Food is at the grassroots of every culture. It tells you what you need to know about the geography of the country, and the tastes of its people. It nourishes you, as well as connects you with others. Festivities are celebrated with a special dish, and friendships are often forged over a heartening meal, or a glass (or two) of wine.

Ordering food at a restaurant can test your conversational skills, as well as your vocabulary. If English is not your first language, you may be worried that you’ll sound too formal (or worse, order the wrong dish!). Fear not – we are here to ensure that dining out is a pleasurable experience.

Making a Reservation

  • Would I be able to make a reservation for your name (Mr. Smith) at time (eight o’clock), please? It’s a table for two.
  • I’d like to make a reservation for four people under Hannah at seven thirty.

Placing Your Order

When eating out, you want to sound casual and polite. It is better to ask for something, than demand.

  • I’d like the steak, please.
  • Would I be able to get the salad for my starter?
  • I would like to have roast chicken for my mains, please.
  • What are today’s specials?
  • What do you recommend?
  • May I see the drinks menu?
  • Do you have wine by the glass?
  • I’ll have a glass of house red (wine).
  • Can I have French fries instead of a salad on the side?

If the answer is ‘no’ for any reason (e.g., ‘I’m sorry we are sold out of the roast chicken’), you can change your mind and say something like, ‘That’s okay. What about the fried fish?’

If you order certain foods or drinks, you may have to explain how you would like them. It is useful to look up the definition of the following words:

  • I would like my eggs scrambled / boiled / over easy.
  • I would like my steak rare / medium rare / medium / well done.
  • (In reference to coffee) I would like a flat white / Americano / mocha / cappuccino.

You may also have an option of having your food to go (also known as take out).

  • Can I get this to go? (This is usually said at the beginning of the meal)
  • Can I take away the rest of this spaghetti? (This is usually said at the end of a meal that you are unable to finish)

Paying Your Bill

Last but not least:

  • Can I please get the bill?
  • Do you take card?
  • Can you split the bill?

A Vocabulary List

This is a basic, and by no means extensive list of terms you’ll encounter when eating out:

  1. a la carte – separate food items on a menu (not part of a meal/without a side dish)
  2. appetizer – a small dish served before the main meal
  3. beverage – a drink
  4. booth – a seating area that is partly enclosed, and often cushioned
  5. busboy – a person who helps to clear the tables
  6. complimentary – free of charge
  7. doggie bag – a bag that is used to take leftover food home
  8. entrée – otherwise known as the main course; this is the largest part of the meal
  9. gratuity – a tip given to the waiter as a thank you
  10. highchair – a chair with a tray, designed for a baby
  11. side dish – a small dish that goes with your main meal



Author Jade Goh

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