The secret world of waiter-speak

03:21, Sep 17 2012
waiter xs
CUSTOMER SERVICE: The inctricate and varied code words used by those in the hospitality industry ranges from logical to obscure.

You might like to be a Toby or a TDH, but chances are you wouldn't want to be a MAB and get yourself 86ed.

Confused? It could be you're being served up cryptic insults with your shiitake mushrooms.

Hospitality staff have been sharing some of the codes they use to secretly talk about customers.

One former bar worker used the term MAB – middle-aged bastards – for men who over-indulge and get difficult.

"For example, 'those MABs at the end of the bar want you to put on some AC/DC' or 'Stop serving those MABs, they've had too much'," he said.

Another restaurant used the term 86ed – slang for a menu item that needs to be removed because it has run out – or for when a customer was intoxicated and needed to be kicked out.


One chef recalled an elaborate set of code numbers for ingredients – or to alert staff to check out an attractive customer.

Restaurant Association president Mike Egan said the codes were used as shorthand by staff to avoid offending anyone.

"If we need to find someone we might say 'look for a LOL', because if someone heard us say, 'look for a little old lady', people might think, 'that's not very nice'."

Customers receiving preferential treatment are no longer called VIPs but rather PX, for personnes extraordinaires, he said.

"If another customer hears VIPs they'd think those people were getting special treatment while they weren't."

Matt McLaughlin, who runs Four Kings, Electric Ave and The Pub on Wellington's Terrace, said when he was a bouncer he used to say "Brrrr" as if he was cold to get other door staff to notice an attractive woman, but codes were not used in his bars.

"I have overheard our staff refer to a customer negatively – and they get spoken to severely.

"Even when we get trying customers and you want to say something negative, it's just not worth it. It's best to bite your tongue."


LOL — little old lady

TDH — tall, dark and handsome

FOM — friend of manager 

HSM — heavy set man

Reg — regular customer

Wine whales — customers who spend a lot of money on wine

HWC — handle with care, delicate customers

86 — menu items that are unavailable, or drunk customers who need to leave

MAB  – Middle-aged bastard

Toby — good-looking female customers

Stilts or an 11 — a female customer with good legs

Lee — a female customer with a nice derriere

Contact Sophie Speer
Culture and Capital Day reporter
Twitter: @sophie_speer

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