How to Order in a Restaurant

One exciting thing to do in a new country is to try the food. When you're in a big city like London, New York or Sydney, you're guaranteed to find something tasty. But first, you need to know how to order in a restaurant in English. After all, everyone needs to eat!

How to read a menu:

The list of foods offered in a restaurant is called a menu. These are divided into sections:

  • The first course is called an appetizer or starter. These are usually small portions such as soup, bread or salad.
  • The second course is called the main course, mains or entree. (However, unlike the French word entrée, it means main dish and not starter. Be careful or you might have a whole steak as an appetizer!) The main course is the biggest part of your meal.

Then if you are not full, there is the best course…

  • Dessert. They are usually sweet foods like cake, ice cream or fruit!
  • There is another section on the menu called drinks or beverages. Ordering soft drinks, like Coca-Cola or Fanta, can be tricky, though! In the UK, they are known as fizzy drinks. Depending where you are in the USA, they could be called soda, pop or coke (even when it's not Coca-Cola).  If you are not sure what to call it, just ask for the type you'd like, such as Coca-Cola, 7-Up or Pepsi.

Are you getting hungry yet?

How to order:

The easiest way to order in a restaurant is to start your sentence with:

  • I will have the...
  • I’d like the…
  • Please can I have the…
  • I would like…

Example: I will have the chicken burger and chips.

Restaurant etiquette:

Ordering is different in every country. In some places, the waiter or waitress will bring you a menu. Sometimes you might have to ask for a menu:

  • Please may I have a menu?

Sometimes a restaurant will specialize in a certain meal. This means they will have recommended dishes, or specials. You can ask:

  • What would you recommend from the menu?
  • Do you have any specials today?

A response would be:

'Yes, our special today is the delicious beef and rice' or 'I highly recommend the steak and chips'.

When to leave a tip:

When you receive the bill, you might see a ‘service charge’ listed. However, not all restaurants include this on the bill. In some countries, it is the custom to offer a ‘tip’.

  • In the UK, the tip is 10%-12% of the meal cost (including drinks). For example, if the meal is £30, a £3 tip would be acceptable. It is not an obligation, and how much you tip depends on how happy you are with the service.
  • In the USA, the custom is to tip between 18%-20% of the meal cost (including drinks). It is considered rude to not tip, unless the service is extremely bad.

If you were in a restaurant now, what would you order? Tell us in the comment section below!

Enjoy your meal!

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