A fun restaurant game

This is an activity I do with my students about once a year, rationalizing that they’re more likely to use English in a restaurant than in any other situation. Recently, I wanted to give the ‘trouble group‘ a break from the pretty hard pace I had set for them, so I got it back out.

Target level

This is something you can do with any group of students that has already had a basic restaurant unit. By adapting the conversation and the ‘challenges’ to the level of the group (“I’m sorry, our last cow ran away and we don’t have any steak”) you can even fit this to more advanced groups.

The goal

Students practice restaurant vocabulary and have an unexpected change of routine in the lesson. In the best case, all of the students should walk away from the activity thinking “I did great at this!” because too often, they’re working on things that they think are difficult.


For this time around, I found a really great menu worksheet on ISLcollective and printed out the first two pages (front and back) to make little menus. I’ve done this without any menus, but then students miss the experience of reading the menu and it#s hard to say “we don’t have that.”

Even more, I found an album of “Italian restaurant music” available on Amazon Prime and downloaded it to my phone. Then, I packed the bluetooth speaker I use for listening activities and went off to class.

The activity

We started in the classroom and I welcomed the students the same was I always do. Then, when everyone was there, I said that, if I had the money, I would take them all to a restaurant to celebrate their progress. “And, I have good news,” I say at the end, “I finally found a restaurant to fit my budget.” (I adapted this little speech to the level of the class — I did this with most of my classes.)

Then, I wrote “Welcome to the Cottage Restaurant” on the board and turned the music on. Finally, I made a big show of apologizing for leaving. “I know it’s unprofessional, but I need to use the toilet and I’ll be right back.”

I walked out the door, turned around, and walked back in. “Hello!” I said in a bright, friendly American waiter voice, “my name is Antonio and I’ll be your server today. How are you all?”

Then, with lower level students, I just did a rapid restaurant role play, with me in the role of the waiter. (Food and drink were immediately ready.)

With more advanced students, I did a mix of either making the restaurant experience more challenging (food was unavailable, I brought the wrong food, etc) and I made a show of always walking back in just after the waiter left. (If the students didn’t order a beer for me, I accused them of being selfish.) Then, we did a simple activity or had a small conversation before I had to go outside for an important phone call and ‘the waiter’ came back in.

Next time

Let me first say it was a success. This is something I would do in any group, especially if you’ve got a handful of difficult lessons under your belt and they deserve a break.

Sometime next fall I’ll probably dust the idea off (I teach adults and I’ll have many of the same groups then) and run through it all again. (After all, they eventually will go to restaurants and speak English.)

When I do repeat this activity, I think I want to up the level of role play by putting on an apron when I am the waiter, or by having a tray to carry with imaginary food. With some groups (the evening groups I have known for years) it might make sense to bring some sliced baguettes and butter to put on the table to welcome them.

If you give this a try, let me know what works for you. Can you think of any other small details that can be added to up the restaurant realism?

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