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ESL Restaurant Vocabulary & Activities

Instructor: Matthew Hamel

Matt has degrees in Journalism and Business and has taught a variety of courses at high schools and universities around the world.

The ability to effectively and accurately use restaurant-related vocabulary is an invaluable skills for ESL learners of all ages and abilities. This lesson provides teachers with classroom exercises designed to teach restaurant vocabulary.

Restaurant Talk

A strong knowledge of restaurant vocabulary is both practical and useful in everyday life, so it's an important topic to cover with your English as a second language (ESL) students. When students feel confident using restaurant-related vocabulary, it has the potential to make their real-world interactions more enjoyable and successful.

The word lists below are intended to serve as a starting point, so feel free to add your own words and elicit suggestions from students. It's important to note that practical and proper use of this vocabulary is far more important than simply memorizing a word list. Vocabulary knowledge is particularly useful if the speaker knows how to use the words accurately and in an appropriate context.

Restaurant Vocabulary

Make sure to write down and repeatedly pronounce any words that may be unfamiliar to your students. Also, limit the number of words you focus on so that learners don't become overwhelmed with an extensive list. Remember, knowing how to use words correctly is more important than memorizing a lot of words but not knowing how to use them.

As you write each word on the blackboard, include a simple, realistic definition. You can solicit these definitions from students and tweak any errors.

Restaurant Word List 1

  1. Cafe
  2. Fine dining
  3. Fast food
  4. Buffet
  5. Appetizer
  6. Entree / main course
  7. Dessert
  8. Drink (soda / pop, water, coffee, tea, beer, cocktail, wine)
  9. Menu
  10. Wine list

Restaurant Word List 2

  1. Table / booth
  2. Chair / stool / highchair
  3. Tablecloth
  4. Utensils (spoon, fork, knife)
  5. Napkin
  6. Waiter / waitress / server
  7. Bartender
  8. Busboy
  9. Chef / Cook
  10. Manager

Restaurant Vocabulary Activities

After your students feel comfortable with the pronunciation and meanings of the words, it's time to practice through the use of engaging and informative exercises. During the exercises, it's important to stress the real-world application of the words and phrases. Allow your students to both make mistakes and take liberties during the activities outlined below. Basically, providing ESL learners the space to make adjustments on their own is a great way to encourage confidence and growth.

Play a Role

A lesson on restaurants wouldn't be complete without a few role-playing situations. The ideas below are suggestions, so feel free to adapt them to suit your needs.

  • A waiter taking orders from a table of customers
  • A diner making a complaint to a restaurant manager
  • A couple deciding which restaurant to eat at

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