I recall back when I first started working in the industry in 1984, coming home after working my fifth 6 hour shift at a local restaurant after school and my parents asking me how the day went. Off I babbled without taking a single breath, “You should have seen it, the grill guy that was supposed to train me today pulled a no show so I got stuck on the grill and right after we opened, all the early birds showed up and they sat 15 deuces all at once and I got slammed with dupes,2 dozen burgers all day, most of them still mooing or they were hockey pucks and man was I in the weeds! We did 70 covers and half of them were the grill and man was I buried! Chef had to 86 the fries and we had to comp a bunch of people because they were going to stiff the trons!
My parents stood there stock still with their mouths open and looked at me in silence for what seemed like an eternity. Finally my mother, as if I had suddenly been speaking a foreign language, said “hunh?” My stepfather, a somewhat more rational person, said “Could you please explain what you just said? Because we have absolutely no clue whatever all of that just meant.” I patiently explained it to them. “The grill cook didn’t show up, so I cooked on the grill. The early birds are people that show up right after we open and want cheap food. Deuces are a table of two people. Dupes are the ordering tickets that the wait staff gives to the kitchen. All day is how many of one item that I have to cook. Still mooing means really rare and hockey pucks are very well done. In the weeds meant I was behind and really busy, buried means something very similar. Covers are a customer. 86 means that they are out of something. Comp is to give something away for free. Stiff means to not tip. And trons are the waiters. You get it?” I think at 14, I just thought my parents were dense, especially after my stepfather saying that he thought Trons were something to do with the movie. I was a sci-fi buff and this was the eighties after all.
I always find it very amusing when we go out to eat, because the jargon hasn’t changed much since then. Servers and friends that we go out to eat with occasionally will look at me like I have two heads after overhearing the kitchen say in the background. “86 the salmon and we only have 1 antipasto left all day” and I tell my guests, “there’s no salmon left and you had better pick something else if you both want the antipasto” It’s similar to learning to ride a bicycle, once you learn you never forget it.