Ordering Food on the Phone in the US

Posted On: December 7, 2015

Pizza Delivery

It’s typical to work long hours when going onsite. If you stay in the office or work from the hotel, getting freshly cooked food is not always easy. If you stay in the office, most offices do not have a cafeteria onsite, and if they do, they are probably closed in the evenings when the crowds go home.  

Working late from your hotel room causes similar problems. While ‘hotels’ in Kerala identify places to eat, hotels in the US are typically only places to stay or sleep. In the US, most hotels do not have restaurants in them, and your room may or may not have a microwave. Your room in ninety percent of cases will not have a stove or kitchen or food preparation area. This means at some point, you may feel compelled to ‘order in’ or call up a restaurant nearby that will deliver food to you. In these cases, you could place an order online on the restaurant’s website or over the phone. Even if you place your order on the internet, in most cases, the restaurant staff will call you at the given number to confirm your order and payment method. In both cases, the below tutorial on how to order food over the phone will be helpful. 

Notes for Keralites/Indians
To enhance the usefulness of this video tutorial for Indians, and especially Indians from Kerala, here are a few cross-cultural notes to keep in mind. 

Telling Someone Your Address  
Many times in Kerala when giving your address to delivery people or autos, it’s common to mention landmarks. As the delivery person or auto nears your home more detailed directions will be discussed. In the US, though, Americans expect you to mention your full street address as given on your postal mail during placing a food order or getting into a cab, for instance.   

Address Tips For:

  • Homes: Recite house number, street name, apartment number as required (for example: 36 Terrytown Road, Apartment 3). 
  • Apartments: Recite your Apartment building name/complex name, building number, apartment number, road name, and other related details. As there are so many combinations of different kinds of addresses for apartment complexes, please recite the address as it appears on your postal mail. 
  • Hotels: If you are staying in a hotel, usually reciting the hotel name is enough. While the street name is not normally required, you may either give your full name and/or room name. Before ordering, ask the hotel staff what they expect as far as food delivery. Some hotels will ask you to come to the reception area to pick up the food, while other hotels may allow the delivery person to come to your room directly. 
*Since this article was published in 2015, with the advent of apps to call taxis or order food [online], some of these tips may be utilized in a different way than in the past.

Accent Tip: S + Y = CH
When an American delivery person asks you, “What is your address?” they will not pronounce every word clearly and distinctly. Usually when the last sound of a word is an ‘s’ sound and the next is ‘y’ (What is your address?) it will sound like a ‘ch’. It may sound like this, “Whacher address?” (This same thing will happen when people ask you, “What is your name?” it will sound like, “Whatcher name?” It will actually sound like one long word without a pause.)

For more tips on understanding when Americans talk fast, take a look at this post.

Accent Tip: V vs. W
In the video, the host suggests to ask for a “veggie spring roll.” In Indian languages, there is one letter or sound that represents v and w in English. These two sounds are totally different in English. When most Indians say ‘veggie,’ it will sound like ‘wedgie’ to an American. A wedgie is totally different from a veggie. Click here to learn the meaning of wedgie. 

To improve the pronunciation of v and w, click here. If this is hard to do, use the full form of the word, ‘vegetarian.’ 

Asking About Time
A common question a person who orders food on the phone may be, “How long will it take?” 

I realized that this phrase “how long” may not be so common in Indian or Kerala English, as most people may use the phrase “how much time” as it is somewhat loosely translated from Malayalam (Mani ethre ayyi, may be a close Malayalam translation). 

This phrase, “How long will it take?” is a very common question in the US used in casual and professional discussions to get clarity on the amount of time required to do or complete something. 

Common Foods to Order on the Phone 
The most common foods to order on the phone are pizza and Chinese take-out. While almost all areas have these two options, bigger cities have other options like Thai, Indian, and others. 

For more tips on how to order food on the phone, watch the video on YouTube.

Please share your experiences ordering food in the US over the phone or face to face in restaurants. 

Jennifer Kumar is the Managing Director of Authentic Journeys based in Kochi, India. She prepares your India-based team members to interact with business counterparts in the US and North America. Contact her for more information.

Related Links:  
What time is lunch and dinner in the US?  
Cross-Cultural Etiquette: Learn by Doing  
Using the Drive Thru in the USA 
Tips for talking clearly on the phone in English
Published: 12/15, updated May 2020
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