#217: 41 Common Restaurant Phrases & Collocations in English

Sep 15, 2021 | Collocations (Vocabulary), English Conversation

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

Making Reservations

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?

Expressing Frustration/Complaining

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: 

  1. What is one new collocation you learned in this lesson? Share it in your own example sentence for practice.
  2. What do you love to order at your favorite restaurant? 
  3. 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!

~ Annemarie


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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