Whether you’re dining out on your trip to Hawaii, stopping for a quick lunch from a sandwich bar in New York City, or getting room service on a business trip to London, knowing how to order food in English can save you a lot of embarrassment and misunderstandings.
While you may already know different food items in English, being able to say “cheese” or “tomato” doesn’t mean you can make an entire order at a restaurant or on the phone. That’s why, in this article, we’re coming to your rescue with 104 useful words and expressions to help you order food in English.
How to order food in English
How you order food in English will largely depend on where you’re ordering it from. So, before we dive into the specific expressions, let’s first get some clarity on the different types of places to order food from:
This is a place where people sit down to eat a meal prepared for them on the premises. There are different types of restaurants depending on the food they serve or their styles, such as fast food restaurants or fine dining restaurants.
A café is beverage-focused. It usually serves just coffee and tea and snacks.
The word “takeout” refers to food made in the restaurant but meant to be eaten outside. When you order takeout, you can either pick it up from the restaurant yourself or have it delivered to your door.
- Food truck:
These are fun if you enjoy street food. A food truck is a large vehicle where food is prepared and sold to be eaten outside.
Super-handy restaurant vocabulary in English
Do you know what’s the difference between a “meal” and a “dish”? Can you tell the waiter that he forgot to bring you the knife? Do you know how to ask the waiter if they have gluten-free options on the menu?
Unless you’re familiar with a few useful restaurant expressions, you will likely have trouble expressing exactly what you want to order.
How to ask for a table in English dialogue
While nowadays we can usually book a restaurant table online, sometimes you’ll need to do it on the phone. You may also find yourself spontaneously walking into a restaurant one day, wondering if there’s a free table for you and your friends.
If asking for a table in English feels scary and overwhelming, we’ve got your back! Take a look at the list of some useful expressions below. And if you need to review English numbers, days of the week, or how to tell the time, check out our guides.
- I would like to make a reservation for three people, please.
- Hello! A table for two, please!
- Do you have any tables available for a group of four?
- I’d like to book a table for tonight at 7 pm.
- Do you have any tables available for two on Sunday evening?
- Do you have any tables available this afternoon?
- What is your booking availability for two people tomorrow evening?
- I’d like to book a table next to the window.
- I’d like to book a table for two on the rooftop.
- Are there any tables available right now?
- Hello! I made a reservation for four people under the name John Smith.
- When do you have a free table I can book for a group of 6?
- I would like a table in the non-smoking section, please
- We would like to be seated inside.
- Can you reserve one of your outside tables for us, please?
- I’d like to cancel the reservation I made for Sunday at 7 pm under the name of Smith.
How to order at a restaurant in English
Ordering food at a restaurant can be scary, especially if you don’t know the correct expressions! To help you avoid embarrassment in front of your friends or misunderstandings with the waiter, we’ve prepared the following table full of key phrases and expressions that will surely come in handy.
Knowing these will not only help you sound more fluent in English, but they’ll also allow you to clearly communicate what you want to order.
|Could I, please see the drinks menu?
|kəd aɪ, pliz si ðə drɪŋks ˈmɛnju?
|Can you take our order, please?
|kənjʊ teɪk ˈaʊər ˈɔrdər, pliz?
|How long do we have to wait for our food to arrive?
|haʊ lɔŋdʊ wihəv tə weɪt fərˈaʊər fud tʊ əˈraɪv?
|Do you have any gluten-free options?
|dʊ jʊ həv ˈɛni ˈglutən-friˈɑpʃənz?
|What are the vegetarian options?
|wʌt ər ðə ˌvɛʤəˈtɛriən ˈɑpʃənz?
|I’m allergic to…
|aɪm əˈlɜrʤɪk tʊ…
|I’m gluten/lactose intolerant
|aɪm ˈglutən/ˈlæktoʊs ɪnˈtɑlərənt
|I have celiac disease
|aɪ həv celiac dɪˈziz
|I can’t eat food that contains gluten/lactose/etc.
|aɪ kænt it fud ðət kənˈteɪnz ˈglutən/ˈlæktoʊs/ˌɛtˈsɛtərə.
|May I please order a bottle of wine?
|meɪ aɪ pliz ˈɔrdər ə ˈbɑtəl əv waɪn?
|Which wines do you recommend?
|wɪʧ waɪnzdʊ jʊ ˌrɛkəˈmɛnd?
|What do you recommend?
|wʌtdʊ jʊ ˌrɛkəˈmɛnd?
|May I please order a cocktail?
|meɪ aɪ pliz ˈɔrdər ə ˈkɑkˌteɪl?
|Do you have non-alcoholic options?
|dʊ jʊ həv nɑn-ˌælkəˈhɑlɪkˈɑpʃənz?
|I’ll have the…
|aɪl həv ði…
|What are the specials of the day?
|wʌt ər ðə ˈspɛʃəlz əv ðə deɪ?
|A bottle of water for the table, please.
|ə ˈbɑtəl əv ˈwɔtər fər ðə ˈteɪbəl, pliz.
|Could I please have the check/bill?
|kəd aɪ pliz həv ðə ʧɛk/bɪl?
|That was delicious!
|ðæt wəz dɪˈlɪʃəs!
|Compliments to the chef!
|ˈkɑmpləmɛnts tə ðə ʃɛf!
|Is the tip included?
|ɪz ðə tɪp ɪnˈkludəd?
|Can we split the bill?
|kən wi splɪt ðə bɪl?
How to order food in English by phone
While picking up the phone to order food can feel stressful, the thought of having delicious food delivered to your door makes it much more bearable! If you’re anything like me, you’re likely rehearsing what to say over the phone every time you need to make a phone call - even if it’s to order a pizza.
So, to make ordering your food easier for you, we’ve taken the time to write down what a conversation or dialogue like that may look like when ordering food in English by phone.
You: Hello! I’d like to place an order for delivery, please.
Waiter: Hi! Perfect. What’s the delivery address?
You: The delivery address is…
Waiter: Ok, great! What can I get started for you?
You: I’ll have one large pepperoni pizza, one order of mozzarella sticks, and a large bottle of Coca-Cola.
Waiter: Would you like something for dessert? We have a promotion for our chocolate ice cream. You can get it for just $2.50 with a large pizza. Shall I add it to your order?
You: Yes, please! Chocolate ice cream sounds delicious!
Waiter: Can I add something else for you?
You: No, thank you. That’ll be all. How much is it?
Waiter: It’ll be $32.50. You can pay by card at delivery. Your order will arrive in around 40 minutes at [delivery address].
You: Thank you!
Restaurant menu in English
The most important vocabulary you need to know when going out to a restaurant or ordering food for delivery is, of course, the food vocabulary! Unless you can adequately name what you want to eat, you might confuse oysters with mussels or ask for pork instead of beef!
So, to avoid some disastrous menu misunderstandings, take a look at this table with the most common items on any restaurant menu. You might also want to check out our guides to vegetables and fruits in English.
Delicious desserts in English
If you’re a sweet tooth like us, you won’t leave a restaurant unless you order a delicious dessert! We don’t know about you, but we can’t resist a chocolate muffin or a traditional cheesecake.
Here’s a list of the most common dessert items for sweets lovers.
|Chocolate chip cookies
|ˈʧɔklət ʧɪp ˈkʊkiz
|Chaa-kluht chip ku-keez
How to order fast food in English
Even if you’re a healthy eater, we all crave a pepperoni pizza or a cheeseburger with a large portion of fries! To get you prepared for those days, here’s an example of a conversation you may have with the person taking your order at the local McDonald’s:
Them: Hi! What can I get for you?
You: Hi! I’d like a Big Mac, please.
Them: With everything in it?
You: Yes. And large fries.
Them: One Big Mac and large fries. Anything to drink?
You: A large Coca-Cola Zero.
Them: Great. That makes $8.95. Would you like to pay by cash or card?
You: Card, please.
Them: Thank you. You can wait for your order right there. Enjoy!
3 tips to order food in English like a pro
While ordering food in English-speaking countries doesn’t have many rules you need to follow, there are a couple of things that will help you sound more like a local and less like a confused tourist.
Here are our 3 tips to help you order food in English like a pro.
1. Be polite but don’t exaggerate
The majority of English-speaking countries, especially if we’re talking big cities, are fast-paced. That’s why many busy New Yorkers, demanding Californians, and stressed Londoners often order their food hastily and without excessive politeness.
But that doesn’t absolve you from being polite to the person taking your order or serving your food. Politeness and respect always go a long way. No matter how much in a hurry you are, always remember to say “thank you” and “please.”
2. Tip whenever you can
Tipping is a common custom in most English-speaking countries, especially the USA. While it isn’t commonly practiced when eating at fast-food restaurants or ordering takeout, most Americans (and other English-speaking nations) tip at least 15% of the pretax bill at sit-down restaurants. Of course, the fancier the restaurant, the more you’re expected to tip.
3. Remember that most prices are given pre-tax
On my last trip to Canada a few years ago, I was pleasantly surprised that everything was much cheaper than I expected. However, my contentment lasted only until I got to the counter and was billed way more than I had calculated.
All because both in Canada and the US, the prices in shops and restaurants are often given pre-tax. So, that innocently looking $3.75 for a coffee is really $3.75 + tax.
Enjoy your meal!
Test your knowledge
Now that you know how to order food in English, try ordering something off of our Berlitz English menu. There are lots of local specials to choose from.
Now, you’re fully prepared to order a delicious meal at a fancy restaurant, call your local pizza place to order a pizza for a Netflix night, or quickly order a McDonald’s burger on the go.
Yes, ordering your food in English for the first time - or the first few times - can be stressful, and you might make tons of mistakes! But remember that practice makes perfect.
And if you’d like to practice your English vocabulary some more, check out other handy guides on our English blog.