Things Restaurant Servers Say... and What They Really Mean

The customer isn't always right, but since it's terribly awkward to tell them they're wrong, restaurant servers don't always say what they mean. To decipher the linguistic gymnastics behind the customer/server relationship, we talked to a group of industry veterans about the conversational cues they use to convey inconvenient truths without sounding as unpleasant as Al Gore in November of 2001. Read on and you'll know what a server really means when he's asking if you'd like any more water.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

“Some of those dishes you ordered aren't small plates.”

Translation: You just ordered enough food to last through the winter.

“That's a very heavy dish.”

Translation: This is not the entree you're looking for.

"I'd recommend the roasted goat special."

Translation: The kitchen currently has more goat than an Adam Sandler CD and it's going to spoil if I don't push it on every single customer. Also, I work at a terrible restaurant, because reputable chefs don't use specials this way.

“This is going to be your last round.”

Translation: You look like you've been possessed by 1980s Mickey Rourke, and I won't be bringing you another drink.


“Try the malbec.”

Translation: There's no such thing as a light, full-bodied, fruity, and dry wine. You have no idea what you want, but this will do just fine.

“It's a very floral wine.”

Translation: It tastes like laundry detergent.

"Is this wine to your liking?"

Translation: Unless it tastes like the bottom of a well, this is the wine you'll be drinking tonight.

“Sure, I can change the thermostat.”

Translation: I will not be touching the thermostat.

“This is best enjoyed while it's still warm.”

Translation: Don't spend five minutes debating Instagram filters.

Dan Gentile/Thrillist

“Our bluefin tuna is sustainable.”

Translation: Our bluefin tuna is even more expensive than usual and the species will still be extinct in 10 years.

(From a different server, runner, or host): “I'll let your server know about your drink order.”

Translation: This is not my job and you will never receive this cocktail.

“I'm sorry you had to wait on that.”

Translation: It's totally my fault that your food is not here, but I'd still like a 20% tip.


(After the bill has been paid) “Can I get you some more water?”

Translation: Can you please make like a tree and become seriously damaged in a storm/get the hell out of here?

“Let's start with that and order more if you're still hungry.”

Translation: You've just ordered enough food to feed a refugee camp full of Louie Andersons, and I don't have five minutes to spare while you stare at the menu and try to remember if you like capers.

“I'd recommend the cast-iron meatballs. They're delicious.”

Translation: We made way too many prep sets of these delicious things.

“The lighting is really great at the front of the restaurant for photos.”

Translation: Do I look like a selfie stick? Ask the hostess to take your picture; she's great at Instagram since she's always on her phone.

“That's going to take the kitchen a few extra minutes.”

Translation: You really shouldn't ask for that, and I am punishing you for doing so.

Flickr/Robert S. Donovan

“Sure, I can itemize and split the check.”

Translation: Sure, I can ignore my other tables for 10 minutes so you can expense this meal easier.

“Is there anything else I can get you?”

Translation: I have a home too, and I want to go to there.

“No rush!...”

Translation: Yes, rush! I am not your indentured servant. There is an end point to this transaction, and you have reached it.

“No, you're not being high maintenance at all!”

Translation: At least you're self aware!

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Dan Gentile is a staff writer at Thrillist. He's typically being high maintenance and is rarely very self aware. Follow him to annoying all his server friends at @Dannosphere.