkers as well.