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Video:ESL: English Restaurant Phrases

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It's important to know some basic phrases in English for North American restaurants. Learn simple greetings, how to place your order and what to do when the check arrives.See Transcript

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Transcript:ESL: English Restaurant Phrases

Hello, I'm Milo for About.com and today we're talking about some English phrases used in restaurants.  

Greetings

Let's start with greetings.  In many American restaurants the waiters are very personable and kind and may ask basic questions to introduce themselves and get to know you. However they also go directly to the point of getting the meal started.

Waiter:

"Hello, I'm Elizabeth and I will be your server."

"Do you have any questions about the menu?" 

"Our specials are grilled cod from the market and Eggs Benedict."

"While you look at the menu may I bring your drink order?"

"What would you like to drink?"

"May I take your order?"

Placing Your Order

In North American English, the word entrée means the main course.  This may be confusing for people from Romance Language countries, especially those speaking French.  Typically you order your drink first, and then an appetizer or starter and a main course.  

Also, when ordering or asking for something new, you use the phrase, "May I have..." Notice how the sentence is very polite and not a direct command, and always ends with please.

"May I have salt please?"

"May I have some more water, please?"

In English the temperatures of red meat are typically rare, medium, and well done.  For instance, you can order your burger, "May I have my burger medium rare, please?"

Also in North America it is very common for the waiter to make suggestions of extra items, drinks, and dessert.  It is not rude to refuse these suggestions at all.

Waiter: "Would you like to look at the cocktail menu?"

"Can I bring you the dessert tray?"

"We have an excellent chocolate cake for dessert if you would like."

Paying For the Meal

In North American restaurants they tend to bring the check without asking, however you can ask, "May I have the check please?" When paying it is typical in North America to tip the waiter for the service, the usual rate is 15 to 20% of the bill.  You usually put this right on the table or add it to the credit card receipt as there is a place for it in North America.  

For more excellent, interesting, and helpful information on learning English and North American culture, check us out at About.com.

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