Here’s how to order food in German

Here’s how to order food in German

by Erin McGann

Updated November 7, 2022

You’re out at a German restaurant and the waiter is approaching – how do you order without sounding like you’re barking vocabulary words at them? Don’t panic, there’s only a few phrases you need to know.

The basics of how to order food in German

Where to eat?

You’re looking online, and the names of the restaurants are one clue as to what to expect, but there are a few you might not know. I wouldn’t want you to miss out on good food! You probably can figure out ‘ein französisches Restaurant’ is a French restaurant, ‘ein italienisches Restaurant’ is an Italian restaurant, and ‘ein chinesisches Restaurant’ is a Chinese restaurant (you’ll probably see ‘ein asiatisches Restaurant’ for Asian restaurant as well). But for German food, there are a couple words to be on the look out for: ‘Weinstube’ which is a wine tavern, and the variations on brewery: ‘Kulturbrauerei’, ‘Hausbrauerei’, and ‘Brauhaus’ are just a few. 

Menu vocabulary in German

Now that you’ve found your restaurant, let’s crack open the menu. The first section will probably be called ‘Vorspeise’, and these are your appetisers. It’s possible there will also be a ‘Suppen’ and ‘Salate’ sections as well for soups and salads. If you’re not that hungry, you’ll just move along to the ‘Hauptspeise’, or main courses. Save room for ‘Nachtisch’! That’s dessert.

The drinks section is often titled, ‘Zu Trinken’, to drink.

But wait, seasonal food in Germany is a very big deal, so you will definitely want to ask about the ‘Tagesangebot’, or daily special. If it’s Spargel (white asparagus), Grünkohl (kale), Pfifferlingen (Chanterelle mushrooms), or Steinpilz (another kind of mushroom!), you’ll be sure to see these specialities on the daily specials menu. 

Let’s order in German

The easiest phrase to remember when ordering food is ‘Ich hätte gern [thing you’re ordering].’ For example: ‘Ich hätte gern das Schnitzel, bitte’. You can also use the verb ‘bringen’, like this: ‘Könnten Sie mir bitte ein glas Hauswein bringen?’, Could you bring me a glass of house wine, please?

Let’s eat (the best bit)

Now your food has arrived, but don’t dive in just yet. At least one of you needs to say ‘Guten Appetit!’ before you start (or ‘Mahlzeit!’ in Bavaria or Austria, though they also say this as a greeting at points close to lunchtime). When the wine or beer has been poured, it’s customary to toast everyone at the table with a hearty ‘Prost!’ or ‘Zum wohl!’ – however don’t forget to look each person in the eye before you drink, it is extremely rude not to and you confer bad luck not only on yourself but the other person as well. People take this very seriously in Germany so this is no time to get shy!

How to pay for things in German

You can flag down your waiter and ask, ‘Die Rechnung, bitte!’, The bill please!, or say I’d like to pay, which is ‘Ich möchte bitte zahlen’.

Leaving a tip is customary in Germany, and the amount to add to your bill is 10%. However, you need to hand it to your waiter directly. The process goes like this: your waiter comes with the bill, or tells you directly it’s €18.50, you then say ‘Macht 20’, and hand them €20. So you do the maths of how much the tip will be, and tell your waiter the total. You can do this before they put the amount in the credit card machine as well, most machines won’t have the option to add the tip after it has been handed to you. It’s polite to make it a round number, so if 20 cents will put the total over 10%, just do it anyway. 

Hooray! Let’s go out for a meal to celebrate learning about how to order food in German. You’re buying though! 

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