How To Order Food In German [29 Phrases You Need To Know]

order food in german

If you’re travelling to a German speaking country this year, chances are you’ll want to try some German food. Even if your grasp of the German language is a bit hit or miss, learning how to order food in German is quite straightforward.

Best of all, any waiting staff in cafés or restaurants will really appreciate you making an effort to speak German. There are lots of phrases you can use to order food in German, but the best and most polite phrase you need to know is ich hätte gern … (I would like …)

In this post we’ll be taking a deep dive into everything you need to know about eating out in a German speaking country including phrases you can use, and phrases you’ll hear waiters and waitresses saying to you.

After reading this post you will know:

  • Simple phrases to order food in German
  • Common phrases waiters may say to you
  • How to ask for the bill / check

Plus, stick around the end of the post to hear a full example conversation between Lena, Jan and their waitress.

A note on formal / informal German: In German there are 2 ways to say ‘you’, the formal Sie and informal du. All the phrases in this post use the formal Sie, when addressing waiting staff, and informal du when talking to other people you’re eating / drinking with.

When You Arrive

Depending on the restaurant or café you arrive at, you might be able to sit straight down at a table of your choice, or wait to be seated. Look out for a sign at the entrance with bitte warten (please wait) or platz (seat / place) to indicate you might need to wait for someone to come over.

Most often it’s just a case of finding a free table and sitting down, but it’s a good idea to make eye contact with the staff as you walk in.

In a popular restaurants you may need to make a reservation beforehand.

please wait to be seated sign in german

Phrases you might hear

Haben Sie eine Reservierung?
Do you have a reservation?

Phrases you can say

Haben Sie einen Platz für 2 Personen?
Do you have a table for 2 people?
Ist dieser Platz noch frei?
Is this table free?

How to Order Food in German

So now you’re sitting down in a café or restaurant, the waiter comes over and it’s time to order your food in German. As I mentioned in the introduction to this post, your key phrase is ich hätte gern … and then whatever you want to order.

But before you get to this stage, you’ll probably hear some other phrases:

Phrases you might hear

Haben Sie schon bestellt? / Schon bestellt?
Have you already ordered?
Was möchten Sie bestellen?
What would you like to order?
Was möchten Sie essen?
What would you like to eat?
Und zum trinken?
And to drink?
Möchten Sie noch etwas?
Would you like anything else?
Ist das alles?
Is that everything?

There are a few ways to order food in German, ich hätte gern (I would like) being the most polite. You could also say ich nehme (I’ll take) if you want to sound a bit more casual.

Für mich (for me) is useful if other people in your group have ordered first and you just want to add your order on. If all else fails you can just say what you want to order followed by bitte (please).

When you order one or more of something, for example you’re ordering drinks for the whole table, rather than everyone ordering individually, German has a rather unique way of doing this…

Rather than saying zwei Cola (2 colas) or drei Mineralwasser (3 mineral waters), German add the word mal (times) after the number so we get:

1einmal(one times)einmal Bier(1 beer)
2zweimal(two times)zweimal Bier(2 beers)
3dreimal(three times)dreimal Bier(3 beers)
4viermal(four times)viermal Bier(4 beers)

Phrases you can say

Haben Sie eine Speisekarte?
Do you have a menu?
Was empfehlen Sie?
What do you recommend?
Ich hätte gern … [ein Schnitzel]
I would like … [a schnitzel]
Für mich … [eine Bratwurst]
For me … [a Bratwurst]
Ich nehme … [ein Bier]
I’ll take … [a beer]
Was für … [Kuchen] haben Sie?
What type of … [cakes] do you have?

German Phrases for During a Meal

Whilst tucking into your Schnitzel there might not be much time for conversation, but you may hear a few pleasantries from the waiter and you may need to ask for another drink etc.

Phrases you might hear

Bitte schön
Here you go
Guten Appetit
Enjoy your meal
Schmeckt das?
Does it taste good?

Phrases you can say

Haben Sie etwas … [Pfeffer]?
Do you have some … [pepper]?
Könnte ich noch … [einen Kaffee] haben?
Could I have another … [coffee]?
Kannst du mir bitte … [das Salz] geben?
Could you pass me … [the salt] please?
Es schmeckt gut
It tastes good
Lecker
Tasty
Herrlich
Gorgeous / delicious
woman serving drinks at table in a restaurant

How to Ask for the Bill / Check in German

After you’ve finished your meal, it’s time to pay. Most of the tip you’ll need to attract your waiter’s attention with a friendly wave, a hallo or Entschuldigung. You can then dive straight in with the phrase kann ich bitte zahlen? (can I pay please?) which can be shortened to zahlen bitte (pay please).

In Germany it’s very common to pay with cash, but many cafés and restaurants will ask if you’re paying by card or with card. It’s a good idea, especially if the café is very small, to check whether they accept cards before you order as many are cash only.

If you’re in a group, you’ll probably be asked if you want to pay together or separately. Lastly, don’t forget to leave a trip (Trinkgeld) if you were happy with the service, around 10% is customary but it’s not mandatory like in the US.

Phrases you might hear

Möchten Sie mit Bar oder Kreditkarte zahlen?
Would you like to pay with cash or credit card?
Zusammen oder getrennt?
Together or separately?

Phrases you can say

Kann ich bitte zahlen?
Can I pay please?
Können wir bitte zahlen?
Can we pay please?
Ich zahle für alles
I’ll pay for everything
Stimmt so
Keep the change
woman paying with a contactless card

Key Words to Listen For

During your first experiences eating out in a German speaking country, you might find yourself overwhelmed with complete sentences and phrases that staff say to you.

The best way to overcome this and not switch to English is to learn a number of key words or ‘signpost words’ as I like to call them. These signpost words will save you having to decipher whole sentences, and will help you work out what the waiter is saying.

For example if you hear was wollen Sie zum trinken? once you know that trinken means to drink, you don’t need to understand the other words to know that the waiter is asking what you would like to drink.

Since ordering in a restaurant follows the same sort of pattern, you can pretty much guess what the waiter is going to say to you next if you listen for these signpost words.

essento eat
trinkento drink
bestellento order

How to Order Food in German: Example Conversation

So now you know all the components for ordering food and drink in a German café or restaurant. Now let’s take a look at them being used in a real life situation. Let’s join Jan and Lena as they enjoy a beer or two in a café:

Lena
Hallo, haben Sie einen Tisch für zwei Personen?
Hello do you have a table for 2 people?
Waitress
Gerne, dieser Platz ist noch frei.
Sure, this table is free.
Jan
Haben Sie eine Speisekarte?
Do you have a menu?
Waitress
Bitte.
Here you go.
Jan
Entschuldigung, können wir bestellen?
Excuse me, can we order?
Waitress
Was möchten Sie essen?
What would you like to eat?
Jan
Ich hätte gern eine Currywurst.
I would like a currywurst.
Lena
Und für mich ein Schnitzel mit Pommes bitte.
And a schnitzel with fries for me please.
Waitress
Und zum trinken?
And to drink?
Lena
Ein Bier bitte
A beer please.
Jan
Das klingt gut, ich nehme auch ein Bier.
That sounds good, I’ll take a beer too.
Lena
Also, zweimal Bier bitte.
So, two beers please.
Waitress
Kommt sofort.
Coming right up.
Waitress
Möchten Sie noch etwas?
Would you like anything else?
Jan
Könnte ich noch ein Bier haben? Und dann können wir bitte zahlen?
Could I have another beer? And then can we pay please?
Waitress
Zusammen oder getrennt?
Together or separately?
Lena
Getrennt bitte.
Separately please.

So now you know how to order food in German, it’s time to go out and practice what you’ve learned. Your German speaking waiter or waitress will really appreciate your effort.

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