How to Order Food in German: What You Need to Know to Get Fed Right
One of the most exciting things about adventuring around a new country is getting to taste all the great regional specialties that you might never have even heard of.
In Germany, that includes a lot of hearty meat dishes and regional variations on comfort food classics.
Even if you aren’t jetting off to Germany anytime soon, learning how to order food is still an essential step in becoming fluent.
So with that in mind, here’s a complete guide to ordering food in German.
- Arriving at the Restaurant
- Reading the German Menu
- German Specialties
- How to Order in German
- Making Special Requests in German
- German Phrases for During the Meal
- At the End of the Meal
- Useful Resources for Learning How to Order Food in German
Arriving at the Restaurant
If the restaurant is popular, it may be a good idea to call ahead or pop in beforehand to reserve a spot.
Kann ich einen Tisch reservieren, bitte?
(Can I please reserve a table?)
Haben Sie Platz für zwei?
(Do you have room for two/three/four?)
Wir sind zu zweit/dritt/viert.
(There are two/three/four of us.)
In German, you need to use a different form of the number when you’re saying how many people you are.
Reading the German Menu
Once you’re all sat down, it’s time to open the menu. Here’s the vocab you’ll want to know:
|das Menü||Set meal|
|das Hauptgericht||Main course|
|Zum mitnehmen, bitte||To take away, please|
|die Karotte / die Möhre||Carrot|
|der Pilz / der Champignon||Mushroom|
|der Kohl / das Kraut||Cabbage|
To learn more German food words, check out these posts:
If you aren’t so familiar with famous German dishes, this list will keep you right.
|die Bratwurst||Grilled sausage|
|der Senf||German-style mustard|
|die Kohlroulade||Cabbage roll|
|das Schnitzel||Thin slice of meat (traditionally veal but usually pork) that is covered in breadcrumbs and fried|
|die Bratkartoffeln||Side dish of fried potatoes, often served with bacon and onions|
|das Sauerkraut||Fermented cabbage|
|die Schweinshaxe||Grilled knuckle of pork|
|Eisbein||Boiled knuckle of pork|
|die Käsespätzle||Handmade noodles topped with cheese (vegetarian)|
How to Order in German
The German conditional tense is used to explain that something might happen. If there is a possibility something will occur, and we want to get that across, then we use the conditional.
In English we generally do this by using the verb “would.” This is also the case in German, and the verb is würden.
Ich würde den Rock kaufen.
(I would buy the skirt.)
Er würde nach Mexiko.
(He would go to Mexico.)
We need this tense when ordering food because we want to say we would like something. However, we don’t use würden because there are two set phrases for “would like”:
(I would like)
Ich hätte gern
(I would like)
It’s super easy to construct sentences using these phrases. You simply start your sentence off with either one. Here are a few (food related!) examples.
Ich hätte gern zwei Brötchen bitte.
(I would like two bread buns please.)
Ich möchte einen Apfelsaft.
(I would like an apple juice.)
Ich hätte gern 200 Gramm Käse.
(I would like 200 grams of cheese.)
Ich möchte einen Tisch um 20 Uhr reservieren.
(I would like to reserve a table at 8 p.m.)
Notice that, while these two phrases are almost interchangeable, hätte gern cannot be used with another verb.
So you can’t say ich hätte gern einen Tisch reservieren (I’d like to have a table reserve), but you can say: ich möchte einen Tisch or ich hätte gern einen Tisch (I’d like a table).
Making Special Requests in German
Here are some really useful German phrases if you have any special dietary requirements:
Ist das Gericht glutenfrei?
(Is the dish gluten-free/free from nuts?)
Gibt es etwas Veganes?
(Is there a vegan option?)
Etwas is usually shortened to was and the entire phrase would usually be pronounced: Gibt’s was Veganes?
Ich möchte es lieber ohne scharf.
(I’d prefer it not too spicy.)
You might sometimes be asked: Mit scharf? (Would you like it spicy?)
This is actually not “proper” German, but you’ll hear it at fast food kiosks in Berlin, for example. If you prefer, you could use the more grammatical phrase nicht scharf at a restaurant.
Ist es möglich, das Gericht ohne das Spiegelei?
/ die Pommes?
/ die Bratensoße zu haben?
(Is it possible to have the dish without the fried egg/french fries/gravy?)
German Phrases for During the Meal
In Germany, greeting everyone at the beginning of a meal is a custom. Use these phrases to adhere to the German etiquette:
(Enjoy your meal!)
This word literally means “mealtime” and comes from the archaic phrase gesegnete Mahlzeit (blessed mealtime).
Nowadays, it’s used as a salutation, so if you bump into someone around lunch or dinner—especially if you’re on a lunch break from work—then you would greet them by saying “Mahlzeit” rather than “hallo” or “guten Tag.”
To respond, you can either repeat “Mahlzeit” or say “danke” (thank you).
Mahlzeit can also be used as a negative term. If two people see something that might put them off from eating, they may sarcastically say “Mahlzeit!” to one another.
This salutation can be used in Northern Germany even when there’s no connection to food or mealtimes. However, it’s only ever used in Southern Germany and Austria when there is an obvious connection to food.
Let’s look at more phrases:
Kannst du mir das Salz geben, bitte?
(Can you please pass me the salt?)
Schmeckt es dir?
(Do you like it?)
*This can also be translated as “Is it tasty?”
To be really formal you can also say: Entschuldigen Sie bitte (Excuse me).
Können wir mehr Wasser haben, bitte?
(Can we have more water, please?)
At the End of the Meal
When you’re all done, it’s time to wrap up.
To tip in Germany, you just need to round up your bill to the nearest euro.
Ich möchte zahlen.
(I’d like to pay.)
Useful Resources for Learning How to Order Food in German
Here are some additional websites that provide a lot of extra information about ordering food in German. Check them out and see how many of the above words and phrases you see!
- YouTube. There are many videos where actors role play at a restaurant or cafe scenario. This one from “Get Germanized” offers a lot of great vocab and grammar tips.
- FluentU. This language learning program uses authentic German videos like travel guides and recipe videos to teach you the language the way native speakers use it. The videos on FluentU can be searched and sorted by topic, letting you easily find content about food and restaurants. You can also search for a specific word to see all the videos where it’s used in context.
- WikiHow. This WikiHow on ordering food in Germany has handy pictures to help guide you through the steps.
- Food blogs. German food blogs can inspire you to get into the kitchen. While you’re working through their wonderful recipes, you’ll also be picking up a lot of vocabulary you can use when eating out.
- Role-playing. If you want to practice ordering at home, one great idea would be to set up a scenario and role play with some friends or classmates. Role play is a great way to practice your speaking in real-life scenarios, while keeping it fun and laid back.
Now you can impress any German waiters you may come across on your travels! Is anyone else’s tummy rumbling?
This post has got me hungry… time to pull out my best German cooking skills in the kitchen!
If you liked this post, something tells me that you'll love FluentU, the best way to learn German with real-world videos.