I came across ColleenV's comment in this post:
What are words that can distinguish these two business types?

I clicked the links of "counter service" and "table service" in his comment.
I did not understand the two terms at first, so I used Google search for the terms. Then I came across some other terms, walk in order, walk up to order from the Google results.

I have heard some people say walk in order, but not walk up to orders. I would like to know their difference or if one of the terms is rare.

When I go to a fast food store to order a hotdog or a hamburger in person,
is it called a walk-in order? or I am wrong?

5 Answers 5


A walk-up is an apartment in a building that lacks an elevator.

A walk-in is a person who comes into an establishment without an appointment or without having phoned beforehand. A walk-in order is an order placed by such a person. Many different kinds of establishments refer to "walk-ins" to describe some of their customers: health clinics, car dealerships, restaurants, spas and salons, and so forth.

You can walk up to the counter and place an order. But such an order would be called a counter order (in AmE), not a walk-up order. [But see @Muzer's answer about "walk-up fares|prices", which are terms used in transportation contexts in both BrE and AmE".]

P.S. I know that "walk-in" is used in AmE, and it seems to be used in BrE as well, though perhaps the term is just catching on in England, since it is such a cultural backwater :p

With this tailor-made EPOS technology, JUST EAT will now be able to offer its takeaway restaurant partners a central system for managing orders, whether online, ‘walk-in’ or over the phone.

And "walk-up" is used in England as well.

"...which tended to be composed entirely ... of walk-up tenement flats..." (Cambridge Cultural History of Britain: Volume 9, Modern Britain edited by Boris Ford. 1992).

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    This answer is country-specific without declaring that fact, or which country. Jul 13, 2017 at 23:00
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    @Lightness Races in Orbit. I think the word apartment is generally understood to be AmE, even by learners. But "walk-up" seems to be used of flats in England too (books.google.com/…). And walk-in is used in Britain too (for example junctionhealthcentre.nhs.uk).
    – TimR
    Jul 14, 2017 at 10:25
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    Apartment is also used in Japan, and Australia, and New Zealand, and South Africa, and, and, and... If you intend to restrict your answer to a particular country (e.g. USA) when the question wasn't, please declare that in your answer (or perhaps just avoid overall) Jul 14, 2017 at 10:26
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    I don't understand your last comment. What specifically is "country-specific" about my answer?
    – TimR
    Jul 14, 2017 at 10:27
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    Many things. For example, "A walk-in order is an order placed by such a person." <--- this is true in the USA but I've never heard it anywhere else. You are making statements that are not globally true, without qualifying said statements. It means your worldview has leaked into your post. Jul 14, 2017 at 10:27

In the source, walk-up is not a type of order. The commenter is describing that action taken while placing an order for counter service. They walk up to the counter. You can look for the phrasal verb "walk up" for more information.

Walk-in is more generally used in American English to describe a request for service without an appointment. Some hair studios may have a sign that says "Walk-ins welcome."

You may find some European sources that talk about walking in to a restaurant with a counter inside, or walking up to an establishment with a food service window.


You are right that walk-in order is the more widely used term- in fact this NGram does not find any published occurrences of walk-up order.

I guess one might use the term walk-up about a customer at a street vendor's food stand, as the customer does not have to go inside to place an order. But a street vendor will be unlikely to have tables and waiters, so I cannot see why one might want to make the distinction.


I believe "walk-up" description for restaurants refers to establishments that do not have a lobby or traditional seating. You walk up to a window in the external wall and order food. There may not even be seating from the restaurant to sit at to eat, or possibly a table or two on the sidewalk. They don't have anything inside the building that the customer has access to. Think of a "permanent" food truck that happens to be in a building.

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    This is precisely what I think of when I hear of a "walk-up restaurant" (e.g., some establishment like this).
    – J.R.
    Jul 13, 2017 at 20:36
  • Hi JR! Why is the fast-food store in the image called an establishment? Is there any difference between an establishment and a building?
    – kitty
    Jul 14, 2017 at 6:43
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    @kitty, “establishment” here is merely a broad term for a business or similar entity. An establishment typically occupies a building (or part of a building), but is not the building. Jul 14, 2017 at 7:17
  • Thanks a lot for the help, Anton Sherwood! The information is helpful!
    – kitty
    Jul 14, 2017 at 8:30

Maybe this should be a comment rather than an answer, but I thought I'd add this similar but not quite related usage.

Not related to the food industry, but I've often heard walk-up used in transport contexts, to refer to fares/tickets which you can buy on the day, rather than ones that must be bought in advance. It certainly applies to the UK rail industry, but I don't know how widely it applies.

For example:

An Off-Peak Return is a walk-up fare, so there's no benefit in buying it before you get to the station.

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