In some environments hearing a person yell the word “knife” may give you cause for concern, however, in the restaurant industry it is just one of many exclamations used to simplify communication between coworkers.  In this case, “knife” is shouted to let everyone know that someone is walking around with a sharp object and you had better pay attention to avoid be being stabbed.  One word warnings are just one part of the discourse community shared by restaurant workers, hand gestures, short forms, and endless jargon are also employed.

Although somewhat transferable, the language used by this community does vary between restaurants, but is always developed and used with the goal of creating an efficient and safe experience in a fast-paced environment.  The uninitiated do not always embrace the terminology of their new workplace, often because it does feel silly at first, but they quickly join the program after an incident occurs.  For example, failing to yell “corner” while rounding a blind thoroughfare and ending up wearing a plate of spaghetti.  Some of our communication may even be misinterpreted as hostile if witnessed by someone from the outside.  For example, a manager locking eyes with a server from across the restaurant and following it up by making a throat slitting motion with their finger.  While a restaurant patron might find this scene horrifying, the server on the other hand will often receive such a gesture with glee because it means they are “cut” and are now free to go home for the night.

Having worked in the restaurant industry for over 16 years, I look forward to the opportunity to share my reflections on the importance of a common language between coworkers.  As well as exploring the dynamics of the interactions between back of house, front of house and management


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