How To Teach: Ordering Food at a Restaurant

functional life skills how to teach life skills special education teachers teacher experience transition May 02, 2022
Importance of Ordering Food at a Restaurant
No matter what kind of restaurant you are ordering food at, your food order with a cashier or wait staff is a conversation. If your students struggle with bilateral conversations (ask question, respond, ask follow up, respond, etc), then ordering food may be a struggle for them. The conversation is so routine for the cashier or waitstaff, but the order is so personal, so the conversation speed and reply timing when placing an order can cause lots of confusion and overwhelm!
-What is a menu and where do you find it
-Common questions you will be asked by a cashier when ordering food
-Where to go to order and pick up food
-How to speak when ordering
-Visuals of different sizes
-How to communicate preferences
Why Focus On These Skills
It’s a bummer when you get excited to go eat at a restaurant and then the wrong food shows up at your table. This can easily happen and helping students to navigate the conversation and speak up for what they want and don’t want can help reduce the times they are let down with the wrong order.
When To Teach
The sooner into the restaurant experience the better, so if you can swing covering the lesson before your first outing to a restaurant- great! If not, be sure to cover as soon as you can so students can begin to flex their communication and advocacy muscle.
I’ve created a complete lesson unit of materials for teaching this topic. The materials are comprehensive (5 full lessons) and most appropriate for life skill lessons at the middle school, high school and transition level students. Below are some lesson unit highlights!
Students will Pick their order, including main, side, drink, toppings, sauces, and dressings.
Students will Say their order, including communicating effectively for the cashier to understand their wants/needs.
Students will answer questions related to their order by communicating their preference/choice
Lesson Vocabulary
For here, large, medium, menu, sides, size, small, to-go, toppings, value meal
  • Pre and Post assessment
  • 1 page narrative explaining the skill with and without visual text supports (to incorporate functional reading)
  • 5 skill practice activities to learn and/or reinforce the focus skills
  • Game for students to practice their skills (because learning is fun)
  • Boom Cards for practice or assessment
  • Student learning reflection worksheet (thumbs up or down)
  • Encouraging on-topic quotes (use as a classroom poster or starter for each class period)
  • 5 strategies for success (tips for being successful with the focus skills)
  • Coloring page with on-topic graphics
  • Skill mastery certificate for positive recognition and reinforcement
  • Data collection sheet on specific focus skills
  • Homework sheet to encourage students to practice the skill outside of the school setting
  • Word search of key vocabulary terms
  • Visuals for focus skills with age appropriate colors and graphics
Ultimate Goal
Advocate and answer are the ultimate goals. Once a student decides what they want to eat (and they may already know what they want if it is a restaurant they visit frequently), then they can advocate and answer. However, if (or when) the wrong food is served, they need to advocate that their order is wrong and retrace their steps with the cashier. This could look like starting the order again from the top or answering follow-up questions about their preferences.
Links to Curriculum

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