The front of house (FOH) is where, as a guest, you directly experience a restaurant or bar. It is where memories are made.
Every dining room, waiting area, table, seat, stool, booth, bar, and any other public part of a restaurant is the FOH.
It’s where servers mingle with guests, bussers dart to and fro, hosts and hostesses stand watch, and managers roam. It’s also where some strange FOH meanings, slang, and phrases are used.
Read on to learn all about ’em!
FOH Restaurant Lingo
#-top: The number refers to the size of the party that will be seated; a 3-top is three people, a 4-top is four people, and so on
86’d: If an item is no longer available, it’s 86’d. Some say the origin is from prohibition, when a bar named Chumley’s in NYC would direct all of its patrons out the 86 Bedford Street door while the cops were coming in the other entrance. Some others say entirely different things.
Behind: Called out to let fellow employees know their location, usually said while walking briskly with a handful of plates
Beverage director: Responsible for creating and maintaining the beverage menu and program at a bar or restaurant
Burn the ice: Pouring hot water into an ice bin to melt the ice; if, for example, someone tries to dip a glass into the ice bin instead of using the ice scoop, and the glass breaks, it’s time to burn the ice
Busser: Responsible for clearing and resetting tables
Campers: Guests at a table or bar who won’t leave; prevents turning tables, selling more, and making more tips
Chef’s table: A table with a close, clear view of the kitchen; typically reserved for VIPs and special events
Comp: Short for complimentary, to remove something from a bill
Corner: Similar to behind, but said when turning a blind corner: helpful echolocation to avoid collision. Other variations include “hot corner!” and “coming around!”
Covers: One cover represents one diner sat and one meal served; if a restaurant seats and serves three tables of four, that’s 12 covers
Cut: When management ends someone’s shift, that someone has been cut; it could be because traffic is slow and there’s no need for the coverage, or because their shift has naturally come to an end
Double: Working two shifts in a row
Double sat: Getting two new tables in a section back-to-back; can be a blessing (more money) or a curse (see: “in the weeds”)
Drop the check: Delivering the check to a guest at the end of service
Floor manager: The manager who is present in the dining room, the kitchen, the bar, and generally visible and available for staff and guests throughout the shift
FOH: The meaning of FOH? The front of the house, or where the bar and dining areas are, as opposed to the back of house (BOH), otherwise known as the kitchen
General manager: The top of the hierarchy, the general manager is responsible for the operation of the entire business: kitchen, front of house, bar, hiring, purchasing from distributors, you name it. The buck stops with them.
Grat: Short for gratuity, or tip; typically used when the gratuity is auto-applied due to party size
Heard: Responding “heard!” is confirmation that you hear and understand something
Host/hostess: Responsible for greeting customers as they enter, taking reservations, managing the waitlist, and seating customers
Huddle-up: Also known as a preshift meeting, the huddle-up is when management addresses staff before a shift; topics covered include what to push, upselling opportunities, 86’d items, predicted covers, and more
In the weeds: When someone is so busy—often overwhelmed—that they can’t catch up and service quality takes a hit; that said, some staff can be weeded out (another version of the phrase!) and come out of it just fine
No call no show: When a party has a reservation, doesn’t show up, and doesn’t call to reschedule or cancel
Party: The group of guests, typically paired with their size: “a party of 4,” “a party of 8,” etc.
Pick up: To handle a table that’s in someone else’s section, typically if there is no server in that section or that section’s server has just been double sat or is in the weeds
POS: The point-of-sale system, the little kiosk you see servers and bartenders punching orders into
Push: To purposefully try to sell a specific item, usually if there’s an excess of it or its shelf life is coming to an end, e.g., “Hey, everyone, push the duck tonight”
Reservation: The commitment a guest makes to visiting the restaurant at a certain time with a certain size party
Run: To bring food from the kitchen or drinks from the bar to a guest; some restaurants have dedicated runners for each shift, some use their expos, and some rely on the kindness of passing servers
Section: The collection of tables a server is responsible for
Slammed: Similar to “in the weeds,” though without the connotation of being overwhelmed; typically being slammed means a server, bartender, or chef is busy, but not losing control
Soft launch: A service before a restaurant or a bar is officially open, typically provided to friends, family, and special guests; a preview
Sommelier: The consummate wine professional in the building, dedicated to managing the wine program, building wine lists, and helping guests choose the right wines
Station: See: “section”
Table service: Traditionally, this means any dining experience that involves a guest sitting at a table and being waited on; more recently, it’s come to mean some meal preparation done at table side, like deboning a fish or slicing prime rib
Tasting menu: A menu with smaller, sample-sized portions of numerous dishes, usually served in courses and at a set price
Turn and burn: Quickly getting guests in and out to maximize sales and tips
Wanna learn more? Check out our bar and restaurant dictionary!