Ordering food at a restaurant seems straightforward enough – you sit down, look at the menu, and tell your server what you’d like to eat. However, certain restaurant lingo like ‘on the fly’ may leave you scratching your head.

If you’ve ever wondered what it means when your server says an order is ‘on the fly,’ you’re not alone!

In short, ‘on the fly’ in a restaurant refers to food that is made quickly to order, rather than prepared ahead of time. It indicates that the kitchen will start making your dish from scratch once you order it.

The Meaning of ‘On the Fly’ in Restaurants

When you hear the term ‘on the fly’ in a restaurant setting, it means that the food item is being prepared or cooked immediately after it is ordered. This phrase is commonly used in the culinary industry to indicate that the dish is being made to order, rather than being pre-prepared or sitting ready-made.

Indicates Made to Order

‘On the fly’ is a term that signifies freshness and quality in the restaurant world. It means that the dish is being prepared from scratch, using fresh ingredients, specifically for the customer who ordered it.

This ensures that the food is made to the customer’s specifications and preferences, guaranteeing a personalized dining experience.

Typically Used for Hot Foods

The phrase ‘on the fly’ is most commonly used for hot or cooked foods that require immediate preparation. This includes items like grilled meats, stir-fried dishes, or sautéed vegetables. The term emphasizes the need for quick cooking techniques to ensure that the food is served piping hot and at its best.

Speed and Timing

When a dish is prepared ‘on the fly,’ it emphasizes the importance of speed and timing in a restaurant kitchen. Chefs and kitchen staff must work efficiently to ensure that the order is prepared and served in a timely manner.

This is especially crucial during peak dining hours when there is a high demand for freshly cooked dishes.

Customization Options

One of the advantages of ordering a dish ‘on the fly’ is the ability to customize it to your liking. Since the food is made to order, customers often have the option to request specific ingredients or make modifications to the dish.

This allows for a more personalized dining experience and caters to individual preferences and dietary restrictions.

Foods Often Made ‘On the Fly’

When it comes to dining out, there are certain dishes that are known for being prepared quickly and efficiently. These are the foods that are often made ‘on the fly’ in restaurants, ensuring that customers receive their meals in a timely manner without compromising on taste or quality.

Omelets and Eggs

One of the most popular breakfast options, omelets and eggs are frequently made ‘on the fly’ in restaurants. Whether it’s a simple scrambled egg or a complex omelet with various fillings, chefs are skilled at quickly preparing these dishes to perfection.

The ability to customize ingredients and cook eggs to each customer’s preference is what makes this breakfast staple a favorite ‘on the fly’ option.

Pancakes and Waffles

Fluffy pancakes and crispy waffles are another category of foods that are often made ‘on the fly’. These breakfast treats require precise timing and temperature control to achieve the desired texture and taste.

With the right ingredients and a skilled chef, pancakes and waffles can be whipped up in no time, ensuring that diners can enjoy a warm and delicious start to their day.

Burgers and Sandwiches

When it comes to lunch or dinner, burgers and sandwiches are go-to options for many people. These handheld meals are typically made ‘on the fly’ in restaurants, as they require quick assembly and cooking.

From juicy beef patties to crispy chicken fillets, chefs know how to create mouthwatering burgers and sandwiches that are ready to be devoured in minutes.


For those looking for a lighter option, salads are a popular choice. With an array of fresh ingredients, salads are often made ‘on the fly’ in restaurants to ensure maximum freshness and flavor. Whether it’s a classic Caesar salad or a unique mix of greens and toppings, chefs are skilled at creating vibrant and healthy salads in a matter of minutes.

Pasta Dishes

Pasta lovers rejoice! Pasta dishes are another category of foods that are often made ‘on the fly’. From creamy carbonara to tangy marinara, chefs are adept at cooking pasta to perfection and pairing it with delicious sauces and toppings.

With the right techniques and ingredients, a satisfying plate of pasta can be prepared quickly without compromising on taste.


Who doesn’t love a piping hot pizza straight out of the oven? Pizzas are a classic example of foods that are made ‘on the fly’. With a thin crust or a thick doughy base, pizzas are topped with a variety of ingredients and baked to perfection.

Whether it’s a traditional Margherita or a gourmet creation, pizza chefs know how to create mouthwatering pies in a short amount of time.

Next time you visit a restaurant and wonder how they manage to serve your meal so quickly, remember that these foods are often made ‘on the fly’. From breakfast classics like omelets and pancakes to lunchtime favorites like burgers and sandwiches, these dishes are expertly prepared to ensure a delightful dining experience.

Benefits of ‘On the Fly’ Cooking

Freshest Taste

‘On the fly’ cooking in a restaurant ensures that dishes are prepared and served immediately after they are ordered. This means that the ingredients used are at their freshest, resulting in a superior taste experience for the diners.

The flavors are vibrant, the textures are crisp, and the aromas are enticing. By cooking dishes on the spot, chefs can maximize the quality and freshness of the ingredients, allowing customers to savor the true essence of each dish.

Temperature Control

Another advantage of ‘on the fly’ cooking is the ability to have precise control over cooking temperatures. Chefs can adjust the heat and cooking time of each dish to ensure that it is cooked to perfection.

This level of control allows for consistency in taste and texture, ensuring that every customer receives a delicious and well-prepared meal. Whether it’s a perfectly seared steak or a golden brown pizza crust, ‘on the fly’ cooking allows for precise temperature control to achieve the desired results.


When dishes are prepared ‘on the fly’, it allows for greater customization options. Customers can request modifications to suit their taste preferences or dietary needs. From adding extra toppings to substituting ingredients, chefs can accommodate these requests and create a personalized dining experience.

This level of flexibility ensures that each customer can enjoy their meal exactly the way they want it, making their dining experience truly unique and satisfying.

Dietary Restrictions Accommodated

‘On the fly’ cooking is particularly beneficial for individuals with dietary restrictions or food allergies. Chefs can make necessary adjustments to the preparation process to accommodate specific dietary needs.

Whether it’s omitting certain ingredients or using alternative cooking methods, ‘on the fly’ cooking allows for the creation of dishes that cater to various dietary requirements. This ensures that all customers, regardless of their dietary restrictions, can enjoy a delicious and safe dining experience.

Drawbacks of ‘On the Fly’ Cooking

While ‘on the fly’ cooking in restaurants can offer flexibility and the ability to cater to specific customer requests, there are also some drawbacks to this approach. Understanding these drawbacks can help both restaurant owners and customers to make more informed decisions.

Longer Wait Times

One of the main drawbacks of ‘on the fly’ cooking is that it often leads to longer wait times for customers. When dishes are prepared as orders come in, it can take more time for the kitchen staff to complete each dish.

This can be especially problematic during peak hours when restaurants are busier and there is a higher volume of orders.

According to a study conducted by National Restaurant Association, restaurants that rely heavily on ‘on the fly’ cooking often experience increased wait times for customers, which can lead to lower customer satisfaction levels.

More Work for Kitchen Staff

Another drawback of ‘on the fly’ cooking is that it can put additional pressure on the kitchen staff. When dishes are prepared individually and on demand, it requires more coordination and multitasking in the kitchen.

This can lead to increased stress levels for the kitchen staff, potentially impacting their overall performance and job satisfaction.

In a survey conducted by ChefsWorld, many chefs expressed concerns about the workload and pressure associated with ‘on the fly’ cooking. They emphasized the need for efficient systems and processes to ensure smooth operations in the kitchen.

Less Efficient Operations

‘On the fly’ cooking can also result in less efficient restaurant operations. When dishes are prepared individually, it can be challenging to maintain a smooth flow of orders and ensure that all dishes are served in a timely manner.

This can lead to bottlenecks in the kitchen and potential delays in serving customers.

A study published in the Journal of Foodservice Business Research highlighted the impact of ‘on the fly’ cooking on operational efficiency. The study found that restaurants that adopted more standardized cooking processes experienced improved operational efficiency and reduced waiting times.

Quality Inconsistencies

Lastly, ‘on the fly’ cooking can lead to quality inconsistencies in the dishes served. When dishes are prepared individually and without a standardized process, there is a higher chance of variations in taste, texture, and presentation.

This can result in a lack of consistency across different orders, potentially affecting the overall dining experience for customers.

According to a customer survey conducted by Gourmet Traveller, consistency in food quality was one of the top factors influencing customer satisfaction in restaurants. ‘On the fly’ cooking was identified as a potential area where inconsistencies can occur.

While ‘on the fly’ cooking can provide certain advantages, it is important for restaurant owners to carefully consider these drawbacks and find the right balance between flexibility and efficiency in their operations.

By implementing efficient systems and processes, restaurant owners can minimize the negative impacts of ‘on the fly’ cooking and provide a more consistent and enjoyable dining experience for their customers.


The next time you’re at a restaurant and your server says your food will be made ‘on the fly,’ you’ll know this indicates your meal will be freshly prepared just for you. While it may take a bit longer to reach your table, the end result is hot, customized food made right when you ordered it.

Understanding common restaurant lingo like ‘on the fly’ will make you a more informed diner.

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