Words You Should Know for Restaurants
By Bethan Ryder / Published by Dwell

Back of house: The kitchen and staff-only areas in a restaurant, usually hidden from view from the diners.

Chef’s table: A dining table in the kitchen, or a small vestibule off the kitchen, where patrons pay a higher price to eat a tasting menu and watch and interact directly with the head chef and the kitchen brigade.

Community (or communal) table: A long table, often accommodating up to 30 people, where patrons dine alongside strangers. Philippe Starck introduced these into many of his hotel restaurants and bars during the latter part of the 1990s.

Farm to table:
Describes restaurants that proudly source their ingredients as locally as possible, cutting out any middlemen and, wherever possible, dealing directly with the farms and producers who supply their meat or vegetables.

Front of house:
Originally a theatrical term, this refers to the public part of a restaurant—–the reception area, bar, and dining room.

Pronounced “meez,” it’s short for mise en place, which translates to “put in place.” It means that all the ingredients a chef will use to make a dish are laid out in a particular way.

The pass: The counter where the head chef checks the presentation of dishes before they are passed from the kitchen to the service staff.

The size of a table and how many diners can sit there. A two-top seats two, a four-top seats four.

Turnover: The speed at which tables are vacant and full during a shift. In a high-turnover restaurant each table might host at least three different seatings in an evening.

Modern Dining: You won’t get stuck on the wrong end of the communal table with this handy list. Illustration by Dan Williams

Bethan Ryder


Bethan Ryder is an accomplished writer and critic of restaurant design. She has written books with titles like, "New Bar and Club Design," "Restaurant Design," and "New Restaurant Design," which highlight particular clubs, bars, or restaurants of interest that she critiques and explains why their designs work so well.

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