In many restaurants, and I suppose other businesses as well, orders are taken from customers and put into a location from which a pool of servers can pick one up and service the order.

Is there are word other than "queue" for this waiting area of orders? "Queue" seems to indicate first-in first-out behavior. "Buffer" and "priority queue" sound too technical. And any word indicating a particular implementation of the holding area (anything involving a carousel or magnets) would be too specific.

I'm wondering whether in the service business there is a good term that describes the holding area for orders waiting for an arbitrary worker to pick them up and service them.

The word would be used in a clunky sentence like: "In a restaurant, waiters take the order and put it into a ______, then when a chef becomes available, the chef picks up one of the orders and starts cooking."

  • Any more they take orders and enter them into a computer.
    – Hot Licks
    May 1, 2016 at 21:21
  • Of course, it doesn't matter where they go. Is it a pool of orders or a queue or a .... ?
    – Ray Toal
    May 1, 2016 at 23:37
  • It's either 'pool' (if they are just picked at random) or 'queue' (if they are FIFO). Don't think I'd be happy with a pool - might be waiting for a long time for my dinner.
    – peterG
    May 12, 2016 at 0:18

5 Answers 5


Consider, check (or ticket) holder

Google Image

Also, check (or ticket) spindle and slide check/ticket rack

Perhaps a can of Lone Star sits on the stainless steel prep table next to the spindle full of order tickets.

Rare Magazine

  • 1
    A check spindle is used for checks the customers have already paid. It would be useless for orders the kitchen needs to process, because the cook would have to process the bottom ones first. May 1, 2016 at 18:40
  • Agree with @PeterShor. Does anyone use the term "order rack"? Seems to me a "check" is the thing you receive when you need to pay; but the "order" is what goes to the cooks before filling out the order.
    – Ray Toal
    May 2, 2016 at 6:23
  • Regarding your quote from Rare Magazine, a spindle for order tickets would be useless for orders the kitchen needs to process, because the cook would have to process the bottom ones first. If you read the Rare Magazine article, it's clear that the spindle of order tickets is used for orders that have already been prepared by the cook, and are no longer in the queue. May 11, 2016 at 19:18

Try docket


Or agenda

You may hear or see it being used in fast food joints or restaurants.


What about "backlog"?

Not 100% sure if this is what you're looking for, as it describes the queue itself rather than a "thing to place orders in".

  • This is very close to what I am looking for, though backlog refers more to "tasks" that an organization's workers pull from, as opposed to a poll from which servers work on "orders" made by customers. Things, I think, are allowed to stay in the backlog for a while, but in a restaurant that would never fly. Very close, though!
    – Ray Toal
    May 2, 2016 at 6:26

I hesitate to suggest this word as it highly associated with the medical milieu, but triage covers an important aspect of such an area, namely that items are inspected and possibly re-ordered. For example, a chocolate soufflé might need 30 minutes in the oven, so takes priority over preparing spaghetti for the same order.

triage 1.1 The process of determining the most important people or things from amongst a large number that require attention

  • But when people use that word I always wonder what falls into the third group -- items that are so unlikely to survive that it's not worth the effort to work on them. It seems like the word, in this context, would at least suggest an incompetent cook.
    – Hot Licks
    May 12, 2016 at 11:28

I think you are looking for the word "Stack". That's first-in-first-out.

Tower Of Hanoi Stack

  • 3
    First-in last-out is not the way restaurants operate. May 1, 2016 at 18:32
  • 1
    Right, what they have mostly a FIFO queue, but with some priority based on what kinds of equipment is ready for what kinds of foods to prepare...
    – Ray Toal
    May 1, 2016 at 18:34
  • 1
    FIFO is also not how a stack operates. May 1, 2016 at 19:25
  • 1
    A stack is FILO. A queue is FIFO.
    – Simon B
    May 1, 2016 at 22:15
  • Maybe everyone should LILO until it gets figured out.
    – Hot Licks
    May 2, 2016 at 0:28

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