If you work in a restaurant or bar as a waiter/waitress it is important to speak English. In fact, if you can speak English it is easier to find a job than if you don't.

In this online exercise on English for waiters, we'll look at English phrases and vocabulary you need to use and know when speaking to customers when they arrive. Also there are phrases for asking about what they want to drink.

This is the first part of three exercises on English vocabulary for restaurant waiters/waitresses. If you want to learn what to say when taking orders and serving food, when you finish this exercise, do our next one on 'English for restaurant waiters: Taking customers' orders and serving food'.

To learn food and drink vocabulary, see the online exercises we have on the website in the 'food & drink exercise menu'.


Exercise: Customers arriving at a restaurant

In the following conversation in a restaurant in Spain, a waiter speaks in English to two customers who have just arrived and want to eat.

From the context, try to guess what the meaning of the words/phrases in bold are. Then do the quiz at the end to check if you are right.

Waiter:'Buenos noches, quieres cenar?'

Customer 1:'Sorry, do you speak English?'

Waiter:'Yes, I do. Good evening, would you like to order food?'

Customer 1:'Yes, we would.'

Waiter:'A table for two?'

Customer 1:'Yes.'

Waiter:'Inside or outside?'

Customer 1:'Outside, please.'

Waiter:'Please follow me.'

20 seconds later:

'Is this table ok?'

Customer 1:'No, it's very near the road. What about that table?'

Waiter:'Sorry, I'm afraid it's reserved. How about this table?'

Customer 1:'Yes, it's fine.'

Waiter:'I'll go and bring you the menus in English.'

2 minutes later:

'Here you are. The drinks we have are at the back of the menu. We also have a separate wine list, which shows you what wines we have.'

Customer 1:'Thank you.'

Waiter:'I'll leave you to look at the menu.'

Customer 1:'Thank you.'

5 minutes later:

Waiter:'What would you like to drink?'

Customer 1:'Yes, can I have glass of red house wine, please.'

Waiter:'OK. And for you, madam.'

Customer 2:'I'll have a Coca Cola.'

Waiter:'With ice?'

Customer 2:'No, without is fine.'

Waiter:'Would you like water with your meal?'

Customer 1:'Yes, we would. A bottle of mineral water, do you have Perrier?'

Waiter:'I'm afraid we don't. We have Evian. Is that ok?'

Customer 1:'That's ok.'

Waiter:'Would you like still or sparkling water?'

Customer 2:'I don't like water with gas or bubbles, so no sparkling water for me.'

Customer 1:'Can we have a bottle of still mineral water, please.'

Waiter:'Of course. I'll go and bring you your drinks.'


After you do the quiz below, do the exercises below to learn to essential restaurant food & drink vocabulary:


Quiz:

Below is a definition/description of each of the words in bold from the above text. Now choose the word/phrase from the question's selection box which you believe answers each question. Only use one word/phrase once. Click on the "Check Answers" button at the bottom of the quiz to check your answers.

When the answer is correct, two icons will appear next to the question. The first is an Additional Information Icon "". Click on this for extra information on the word/phrase and for a translation. The second is a Pronunciation Icon "". Click on this to listen to the pronunciation of the word/phrase and to do a pronunciation speaking test.

1. A polite phrase to use when you give a customer something they have asked for (like a menu or salt & pepper), is
         

Here you are:
(phrase) This phrase is used to be polite. It is used when you give a customer something they have asked for (like the bill/check, menu, bread, salt and peppar, an extra glass, an ashtray etc...). For example, 'excuse me, can we have a menu?' 'of course' 'here you are (when giving the menu)'. You can also say "here's" and the name of object instead if you want, e.g. 'here's the menu'.

Remember, you don't use this when giving the customer(s) their food. In this situation you say the name of the dish instead, e.g 'tomato soup?' Then wait for them to say 'yes'.

In Spanish: "aqui tiene".

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Here you are:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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2. The two places in some restaurants where people can eat, are
         

Inside or outside:
(phrase) When a customer(s) arrives at restaurant and asks the waiter/waitress for a table, the waiter/waitress should ask them where they want to eat. Whether they want to eat at a table inside the restaurant or at a table outside the restaurant. To do this, you simply ask the customer 'inside or outside'. For example, 'a table for 4, please' 'inside or outside'.

Some restaurants have two different areas inside the restaurant where customers can eat, the restaurant area (a room with just tables) or in the bar area (where customers can either eat or just drink if they want). If your restaurant serves food in these two areas, you should also ask the customer in which area they want to eat by replacing 'inside' with 'in the restaurant, the bar'. For example, 'would you like to eat in the restaurant, the bar or outside?'

In Spanish: "dentro o fuera".

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Inside or outside:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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3. The two types of water (with gas or without gas) that people drink in restaurants, are
         

Still or sparkling water:
(phrase) There are two types of water that people normally drink when in a restaurant or bar, 'still' and 'sparkling'. 'still' water is normal water (without gas/bubbles), 'sparkling' is water with gas/bubbles. When a customer(s) asks for water, a waiter/waitress should ask what type of water they want. For example, 'a bottle of water, please' 'still or sparkling?'.

With 'still' water, there are two different types, 'mineral' or 'tap'. 'mineral' water is basically water that is sold in bottles and 'tap' water is water from comes from a tap (the name of the object which every house/apartment/restaurant has to provide/give water).

In Spanish: "agua sin gas o con gas".

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Still or sparkling water:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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4. A politer way to ask a customer 'what do you want to drink?', is
         

What would you like to drink:
(phrase) This phrase is just a politer way to say 'what do you want to drink?'. 'would you like' is a politer way to say 'do you want' and I would recommend that you always use it when asking customers questions. For example, 'would you like a menu?' or 'would you like to sit inside or outside?'

A politer and more formal way to say 'what would you like to drink' is 'would you like to order drinks'. If you are taking orders from more than one customer, after the first customer has told you what they want, you should say to the rest of the customers 'and for you' instead of 'what would you like to drink/eat/order'. For example, 'what would you like to drink?' 'a beer' 'and for you?' 'a coca cola'.

In Spanish: "qué quereis tomar".

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What would you like to drink:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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5. A politer way to say 'no problem' or 'yes' when a customer asks you for something, is
         

Of course:
(phrase) 'of course' is a formal/professional way of saying 'no problem' or 'yes' when a customer either asks you for something (e.g. 'could we have the bill, please?' 'of course') or to do something (e.g. 'could we change tables?' 'of course').

In Spanish: "por supuesto".

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Of course:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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6. When you tell a customer that you are going to find and give them menus to read, is
         

I'll go and bring you the menus:
(phrase) This phrase is used to tell a customer(s) that you are going to go and 'bring'/'get' some menus (the paper/sheets where the food and prices are written on) for them. You can use either 'I'll go and bring you the menus' or 'I'll bring you the menus'. You can also replace 'bring' with 'get' ('get' is less formal, but it means the same thing in this context).

In English the verb 'bring' is used when you are speaking to people and you tell them that you are going to go and return to them with some object (or even person). For example, 'can we have bill, please?' 'of course, I'll bring you the bill'.

In Spanish: "Os traigo las cartas".

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I'll go and bring you the menus:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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7. A polite phrase used to ask a customer(s) if they want to drink water with their food, is
         

Would you like water with your meal:
(phrase) It is basically used to ask a customer(s) if they want to have a bottle of water to drink when they are eating their food/meal. This phrase is just a politer way to say 'do you want water with you food/meal?'. 'would you like' is a politer way to say 'do you want' and I would recommend that you use it instead when asking customers questions. For example, 'would you like a menu?' or 'would you like to order a drink?

You can also use this phrase to ask the customer(s) if they want to have wine with their meal/food by replacing 'water' in the phrase with 'water'. For example, 'would you like wine with your meal?'.

In Spanish: "quereis tomar agua con la comida".

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Would you like water with your meal:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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8. A polite phrase used to tell a customer(s) that they can't sit at a table because it is for somebody else, is
         

I'm afraid it's reserved:
(phrase) It is common for people to 'reserve' tables at restaurants (ask a restaurant to hold/keep a table for them before they arrive). You use this phrase to tell a customer(s) that they can't sit at a table because it is already 'reserved' for people who haven't arrived yet.

It is always important to be polite with customers. So, if you are going to tell a customer(s) some bad news (e.g. they can't sit at a table, there are no tables available, there's no more of a dish they want etc...), you always start by apologising. To do this, you should use 'I'm afraid' or 'sorry' (which is less formal). For example, 'I'm afraid we don't have the lamb tonight' or 'sorry, this table's reserved'. You can then offer them an alternative, e.g. 'I'm afraid it's reserved. how about this table?'.

In Spanish: "lo siento, está reservada".

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I'm afraid it's reserved:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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9. A phrase used to ask customers(s) what they want to order/drink/eat which includes the word 'for', is
         

And for you:
(phrase) This phrase is used as a question when you are taking orders (when you ask people what they want to eat or drink) from customers. When taking customer orders you should start by saying 'what would you like to drink?' or 'are you ready to order?'. After the first customer has told you what they want, you use 'and for you' to ask the rest of the customers at the table. For example, 'what would you like to drink?' 'a beer' 'and for you?' 'a coca cola' 'and for you?'...

A politer and more formal way to say 'and for you' is to add 'sir' (for a man) or 'madam' (for a woman) at the end of the phrase. For example, 'and for you madam?' or 'and for you sir?'.

In Spanish: "y para usted".

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And for you:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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10. A politer way to ask a customer 'do you want to eat?', is
         

Would you like to order food:
(phrase) This phrase is just a politer way to say 'do you want to eat?'. 'would you like' is a politer way to say 'do you want' and I would recommend that you use it when asking customers questions. For example, 'would you like a menu?' or 'would you like to order a drink?'.

To be honest, you probably won't need to use 'would you like to order food' as most customers will tell you they want to eat themselves first, e.g. 'a table for 3, please' or 'can we order food, please'. But if they don't, then you should ask them 'would you like to order food?' or 'would you like to eat?' (both have the same meaning).

In Spanish: "queréis comer/cenar/desayunar".

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Would you like to order food:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
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11. A polite phrase you say to a customer(s) when you take them to a table, is
         

Please follow me:
(phrase) You use this phrase to tell customers that you are going to take them to their table. For example, 'a table for 4, please' 'please follow me'. You don't have to use 'please' in this phrase, but it sounds a lot politer if you do.

In Spanish: "sígame, por favor".

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Please follow me:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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12. A menu for wine, is called a
         

Wine list:
(noun) In some restaurants there are two different menus for customers (the paper/sheet where the food/drink and their prices are written on). One of the menus is for food and some types of drinks (which is called the 'menu') and the other menu is only for wine. In English, we call this menu for wine the 'wine list'. For example, 'here's your menus and here's the wine list'.

If in your restaurant the 'wine list' is part of the menu (they are both together), you should show or tell the customer(s) where the 'wine list' is in the menu. For example, 'the wine list is at the back of the menu'.

In Spanish: "carta de vinos".

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Wine list:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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13. A phrase you ask a customer to confirm how many people they want a table in the reaturant for, is
         

A table for two:
(phrase) This phrase is used by either customers to say how many people they want a table for (how many people want to eat in the restaurant) or by the waiter/waitress if the customer hasn't already told them. In English, it is common that this is the first thing that a customer will say to a waiter/waitress when they arrive. For example, 'a table for 4, please' 'please follow me'.

This phrase is used if the customers haven't made a reservation' before (asked for a table to be held or kept for them). If they have, they will say 'I/we have a reservation in the name of Smith for 8.30' instead.

In Spanish: "una mesa para dos personas".

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A table for two:

Pronunciation Speaking Test:
To check your pronunciation of this word/phrase, first click on the microphone icon () below. Then allow the browser to record your voice and then say the above word/phrase. Although this test is good, it sometimes does not recognise some of the words/phrases.

       

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