It's easy to imagine the scenario: you're at a formal restaurant with your manager or customer for the first time. It's your big chance to impress him/her with your Japanese. You've read every guidebook and know exactly what you want, but the waiter's speaking suddenly overwhelms you. He's using an uncommon form of Japanese, keigo. You begin to break a sweat.
Don't panic! We're here to help you speak Japanese in restaurants. Before getting into common phrases used in restaurants we'd like to explain a little bit about Japanese formal language, or Keigo.
Explanation of Keigo
So what is Keigo? It's basically what you would call “The honorific form of Japanese.” It is extremely necessary in the business world, or in front of your fiance's parents (among other situations). In English, you only need to add “please” or “thank you,” and have the right tone to seem “polite.” However, in Japan it's a whole different world.
There are three different types of Keigo; teineigo, sonkeigo, and kenjyougo, and all three have their own forms for saying things like “Mr. Takahashi was saying--”, “OK, I will arrive there shortly”, or simply “I'm sorry.” It all depends on who is speaking, who it is you're talking about, and your position in the conversation.
But we won't get too detailed, or else this article will end up looking like a book. Let's get back to the subject of speaking Japanese in a restaurant.
There is a saying in Japan that simply states “the customer is god” （お客様は神様です！, or okyakusama wa kamisama desu）. Luckily, this means that when you speak to the waiter, you only need to use teineigo, the most basic of the keigo forms, in order to talk about what you would like to eat.
You do still need to recognize the kenjyougo and sonkeigo that the waiter uses, but this is much easier than speaking it yourself.
Irrasyaimase. Go-chuumonn wa okimari desuka/nani ni nasaimasuka?
Welcome. Have you already decided on your order? / What would you like?
Your response would usually be in this format:
Hai, _______ o onegaisimasu
(Yes, I would like _______ please.)
As an example, when ordering for tempura (delicious!) , you would say:
Hai, tenpura o onegaisimasu
(Yes, I would like Tenpura please)
When ordering more than one item, just add “と” (toh) after every order.
はい、てんぷら と みそしる と サラダ をお願いします。
Hai, tenpura to misoshiru to salada o onegaishimasu.
When ordering more than one item as an afterthought, say:
Ah, tsuide ni _______ mo onegaishimasu.
(Oh, may I also have _______ as well please?)
Confirming the order
After everyone at the table orders, the waiter will repeat the list back to make sure everything is okay.
はい、では てんぷら を一つ、みそしる を二つ、以上でよろしいでしょうか。
Hai, dewa tenpura o hitotsu, misoshiru o futatsu, ijyou de yorosii deshou-ka.
(Ok, so is the order one tempura and two miso-soups? )
If the order is correct, reply with
(Yes, thank you very much.)
If it isn't, say
_____dewa naku ______ desu
(It's not ______, it's _______.)
The first blank in the sentence has what is wrong with the order, and the second blank has what should be in the order.
Ah, misoshiru wa futatsu dewa naku mittsu desu.
(Oh, it's three miso soups, not two.)
Wrapping it Up
The waiter had brought you your food, saying:
kochira _________ ni narimasu
. (This is the _________)
And after everyone's done eating, it's time to ask for the check and leave. Don't forget to say itadakimasu (いただきます、) before eating, and gochisousama （ごちそうさま) after you're full. Both these phrases are used to show your thanks at meals.
For the check, ask for it as if you're ordering one more food item:
Sumimasen, okanjyou (check) o onegaishimasu
(Sorry, could we have the check please?)
**Did you know?**
Although it is always common sense to give good waiters a tip in America, this is not always the case in Japanese restaurants. In fact, some waiters feel insulted if you hand them one. So if you feel that your wallet is a little thin that night don't feel guilty about not tipping.
And that's about it for ordering in restaurants. Stay tuned for next time for more detail on the different forms of keigo. Or, if you want to improve faster, take some lessons at Hills Learning to be better prepared for dinner meetings.