On Friday night a Facebook post left people across Hilton Head panicked that Lucky Rooster had closed its doors for good. Fortunately, that wasn’t the case, but how did it happen?
It was the result of “restaurant slang” used by the last server working for the night in a post inviting other restaurant employees in the area to drop by when their shifts ended, according to Lucky Rooster owner/chef Clayton Rollison.
Restaurant slang is like a second language for food service employees, a shorthand that allows more efficient communication. For instance, the offending bit of the employee’s social media post said they were “closing the restaurant.”
“He was closing the restaurant for the night, not for good,” Rollison clarified to The Packet on Saturday.
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There is a whole universe of restaurant slang out there, though, and on Sunday afternoon Rollison was kind enough to explain some of it.
This is the most common term you’re likely to hear, Rollison said. In the restaurant business this means that the restaurant is out of something. There are a bunch of rumors as to how it started, but one story says that there was a bar on 85th street in New York, and when people got too rowdy they would be shoved out the back door onto 86th street, Rollison said.
Dupes are tickets, Rollison said, and are also called chits. They’re the slips of paper with your order on them that get hung up on wheels in old fashioned diners. They don’t always have to be written down, though. “Calling a dupe” means shouting an order to the cooks in the back.
Order, Fire, Order Fire
When you tell the waiter what you want it goes in as an order. Fire means that something is being prepared, regardless of if fire is involved. If you order a salad and a steak, for example, the salad would be fired right away, while the steak would be ordered. When the salad comes out, the steak is fired. If you order only one thing that will be prepared right away, that goes in as an “order fire.”
The window from the kitchen to the dining room through which food is served.
If food is no longer in a state to be served it is said to be dead, Rollison said. For instance, if it spent too long under the hot lamps in the pass.
When an order is heavily modified from what appears on the menu you might hear this term thrown around. The dupe is said to have “red” on it, or even worse, “a lot of red” on it. This can lead to mistakes in the kitchen, Rollison said, as cooks have prepared a dish the way it appears on the menu countless times, but have only prepared the modified order once.
On the Fly
So, lets say there was a mistake in your order. Either the server put it in wrong or the cook made a mistake. This term is used to replace that order as quickly as possible, pushing it to the front of the line, according to Rollison.
This is the exact opposite of on the fly. It is a French word without a direct English equivalent, but Rollison said it roughly translates to “take your time and make it the best it can be.”
This is short for misenplace, another French word. It means “everything in its place.” This can be both a physical thing, as in a cook having all the proper tools, or a mental one, as in knowing the recipe and everything you need to do, Rollison said.
In the Weeds
When things get really busy in a restaurant and things start to back up, cooks and servers are said to be in the weeds.
How many open menus there are in the restaurant dining room at any given moment. It can be used to gauge how busy things are going to get. For instance, a server might go back to the kitchen and say “there are 80 opens out there, we’re about to be in the weeds,” Rollison said.
How many people are sitting at a table. Party of four? That’s a four top. If there’s only two? That’s a two top or a deuce. Valentine’s Day is called “death by deuces,” Rollison said.
How many times a table will get used in a night. Each restaurant has their own turn times that affect how many times a table will be sat.
Customers who remain at a table for an inordinately long amount of time, preventing it from being turned.
KOA (Kill on Arrival)
People never allowed in the restaurant. They might be demeaning and rude to the staff or do other things that make for an unpleasant experience for employees or customers. Rollison said few people fall under this term, and that he was himself KOA at a few bars when he was in his 20s.
Customers that are high maintenance, like the Kardashians, Rollison said. They are hard to deal with, but they’re regulars. Maybe there is always a lot of red on their dupes.
Every restaurant has some version of this, said Rollison. It is the result of trying to keep track of a ton of things at the same time. “The guy” could be anything from a spatula to a seasoning. It is whatever you need someone to hand you at that moment.
Have you ever heard someone say this to you while out shopping? They probably worked in a restaurant, Rollison said. Restaurant staff say this when walking behind people to avoid mishaps that could happen if someone backed up or turned around.
In the Style Of
Rollison used to work in a kitchen in New York. “If someone yelled ‘in the style of Johnny Cash’ then the food was ‘walking the line’ or just barely good enough to go out. If it was Mischa Barton it was ‘OC,’ or overcooked,” he said.
Rollison said that slang can vary from restaurant to restaurant. Do you know any that we missed here? Let us know at firstname.lastname@example.org.