Going out for a meal is a great way to network. It can be a relaxing experience. You can make new friends and make contacts that can be useful in developing your business. To successfully dine out with other people, the following are a few tips:
People rather than food should be the focus
It is important to understand that food should never be the focus at such occasions. The people you are set to meet are the main attractions and the whole idea is to fraternise rather than just to eat.
You will need to curb any greedy tendencies in order not to leave a negative impression. You should leave your home with this mindset otherwise you may be at risk of misbehaving in your quest to have your fill. If you recognise that you have a tendency to scramble for food at the expense of other people, then having a meal at home before you set out may be a wise move. Having in mind that you can always stop at the next restaurant to have more food is another option to consider as this may be the only factor that calms you down when you see your favourite food.
My husband and I were once invited to a meal at a restaurant by a friend. We arrived at the restaurant to find another gentleman present who happened to be the cousin of our host. He had recently arrived in town and my guess is that our host had asked him to come along at short notice.
I suppose this was out of politeness and kindness to the young man who did not know many people in the new environment. We were dining at a Chinese restaurant and the food was brought in platters and placed on a swivel turntable in the middle of the table. This meant that each of us could move the turntable towards us and help ourselves to any food we desired. Little did we know that we were in for an interesting experience! What happened was that this gentleman who was invited along at the last minute was very keen to ensure that he got his ‘fair share’ of the food. In fact he wanted more than his fair share. Every dish that was brought out was quickly ‘attacked’ by him and he would quickly dish for himself a very tidy portion before anyone else. It was so obvious that he had little consideration for the other people present at the table. His only concern was for his belly. This happened almost about a decade ago but I still remember the day well because of the peculiarity of the situation.
The point to remember is that people, not food should be the focus. Rather than that take too much food and be out of sync with everyone else, concentrate on people and you will be able to network effectively.
Starting to eat
It is possible that your order may arrive first perhaps because your meal is easier to prepare. The right attitude to adopt is to wait for others to get their meals so that you all start eating together. It would be insensitive if you just pick up your cutlery and tuck into your plate oblivious of your fellow diners who are waiting for their meal. However, if the rest of the meal is taking more than a few minutes to come, then your friends should ideally tell you to please feel free to go ahead with your food. In a situation where they have not said anything and your meal is getting cold, it is perfectly okay to ask them whether you could start eating. They would almost certainly say yes. This is a show of consideration to each other by both parties.
Paying for the meal
Generally, for a business dinner, whoever sets up the meeting or gives an invitation to meet over a meal picks up the tab. However, if a group of friends are dining at a restaurant, it is advisable to go with some money in case you will need to ‘chip in’. It may be unwise to assume that the person who invited you is picking up the tab especially if they have not indicated this is the case or if it is not a business dinner. The fact that someone took the initiative to plan a meal out for two or more friends does not necessarily mean that the planner picks up the tab. If you are unsure of who is paying, the safer bet is to take some money with you and offer to contribute to the cost of the meal.
If the suggestion is to ‘go Dutch’, it means the cost of the meal would be shared equally.
Finally, if you are not paying for a meal, choose the least expensive item on the menu.
We all benefit when we do things right.