If you ever visit an English-speaking country, you will eventually have to order food at a restaurant—whether it’s at a fast rood restaurant, such as McDonald’s, or a more traditional dine-in restaurant. You may also be inclined to order food and drinks at a bar. Therefore, this lesson is essential for anyone considering a trip abroad. The following are some common expressions that you can use when ordering a food or drinks at a restaurant or bar:
At the Restaurant
Ordering a dish (to the waiter):
I’d like the ______. (e.g., I’d like the spaghetti with meatballs.)
I’ll have the ______. (e.g., I’ll have the spaghetti with meatballs.)
Could I have the ______? (e.g., Could I have the spaghetti with meatballs?)
If you order a steak or other type of red meat, the waiter might ask you how you would like it cooked. Possible options are rare, medium rare, medium, medium well, and well done. (e.g., I’d like the steak medium-rare, please.)
Do you have any specials?
Do you have a drinks menu?
Do you have a desserts menu?
Asking about a dish (to the waiter):
Does this dish come with any sides?
Is a drink included with the dish?
Changing an order (to the waiter):
Could I have the ______ instead of the ______? (e.g., Could I have the lasagna instead of the spaghetti?)
Could I have a side of _____ instead of the _____? (e.g., Could I have a side of vegetables instead of the French fries?)
Special questions (to the waiter):
If you or someone with you has a food allergy, you should ask, “Does this dish contain _____?” (e.g., Does this dish contain nuts? Does this dish contain milk or dairy?)
Do you have any vegetarian/vegan dishes?
Is this dish vegetarian/vegan?
How spicy is this dish?
Could you make it less spicy?
What do you have for dessert?
Sample Restaurant Dialogue
Waiter: Good evening! Can I start you off with something to drink?
You: Hi. Yes, I’ll have a Diet Coke.
Waiter: OK. Would you like to order an appetizer?
You: No thank you. I’m ready to order my main dish.
Waiter: Sure. What can I get you?
You: I’ll have the fish curry.
Waiter: Is white rice OK?
You: Could I have a side of brown rice instead of white rice?
You: How spicy is the dish?
Waiter: It’s usually about a 7 out of 10.
You: Could you make it less spicy? Like a 4 out of 10?
Waiter: Of course.
You: Thanks. Also, does the dish contain nuts?
Waiter: I’m not sure, but I can ask the chef.
You: Great, thank you!
At the Bar
Ordering drinks (to the bartender):
What types of (type of drink) do you have? (e.g., What types of beer do you have?)
Do you have (name of drink)? (e.g., Do you have margaritas?)
Is this drink very sweet/sour/bitter/salty?
(To ask about non-bottled beer) Do you have anything on drought?
I’ll have a (name of drink), please. (e.g., I’ll have a Budweiser on drought, please)
(To ask for ice in an alcoholic drink) I’ll have it with/without ice, please. (or With just a little ice, please)
(To order just liquor with ice) I’ll have a (type of liquor) on the rocks, please. (e.g., I’ll have a whiskey on the rocks, please)
Ordering food (to the bartender):
Do you serve food here?
What types of snacks do you have?
Do you serve sandwiches?
Is the kitchen still open?
Could you bring me a menu, please?
Restaurant and Bar Tips for Traveling Abroad
In the U.S., if you order a soft drink, such as a Coke or Sprite, you’ll usually get free refills. In other words, if you want more Coke, the waiter can bring you more. However, if you would like to make sure that the refills are free, just ask the waiter.
In English-speaking countries, such as the United States, the process of paying with a credit card may be a little different. When you are ready to pay, the waiter will take your credit card away from you and swipe it at a machine in another part of the restaurant. He or she won’t bring the credit card machine to you. Don’t worry—this is normal. If you request the machine be brought to you, they probably won’t do it.
You are always expected to leave a tip for the waiter, unless the tip is included in the check. (In the U.S., the tip is usually not included in the check. In the United Kingdom, it often is included. Ask the waiter if you aren’t sure.) The standard tipping rate in the U.S. is 15-20% of the check. In the U.K., the standard tipping rate is 10-15%. If you do decide to travel abroad, it is always a good idea to do a quick online search and learn about the tipping practices in the countries you are visiting.
At a bar, if you want to pay for your drinks when you’re finished drinking rather than after ordering each drink, tell the bartender that you would like to “open a tab.” This will allow you to order several drinks and then pay when you’re ready to go. If you open a tab, some bars might ask to keep your credit card so that they can hold it until you’re ready to pay.
Please visit the following link to learn more commonly used restaurant and bar phrases and vocabulary: