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Unveiling the Mystery: Decoding the Meaning of ’86’ in Restaurants

What does ’86’ mean in a restaurant?

When you walk into a busy restaurant, you may find yourself surrounded by a flurry of cryptic phrases and jargon that seem to belong to another world. Servers, chefs, and kitchen staff use a unique language to communicate and coordinate their actions effectively. One such term you may come across is ’86’. But what exactly does “86” mean in the hospitality industry?
The origin of the term “86” can be traced back to the soda counters of the 1930s. According to Merriam-Webster, when a soda counter ran out of a particular item, such as vanilla soda, the phrase “86 vanilla sodas” would be announced. The number ’86’ became synonymous with being out of something. The exact reason for the choice of ’86’ remains uncertain, with several theories circulating. Some suggest it may have come from an 86th Street exit during the Prohibition era, while others associate it with the alcohol content of whiskey or the size of a standard grave. The prevailing explanation, however, is that “86” rhymes with “nix,” meaning to eliminate or remove, as in “nix the fish, we’re out.
Originally used as a noun, “86” eventually became a verb, commonly used to indicate the removal or elimination of an object or customer. For example, a bartender might say “86 the drunks at the end of the bar” to refer to removing unruly customers. In the context of ordering food, if a restaurant worker says “86 the beef special” and you have just ordered that particular dish, it means that the beef special is no longer available.
Restaurant lingo is constantly evolving, with some terms fading away while others stand the test of time. One such phrase that has remained relevant is “the customer is always right.” However, as reported by Food and Wine, the rise of customer entitlement has led some restaurants to crack down on abusive or disrespectful behavior toward their staff. Signs such as “Be kind or Leave” have appeared on the doors of some establishments, emphasizing the importance of treating service workers with respect.
In today’s hospitality industry, where finding and retaining employees can be a challenge, it is important for customers to remember the importance of being friendly and considerate. Failure to do so may result in being “86ed” by your favorite restaurant. While “86” may have originated as a code word among restaurant employees, it has become a symbol of the industry’s commitment to maintaining a respectful and harmonious environment for both employees and customers.
So the next time you dine out, pay attention to the unique language spoken in the restaurant. Understanding what “86” means will give you insight into the intricate world of restaurant operations and help you navigate the dining experience with a newfound appreciation for behind-the-scenes communication.
Remember, treating your server, barista, or drive-thru attendant with kindness and respect is not only the right thing to do, it makes for a more enjoyable dining experience for everyone involved.


What does ’86’ mean in a restaurant?

86′ is a term used in the restaurant industry to indicate that a particular item or dish is no longer available. It can also be used to refer to the removal or elimination of a customer or item from the menu.

Where does the term ’86’ come from?

The term ’86’ originated at soda counters in the 1930s. If an item was running low, such as vanilla soda, the phrase “86 vanilla soda” would be used to indicate its unavailability. The exact reason for the choice of ’86’ remains uncertain, but it is believed to have originated from its rhyming association with ‘nix’, meaning to eliminate or remove.

Why do restaurant workers use the term ’86’?

Restaurant workers use the term “86” as a shorthand way to communicate that something is no longer available. It helps them communicate efficiently with each other and avoid confusion in a fast-paced environment.

Can customers use the term ’86’ in a restaurant?

While ’86’ is primarily used among restaurant staff, some customers may be familiar with the term and use it informally. However, it is important to note that the term is most commonly used by restaurant professionals to communicate internally.

Is ’86’ the only restaurant term with a special meaning?

No, the restaurant industry has a rich vocabulary of specialized terms and jargon. These terms are used to streamline communication, coordinate actions, and maintain efficiency in a busy restaurant environment. 86′ is just one example of the many unique phrases used in the industry.

How can customers show respect for restaurant staff?

Customers can show respect for restaurant staff by treating them with kindness, patience, and appreciation. Recognize their hard work, say “please” and “thank you,” and be understanding of any challenges they may face. Remember, a little kindness can go a long way in creating a positive dining experience for everyone.

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