11 / 07 / 2005


Good morning. I hope you had a good weekend. One of our readers, Maria Rosa J., wrote to us with the following question: "One of these days, can you remind of us of some typical phrases for going to a restaurant, such as reserving a table or asking for the menu?" She would also like to review English for giving directions. These are big topics, so this week we will look at restaurant English, and in the near future we will look at giving directions. These are great requests because many people travel during the summer and need to use English in these two very common situations. Many typical restaurant phrases are formulaic, meaning that many of the phrases are fixed. You will see the same phrases repeated in many different contexts because we often use the same language functions to: -Ask for help -Make a request -Indicate a desire or preference or -Ask for information. By learning and memorising these expressions, you can reduce any feelings of nervousness that you have when you are in a restaurant in a foreign country. (Of course, it is not always so easy to understand the waiter's response!) RESERVING A TABLE People usually reserve a table in a restaurant by telephone, but it is possible to do this in the restaurant, too. You would talk to a waiter or a maitre'd (maitre'd --> jefe de comedor). In place of the verb phrase to reserve a table you can also use the verb phrase to book a table. You can use any of the following words and phrases in combination, although we include some basic combinations including: number of people dining and the day or time, separated by a double hyphen (--): Option 1) I'd like to reserve a table -- for tomorrow night. -- There are two of us. Option 2) I'd like to book a table -- for four. Option 3) Do you take reservations? -- I'd like to make a reservation -- for a party of ten. (party = grupo) Option 4) Do you have any free tables tonight? -- I'd like to make a booking -- for 9 o'clock. (free = libre) EXAMPLE DIALOGUE: Customer: Good evening. I'd like to book a table for Saturday night. Maitre'd: How many people are there in your party? Customer: There are six of us. Maitre'd: I can give you a table at half past nine. Customer: That’s fine. My name’s Anne Wilson. Maitre'd: Right, then. The Wilson party, table for six, next Saturday at half past nine. See you then. Customer: Thank you very much. Bye. These are not the only options, but remembering a few of these formulaic expressions will help you survive in your next English restaurant experience. Tomorrow we will look at how to order in a restaurant and on Wednesday we will look at how to ask for the bill (cuenta). On Thursday and Friday we will look at some useful restaurant vocabulary. If you have any questions about this topic so far, please don't hesitate to contact us. Bon appetit!