May I Take Your Order: Delicious Grammar Tips for Restaurant Language

May I Take Your Order: Delicious Grammar Tips for Restaurant Language

There are a lot more ways to practice restaurant language than just doing fill-in-the-blanks or rote role plays.

Try these delicious grammar tips to get your students eating up restaurant-related themes.

Use the Following Ideas in Your Classroom

  1. 1

    The Bad Waiter (Waitress)

    This is by far one of the most popular activities for learning restaurant etiquette and practicing restaurant language. It also promotes discussion about the service industry which can be really interesting, especially if you have multiple cultures around the same table or live in a country with service that leaves a lot to be desired. So to start out the bad waiter exercise, first go over some possible discussion topics to introduce the activity. Possible dialogues you could jump are
    How do you define good service in a restaurant? What does that mean to you?
    In your native language, do you converse with waiters and waitresses? What types of exchanges do you typically have?
    Do you have regular restaurants where you know the staff and they know you? If so, how is service different when you are a regular?
    Do you tip in your country? How do you determine what to tip?
    Do you think good service is important? Why or why not.

    You can tailor these topics to your group, the country, and what you already know about the cultures in your class. Good discussion before this activity really makes a big difference. You want to be sure to approach the difference between good and bad service. Depending on the size of your group you can split the class in half or divide them into groups of four to five. You want each person to get speaking time, so be sure your groups aren't too big. Provide each group with a different restaurant scenario. Then give them some time to prepare a rough role play in which the class will observe the group having a dialogue about the service, interacting with the waiter in a particular way, and ultimately deciding how to handle some type of poor service. You can play the performance of the waiter in each skit so that you can throw in unexpected twists, and add more elements of humor or invite another teacher to do so. The situations could be things like this:

    1. The waiter gets the entire order wrong from start to finish. What will you do?
    2. No one comes by to take your order. After fifteen minutes, what will you do?
    3. The waiter is rude and says all the wrong things. How will you respond?
    4. The food is very bad, and the waiter has disappeared. What will you do?
  2. 2

    Dream Menus

    Dream menus can be a fun and creative way for students to express themselves, and utilize all kinds of food-related vocabulary. You can decide how in-depth or simplistic you would like this project to be. This activity works best in pairs, but you could also have students work on it individually. It is based on the street-eating culture of Asia, and also applies nicely to the boom in the United States of food trucks. The assignment is simple; students create a short menu for a proposed new street food venue or food truck. They menus should contain three to five food items with descriptions, prices, size options, and a catchy name for their establishment. This exercise also brings into focus the idea of fusion, or combining two different types of food to create something new. If you are in Thailand, for example, you don't want all the students creating the same menus of the street food offered there. They need to add an interesting twist to their food items so that each menu is unique. Give them some examples like, there's a popular food truck that offers Kimchi tacos and Kalbi beef sliders. This is what fusion is all about. Students should spend time designing an actual menu and can even design a logo for their restaurant if you want to take it that far. With an exercise like this, be sure there is a lot of discussion about topics relevant to the assignment. You could include discussions about their favorite foods or restaurants, what food is lacking in their area, any current food trends in their area, and the difference between street dining and a formal restaurant. If you have a class of foodies, they may dive into this activity with vigor. Other groups might need some guidance to get ideas flowing.

  3. 3

    Vocabulary the Fun Way

    One of the reasons why practicing restaurant language is so challenging, is because of all the vocabulary possibilities. Once students have an arsenal of vocabulary you can play the categories game for challenging review. It's pretty simple, but can have hilarious results. First devise a list of categories related to food, eating, and restaurants. Some examples are:

    • Seafood
    • Appetizers
    • Menu Titles
    • Fruit
    • Dessert
    • Ice cream flavors
    • Types of food

Put the students into groups and assign the following tasks in every group: note-taker, time-keeper, and reporter. Then give the students a letter and select a category. Each group should record as many items in that category that begin with that letter. Set a time limit that affords the students time, but also requires them to think under pressure. An example is, types of food for the letter M: Mexican, Malaysian, Meaty, and Moroccan. You could give students multiple letters for the same category or move on to the next category and letter after each time limit has expired. Students will have fun reporting back to the group and you can assign points for those answers that are unique to a particular group. You could also have discussions about whether particular answers are acceptable.


Food is definitely a universal interest, and students will get a lot out of these three grammar tips for practicing restaurant language.

Students will build up their vocabulary, restaurant etiquette, and creative thinking skills while developing a taste for food-related topics.

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