The 10 Spanish Words and Terms Restaurant Owners and Customers Must Know

A publishing company has bombarded me recently with their Spanish-for-restaurants guide that promises supervisors, owners, waiters, customers--essentially anyone who doesn't speak español--enough fluency to speak with the Mexicans who work at eateries. The guide claims to include more than 1,000 easy-to-employ terms, phrases, words, idioms and the like, all for the low, low, price of more than $50!


Such guides assume Mexican employees learn no English during their time on the job, a ludicrous premise considering the Vietnamese-speaking Mexican waiters at Quan Vy Da. But say you, the non-Spanish-speaking restaurateur or customer, still can't communicate with your Mexis. As a public service, I present the most essential words and phrases you need to make sure your employees/waiters are happy and everything runs smoothly. Everything else, you can pantomime--or, better yet, just ask them in English. You may be surprised how many of them understand.

For owners to use with their workers:


Flickr user Like_the_Grand_Canyon

Translates as: Hurry it up!

Usefulness: Self-explanatory, but it's the formal way of saying it. Show your workers some respect.


Translates as: Literally, "ass"; figuratively, "guy," as in "What's up, guy?"

Usefulness: Absolutely necessary to establish camaraderie among Mexican male workers. Call them that instead of their name, they'll do the same to you, and you've established brotherhood. It's a crude word, however, so don't use among ladies or in front of customers--strictly boiler-room diction, güey.

Quédese con la propina
Flickr user respres

Translates as: "Keep the tip"

Usefulness: Don't be a dick--let your busboys keep any and all tips they receive. And saying it in the formal sense shows you treat your workers as men, not boys.

Flickr user Mike Licht,


Usefulness: If you're a mensch and you know your workers are undocumented, this is the least you can do for them when ICE agents inevitably discover your ruse, like they just did with Chipotle. Yelling this will give workers a heads-up so they can get the hell out of there and leave you with the repercussions. Trust me: Jesús will reward you in the afterlife (this I write while listening to Johnny Cash sing "I Was There When it Happened," that wonderful tale of salvation, so you KNOW it'll happen).

'Sta Buena Esa
Flickr user Ms. Phoenix

Translation: That's a good-looking chick.

Usefulness: Camaraderie, amigo, camaraderie. To use whenever a hot chick enters the restaurant. Oh, and the elision in the first word is MANDATORY.

Now, some Spanish words for the consumer on the next page:

Sponsor Content

Now Trending

From the Vault