How to teach restaurant and food English vocabulary

Restaurant and food vocabulary is one of the most popular topics to teach students learning English. Because everybody eats food and goes to restaurants, the vocabulary is both very relevant and necessary for students. You can teach this vocabulary to any class and you won't get anybody complaining.

Below I will suggest what type of restaurant and food topics to use with your students and how to teach it to them so they learn and remember it.

Topics to teach:

Topic Levels

  • Elem: Elementary
  • Low-Int: Lower-Intermediate
  • Int: Intermediate
  • Upp-Int: Upper-Intermediate
  • Adv: Advanced

There are numerous things you can teach your students on restaurant and food vocabulary. Which you choose or start with depends on the their level. I would recommend that you follow an order to introducing the vocabulary with them (see the below topic order). This will not only help them to use and remember the vocabulary they have learnt in previous classes on the topic, but also make the classes easier to teach.

  • Basic Food Vocabulary
    Level: Elem or Low-Int
    Teach the names of common types of food and vocabulary connected to food (e.g. dish, types of meat etc...).
  • Basic Restaurant Vocabulary
    Level: Elem or Low-Int
    Teach the names of the basic vocabulary used in restaurants (e.g. menu, bill/check etc...).
  • Food Tastes & Textures
    Level: Int or above
    Teach the names of the different tastes and textures of food and drink.
  • Food Cooking Methods (e.g. roast, fried etc...)
    Level: Int or above
    Teach the names of the different ways that food can be cooked (good for understanding dishes on a menu).
  • Arriving at, Ordering and Paying in a Restaurant
    Level: Int or above
    Teach phrases and vocabulary used by both customers and waiters/waitresses during a meal in a restaurant.
  • Complaining in a Restaurant
    Level: Upp-Int or above
    Teach polite ways to complain politely in restaurants and common sitauations when this may happen.
  • Wine Vocabulary
    Level: Upp-Int or above
    Teach vocabulary for talking about and ordering wine (a good topic for people who regularly meet business clients/suppliers who speak English).
  • Drinking Alcohol Vocabulary
    Level: Int or above
    Teach vocabulary connected to beer, spirits/liquor and ordering it in bars/pubs.

Teaching the vocabulary

As everybody eats food and eats in restaurants and drinking in bars/pubs, they will already use the vocabulary in their own language. This makes teaching this vocabulary easy in class. Instead of telling them the names of the different vocabulary or phrases, give them printed texts or do online exercises where they have to work out the meaning of vocabulary themselves from the context (better for understanding and remembering).

Practising the vocabulary

There are many methods that you can use to get the students to practise the vocabulary they have learnt. The method you should use depends on the type of vocabulary they are learning.

Food & Drink Vocabulary (names, tastes and textures)

Use photos (either from images on the Google search engine or by bringing in photos) and get the students to name the food, dish and/or describe it.

Getting the students to write down and describe the different courses they have recently had or what their favourite 3 course meal are very good for reinforcing this vocabulary.

Restaurant Vocabulary and Phrases

To reinforce this vocabulary, get them to do as many role plays as possible on the vocabulary topic you are teaching them (e.g. ordering food, complaining etc...). Explain to them the situation and then give them roles (e.g. customer, waiter/waitress).