The term 86 is a common phrase at my work. When I first started, I had no idea what 86 meant, and I threw confusing looks at the fellow hosts who were also at a loss for words. 86 in the restaurant business means in short, no more or, or to refuse service to. “we are 86 bottles of Budweiser”, “We are 86 mixed cheese”, or “86 the man at table 45” are just a few examples.

No one is certain where exactly 86 came from, but there are a few places where it might have derived. The first known published meaning came from a newspaper in the 1930s. It was in an article written about terms heard in restaurants. According to Snopes.com, this is the most popular and agreed upon origin of 86.

Another theory, and a popular one in fact has to do with Prohibition. A bar in New York City called Chumley’s Bar, which was located on 86th Bedford street, was the birthplace of that term. When there was a customer who was too drunk, or too unruly, they were thrown out on 86th street, which was turned into being 86’d.

Whatever the reason, in the restaurant industry, 86 mean out of. Before each shift we ask, “are we 86 anything?”, like there is no other way to ask.

If you are interested in the many other theories of where 86 came about, you can click here to read more!


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