Posted 2/11/15
Sweeney and Todd is a well-known pie restaurant in Reading, UK. In 2015, I went there with my brother and we were served by the proprietor, June. As you can see, June is a bit of a star. And she allowed me to film her at work.
  • Activity: Listening; role play
  • Topic: Restaurants (and pies)
  • Age group: Teens & adults
  • Time: 30 minutes (+ follow up)
  • Language level: B1 +
  • Language: Language for ordering in a restaurant
The sweetest waitress pdf [downloaded 2349 times]

Notes about the activity

June’s video provides a lot of challenges for language teachers. There are many cultural words and ideas that you will have to deal with. These include:

  • Reference to the Five and Six nations rugby competition
  • The name of the restaurant (Sweeney and Todd)
  • Low frequency language items such as rump (steak), under the crust, stilton, gravy, etc.

I suggest giving students some time to work with the text and make their own decisions about words, phrases and functional language that they would like to take away from it. You can then move on to the role play follow up.

There are also some features of June’s language that you can draw attention to:

  • She has an accent from South West England.
  • She refers to Jamie as ‘love’. (Jamie liked that!) She also uses the adjective ‘lovely’ quite a lot.
  • The Sweeney and Todd menu refers to the pies in one way but June refers to them in another. (Menu: ‘Rump steak with mushroom’; June: ‘Rump steak and mushroom’). Learners are often led to believe that there is one correct way to express things. But the truth is that language is often inconsistent.
  • June often misses out the subject + auxiliary. She says: ‘Got lamb and mint’ instead of ‘We’ve got lamb and mint.’ This is a common feature of spoken language.

Finally, there is a lot of reference to meaty pies in this activity. Out of courtesy, make sure that the vegetarians in your class are happy for you to use it. Also note that in many islamic cultures/contexts, pigs and pork is a taboo subject.


June: Hello. Would you like to order? Are you ready to order?
Jamie: Yeah, what are your pies that you’ve got today?
June: We’ve got rump steak with stilton; We’ve got venison and wild boar; Steak with mushroom; Got anniversary: rump steak, baby mushrooms, bacon, port, stilton under the crust; We’ve got a hot one: chicken, chile with chorizo; Got lamb and mint; Steak with ale; We’ve got a new venison one: venison, red wine, black cherries and leeks; Or we’ve got a beef, bacon and pancetta which is lovely and black pudding; Or we’ve got cheese with vegetable; And steak with kidney; Or lots of others
Jamie: Do you know what you wait?
Alastair: Yeah, can I have the rump steak and stilton, please?
June: Rump steak with stilton?
Alastair: Yeah
June:What about for yourself love?
Jamie: The anniversary, why’s it called anniversary?
June: We made it when we were here 30 years but it’s now 37 years. We just make it weekends because it’s very popular but it costs quite a lot to make. So we just do it weekends.
Jamie: And the five nations. Why’s that called five nations?
June: Rugby. It’s made with Guinness, leeks, garlic, mustard and steak, each representing each nation. We have Scottish beef, English mustard, leeks for Wales, Guinness for Ireland, and garlic for France. We haven’t gone to six nations yet. We’re going to keep it at that.
Jamie: If you go for Italy, what will you put in it for Italy?
June: Well, somebody said tomatoes or pancetta or some sort of cheese. But I think we’ll just keep it as it is, really.
Jamie: So, I think I’m going to be boring and just have the same.
June: Rump steak with stilton?
Jamie: Yes, sorry about that.
June: That’s all right. Best pie we make. That’s lovely.
Jamie: Is that your most popular pie?
June: Yeah, it is.
Jamie: Oh, consistent.
June: Yeah, it’s a lovely one as well. Anything else. Jug of gravy for the table, maybe?
Jamie: Yeah. Go on then.
June: Lovely. Thank you very much
Jamie: Thank you very much
Alastair: A bit hot
Jamie: It is good?
Alastair: Mmmmm. Hot!

Thumb pie


Note: I originally posted June’s video on this page without a lesson plan. I invited you to leave comments and say what you would do with it in your classroom. You can still see the comments below. Thanks for the ideas! :)

Posted 2/11/15

14 Responses to The sweetest waitress

  1. Sally says:

    This isn’t a teaching idea (maybe something will come to me and I’ll come back to that – feel I owe you the effort given how many times I have used the blue whale and the water lessons), but the same day I saw your call for ideas about the pie lady I also saw this …
    which of her pies would the bear have not eaten ? there has to be a link there somewhere ….

  2. Jimmy Gabriele says:

    Hey Jamie,

    Chucking up a comment, cause no-one else has and I love your site. Use it weekly.

    For me, I don’t think I’ll be using the video… haven’t watched it, as I’m in China with no youtube (at work), but for me it has too much food specific vocab that will just confuse my students. I don’t feel my students learning English in China have much need to be learning all this vocab.

    Just my thoughts. What do you think?

    Love the site… sorry my first comment isn’t the most positive one.


  3. Ernest says:

    Hi jamie! How about, to begin with, making students listen to the conversation without watching the vid? And then they could figure out what the people are doing,where it might be happening, how many people are taking part.
    Then stds can check out the list of pies which is on the website and tick the pies June offers. (there’s lots of vocabulary you don’t usually find in course books hey)
    Then give them the tapescript and leave a gap for the students to complete with your choice.
    Thanks for sharing all your superb work Jamie!
    Have a good one!

  4. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Sally
    Thank you for this. Love the story about the bear who ate all the pies. I had a look at the bakery’s website but unfortunately, they don’t list their pies. That might have offered a possible way of combining the materials. But there must be other possibilities.
    Really happy to hear that you have been making good use of the site. Thanks for your comment and the article Sally.
    Jamie :)

  5. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Ernest
    Yes – good idea. Give students a list of pies from the website and ask them to identify which ones they hear. A bit like pie bingo perhaps! You would also have to ask students which would be their first, second and third choice if they were eating there. Unfortunately, there only seems to be one vegetarian option so this would be for carnivores only!
    We would also have to deal with the cultural part of the video – the reference to the five / six nations.
    Thanks for the ideas – it’s coming together nicely.
    Jamie :)

  6. Jamie Keddie says:

    Hello Jimmy
    Thank you for your comment – a very good one I think.
    You are absolutely right that this is not a video that would be of interest to everyone. The fact that it is anglocentric means that it will be completely irrelevant to many learners of English around the world. Also, it might upset vegetarians!
    However, perhaps if we ignore the language, we could focus on other issues that the video offers. For example:
    * Skills that people acquire through their jobs (in this case the ability to memorise a list pies!)
    * The different ways in which waiters and waitresses approach, address and deal with customers (again this has a cultural aspect. But it could be put into a wider context)
    Thanks again for your comment Jimmy
    Jamie :)

  7. Jimmy says:

    Thanks Jamie, good points indeed.

  8. Ernest says:

    I don’t like rugby much, but we’ve got the four nations here (?) Argentina, South Africa New Zealand and Australia. How about a four nations pie?
    By the way, I just used your dad for an activity. I made my stds listen to the gorilla joke. Then rewrite it but this time in English and check their translation with the subtitles you added.
    It was good fun! Cheers!

  9. Jamie Keddie says:

    Thanks Ernest
    A four nation pie – I wonder what would go in that!
    Great idea about the baby gorilla joke. Thanks for sharing.
    Jamie :)

  10. Lucy says:

    Hello ,
    As a teacher in a Lycee in France I’m always lookng for new ideas…I’d ( and will) use your video with A2 – B1 students with the ‘nations ‘ idea and what is associated with each country in the 6 nations plus Patron Saints, food habits etc… I wouldn’t get involved with the ingredients just focus on the fact that ‘pies’ are delicious and they are part of our culture!!!! Great ideas. tHANKS

  11. Jamie Keddie says:

    This is good Lucy.
    One problem with using material like this is that teachers (and students) can become slaves to the spoken text. As you say, I really don’t think that you have to focus on the ingredients. It reminds me of the book American Psycho in which Patrick Bateman goes off on huge, rambling internal monologues about beauty products that he uses and designer labels that he wears. It makes quite difficult reading at times. But the content is of secondary importance to the establishing of his character – to giving readers an insight into what sort of person he is.
    Jamie :)

  12. Joseph Boen says:

    I love your lesson ideas. I really liked the “I’d rather….” lesson which I used with great success and I’m using this one on Monday. I like how they are presented and they also inspire me to add other excercises and ideas. I teach in France so this lesson should be a hit! There’s nothing the French like talking about more than food!! Well, perhaps holidays.

  13. Jamie Keddie says:

    Holidays and food. Yes – two of my favourite topics as well! I hope that they enjoyed the activity Joseph. I wonder if they were happy for France to be represented by garlic in the pie (with Scottish beef, I think that Scotland did quite well out of the deal!)
    Jamie :)

  14. Thaks for sharing! Lysychansk watches you. I am an English tutor and your site had been recommended by some guys who know how to prepare for passing CELTA.