#217: 41 Common Restaurant Phrases & Collocations in English
Do you ever feel like the things that SHOULD be simple in English are never very simple?
For example, going to a coffee shop & ordering a coffee, or going to a restaurant.
I know when I first moved abroad, these simple, everyday events filled me with anxiety. When I would try to order lunch, my face would flush and my hands got sweaty.
Thankfully, once you know the right phrases and collocations to use for those daily interactions, AND after you practice them consistently, it’s no longer so scary to do those things that should be simple.
By the end of this lesson today, you’ll comfortably communicate in a restaurant environment by using phrases and collocations English speakers often use in natural speech so you can confidently do the same.
This includes what you need to
- Make a reservation
- Greet others upon arrival
- Inquire about the menu
- Order what you want
- Express frustration or make a complaint
- Respond to the question “How is everything”
- Make a payment & finish the meal
And finally, you’ll get some helpful pronunciation tips for common contractions and examples of connected speech with these English collocations.
41 Common Restaurant Phrases & Collocations in English
The first step to mastering restaurant talk is knowing how to ask for a table. Of course, these days we usually make reservations online; however, there are still some restaurants that require or prefer reservations by phone.
When we want to “reserve” a table, we can make a request by simply stating our wish.
- I’d like to book a table for three people.
- I would like to make a reservation for three people.
On the other hand, we could make a request by asking:
- May I book a table for three people?
- Could I make a reservation for three people?
Arriving & Greeting
Once you arrive at a restaurant, you may wonder about what to say or how to ask someone about your reservation.
The answer is simple: start with a greeting and mention your reservation.
- Hello, I have a reservation under Annemarie Fowler.
- Hi, I have a booking under the name of Nisha Patel.
If you haven’t made a reservation ahead of time, you may ask:
- Do you have any free tables at the moment?
- Are there any tables available for a party of three?
Inquiring about the Menu
Before you order, you may have questions about the food or the menu.
If you would like to know about recommendations or popular foods, you may ask:
- What are today’s specials?
- What do you recommend?
- Do you have any house specials?
If you would like to know what comes with an item on the menu, you could ask:
- Does this burger come with a side of fries?
- Does this come with a salad on the side?
Similarly, if you would like to inquire about what’s in a dish, you may ask:
- Could you tell me what’s in the pasta salad?
- What’s the lemon mousse made with?
When you’re ready to order, express your wants and preferences without hesitation!
Native speakers often start their order by saying:
- May I have a…
- I’d like a…
- I’ll have a…
- Could I get a…
If ordering at a more casual restaurant, like a fast food place, you might say:
- Can I get a…
- I’ll have…
If you prefer to have an additional item with your main dish or would like something to be brought separately, you could say:
- May I have the dressing on the side?
- Could I get a side of fries?
When you would like to have something instead of another, you could ask:
- May I substitute the fries with a side of roast vegetables?
- Could I get a glass of water instead of soda?
Sometimes restaurants are busy and your food may not meet your expectations. In this situation, you may want to express your frustration and tell the waiter:
- Excuse me, this dish isn’t what I expected it to be. Would it be possible to order something else?
- Excuse me, I asked for no cilantro and there’s a lot in my food. May I have this remade?
However, you may be in a situation where you haven’t received your food yet. When this happens, you can politely inquire:
- Excuse me, we ordered some time ago. Will our food be long?
If you’re pressed for time and would like to leave, you could ask:
- I’m running late. Could I get this to-go instead?
Responding to Waitstaff
Oftentimes, your waiter or waitress will stop by to ask: How is everything?
Or, Are you enjoying your meal? Is everything ok with your meal?
You may wonder why they seemed concerned, but they’re simply asking to ensure that everything is as it should be — it’s part of our code of politeness.
When asked, you may choose to order an additional item, express dissatisfaction, or request something else.
If you are satisfied, you may respond to their question with:
- Everything is delicious; thank you.
- Yes, we’re enjoying our meal. Thank you for asking.
- Casually: Everything’s great. Thanks.
Making A Payment/Finishing A Meal
When you’ve completed your meal and can’t eat anymore, you can request to take your unfinished food home by asking:
- Could I get the rest to go?
- Could you box up the leftovers?
When you wish to make a payment and leave, you could make the following requests to the waiter:
- Could we have the bill/cheque, please?
- May I get the check, please?
If you’d like to inquire about the payment method, you can ask:
- Do you take cash/credit/debit?
- May I pay by cash?
When you are with a group of people and want to have separate bills, you can say:
- We’d like to have separate bills, please.
- We’d like to split the check, please.
At the end of the meal, you may wish to tip your waiter. When you pay by credit or debit, you will automatically see an option to tip.
However, when you pay by cash, you can simply say:
- Keep the change, thank you.
This will let the waiter know that you appreciated their service.
Over to you.
Now that you’ve completed the lesson, I have a few questions:
- What is one new collocation you learned in this lesson? Share it in your own example sentence for practice.
- What do you love to order at your favorite restaurant?
- Which part of navigating a restaurant conversation do you struggle with the most?
The best place to practice and share is in the comment section below.
Have a fantastic Confident English Wednesday!
P.S. Are you looking for a community to provide support, help you stay motivated, and guarantee that you grow? Check out our Confident Women Community.
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I adore you for your lessons !!!
Dear Annemarie, 🌹if I tell you the truth, firstly we go outside to eat very less. Secondly when I get chance to eat in restaurant usually my sons or my husband order the food, I mean they do it for me. 🌹Thanks to inspire me next time when we’ll go, I’ll keep those collocations in my mind & use it for sure. 🌹You asked me to choose the best one out of those phrases & Collocations, then my choice is “Excuse me,I asked for no cilantro and there is a lot of it in my food. “May I have this… Read more »
Dear Annemarie,🌸if I tell the truth, firstly we seldom go to restaurants, secondly if I get chance to eat in restaurant usually my sons or my husband order the food.I mean they do it for me. 🌸Thanks to you to inspire me,next time when we’ll go, I’ll keep those phrases & Collocations in my mind and use them for sure. 🌸You asked me to choose the best one out of theses phrases then my choice is “Excuse me, I asked for no cilantro & there is a lot of it in my food” May I have the remade? I first… Read more »
Thank Annemarie for this opportun lesson; I’m on vacation strugguling with how to order in restaurants and shop coffees.
Answering your questions, these are mines:
1. Excuse me, I asked for no specie food and my dish is too hot. May I have this remade?
2. I’d like a salmon with salad on the side. I’ll have a glass of water instead of soda.
3. In a restaurant conversation I struggle with how to explain what I would like and about what ingredients are in the dishes.
Thank you for your comment, Beatriz. We hope you’re having a wonderful time and enjoying your vacation!
_Boxing up the leftovers is a good way to not waste food. I really liked it.
_My favorite food that I like to order in a restaurant is grilled fish with a side of steamed vegetables.
_I’ll have a steak, well done.
Perfect, Raoudha! So glad you have some useful new phrases.
Thanks so much for a very good lesson.
My pleasure. I’m glad it was helpful.