Order up! Japanese to use at a restaurant

Reading Time: 5 minutes

Japanese cuisine is delicious and one of the best ways to get an understanding of it is to visit restaurants and try the food. However, you’ll need to navigate your way around it with some useful Japanese words to use at a restaurant. Don’t worry though, going to a restaurant in Japan is similar to anywhere else in the world.

Familiarising yourself with Japanese to use at a restaurant is one of the first real-life applications of the language that you’ll have as a beginner. Read on to learn the most essential phrases to know when you head out for a bite to eat.

Entering the restaurant & getting seated

If you have made a reservation, or you’re meeting someone who has made a reservation, you’ll want to let the staff know when you walk through the door. There are various ways you can say this:

Hello/Good evening, I have a reservation under Anna.
こんにちは / こんばんわ, アンナの予約です。
Konnichiwa/Konbanwa, Anna no yoyaku desu.

Or you can also say:
予約をした。 アンナです。
Yoyaku o shita. Anna desu.

Hello/Good evening, I have a reservation at 6:30 for two people under Anna.
Rokujihan kara nimei de yoyaku o shita Anna desu.

You may also be asked if you have a reservation:
Yoyaku o shite imasuka?

Or if you don’t have a reservation, you can state how many people are in your group after greeting the staff. Oftentimes the staff will ask:
How many people?
Nanmei sama desuka?

Knowing your counters is important when it comes to learning Japanese words to use at a restaurant. As you may already know, counting in Japanese is not the same as it is in English, where you would simply say two people. The counter changes depending on what you are counting. For example saying “two beers” is different compared to “two people” in Japanese.

Hello/Good evening, one person/two people/three people
こんにちは / こんばんわ, 一人/二人/三人 です。
Konnichiwa/Konbanwa, hitori/futari/sannin desu.

For more on Japanese counters, read our article here.

Did you know that in Japan, you are still able to smoke in some restaurants? As such, it is not uncommon to be asked whether you would like to be placed in the smoking section or not. Depending on the layout of the restaurant, you may also be asked if you would like to sit at a table (テーブル tēburu) or the counter (カウンター kauntā).

Useful Japanese to use at a restaurant in this situation are:
A non-smoking table please.
Kinen seki onegaishimasu

A smoking table please.
Kitsuen seki onegaishimasu

Did you know that quite often there are private rooms available in some restaurants? To ask for this use koshitsu wa arimasuka? (個室はありますか?)

If you need an English menu, you can ask staff if they have one:
Eigo no menyū ga arimasuka?

Ordering food and drinks

When you have decided what you would like to order, you can call staff by raising your hand and saying, “sumimasen” or “onegaishimasu”. Or just press the call button if there is one on your table.

To add an extra layer of politeness, when the staff member comes over, you can say to them:
Could I make an order please?
Chūmon shite mo ii desuka?

When ordering, it’s as simple as ordering what you want and telling them how many you want just like in any other country. This can only get a bit tricky when you’re trying to remember all your counters again! Remember to use と (to) between each item you order and at the end of the sentence add お願いします (onegaishimasu).

For example:
Two beers and one shochu highball please
Biiru wo futatsu to shochu haibooru wo hitotsu onegaishimasu

If you’re feeling unsure about how to pronounce the menu items, you can always point and politely say:
This one please
Kochira wo onegaishimasu。

Furthermore, if you don’t know what you’re asking for you can use:
What is this?
Kore wa nan desuka?

It may be that you have specific dietary requirements. The first thing you may want to know is if a dish contains a particular allergen e.g.
Does this have nuts?
ナッツ が入っていますか?
Nattsu ga haitteimasuka?

I’m allergic to eggs. Is it possible to leave out the egg?
Tamago arerugī ga aru node, tamago nuki de ii desuka?

I’m vegetarian, so I don’t eat meat
Bejitarian na node, niku o tabemasen.

Read more about being vegetarian in Japan in our blog article.

I am gluten intolerant, so I absolutely cannot eat it.
Komugi guruten arerugī na node, zettai taberaremasen.

You can read more about being gluten-free in Japan here.

If you’d like to replace an item then you can say:
Can you replace the pork with chicken?
Butaniku no kawari ni toriniku ni dekimasuka?

Note that it’s not a widespread practice in Japan for restaurants to adjust their dishes on the spot based on customer requests. Therefore don’t be surprised if staff might seem confused or hesitant to respond to you immediately. Similarly, don’t be surprised or offended if the restaurant is unable to meet your request.

You should have everything you need on your table but you may need the phrase torizara wo nimai kudasai (取り皿を二枚ください) which are the small plates when sharing food. Kozara (小皿 ) is also used for this purpose.

Now before you dive into your food, don’t forget to be thankful. You’ll almost certainly have heard itadakimasu (いただきます) said before people start a meal. There are also some rules around drink etiquette but the easiest and most important phrase is kanpai (乾杯) before you all start your drinks!

A useful phrase that many people forget until they’re desperate is asking where the toilet is:
Toire wa doko desu ka? (トイレはどこですか?) – Where is the toilet?

At the end of the meal

Getting the bill at the end of the meal is relatively straight forward. First, get the waiters attention:
Sumimasen (すみません) – Excuse me.

Then ask for the bill:
Okaikei kudasai (お会計ください) Bill please.

If you wish to ask whether they accept payment by card, you can say:

Can I use my credit card?
Kurejitto kādo o tsukaemasuka?

If you want to ask if they can split the bill, you can say:

Is it possible to split the bill?
Betsubetsu ni dekimasuka?

Note that many places only allow one bill, so it’s often easier for everyone to put in their share in cash and then pay everything together at the cashier.

Finally, don’t forget to thank the staff before you leave:

Thank you for the meal

This phrase is commonly used at the end of a meal and means, “It was a lot of work (to prepare the meal)”.

Japanese phrases for restaurant English

Those are some of the most common and basic Japanese words to use at a restaurant. If you’re interested in learning beginner Japanese, check out our online course. Developed together with Akamonkai Japanese Language School, this course is designed to get you through the most essential foundations of the Japanese language.

Got questions or other situations you’d like to learn some Japanese for? Contact us or leave us a comment below!

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