By ANITA HANABURGH
While visiting a young friend in her office, I noticed the menu of a nearby restaurant on her desk.
"Oh, have you eaten at the Gideon Putnam?" I asked.
She laughed and explained she was going to meet her soon-to-be father-in-law.
"I want to make a good impression," she said. "I have never eaten there and I don't' want to look stupid when I order. He will be paying."
Most of us don't want to look stupid ordering food at a restaurant, but what you order does say something about you. Besides showing your restaurant savvy, it announces your food tastes, your confidence, your ability to make a decision and your background. Mostly, it shows your ability to handle yourself in a social setting.
If you are paying for yourself and it's your party, what you order probably doesn't matter all that much. But what if you are not paying? There are those times when you want to make an impression and are the guest of a special or important person. Maybe you are on a hot date, invited out by an older colleague, with your new boss, on a job interview or meeting your soon-to-be father-in-law.
If you don't want to look stupid, there are certain points you might want to ponder when dining out as a guest.
As a guest, you are often asked to order first. This can be very uncomfortable. You don't know what the others are having. You might think, "Do I order an appetizer? If I order an appetizer and no one else does, I could look sort of greedy and have to sit and eat it while everyone else watches. If I don't order one and everyone else does, then I sit alone and watch them eat."
"Then what should I order as an entre?" I continue to ask myself. "What if I order a big, juicy, hot roast beef sandwich and everyone else orders salads? I will feel like Miss Piggy, lacking understanding of health issues. If I order a salad and my benefactor and everyone else orders the 10-ounce burger, I look like Miss Health Nut."
Oh busboy, it isn't easy. The dilemma continues: What if I order an alcoholic beverage and the rest order iced tea? What price range should I target? Maybe I should stay home.
No, no, no, no, no, don't stay home. Just remember Anita ala Carte's counsel:
Just order decisively, and with a smile. Don't hem and haw. No one cares if you are on a special diet, or that you don't like shellfish.
Order food you know you will eat. No matter how nervous you are, it is definitely rude to not eat the food if you ordered it and someone else is paying.
Don't order the most expensive item or any item that is market priced. You could look like you are taking advantage. Go for the middle of the road.
Don't order the cheapest item either. Saying, "Oh, I'll just have a bowl of soup," when the others are ordering prime rib makes you look wimpy. Specials are a good choice.
Be prepared. Have an idea of what you want - chicken, fish, a sandwich. Most restaurants have their menu online.
Don't take too long. No one wants to wait while you decipher the menu.
Be careful ordering what others do. You could look like a copycat. Then again, it could be OK if you really want it.
Order salad entrees with care. Evaluate the setting. Salads take time to chew. If you are required to talk and participate, a salad could be tough to maneuver.
Ideas for "how to say it" when making an impression:
Don't say: "Oh, I was going to order that." Get a life. You are covering your tracks because you can't decide. Say: "That sound delicious; I'll have that too."
Don't' say: "Wow , will you look at this place." Say: "What a nice choice."
Don't say: "Oh my God, look at these prices; you must have some income to eat here." Say nothing about the prices.
Don't say: "I never saw so many forks." Know before you go. If you aren't a savvy diner, do a little homework. FYI, use the outside first.
Don't say: "Can I have my sauce without butter; and the fish skinned, not fried; and can I substitute peas for beans?" Oh busboy, who wants to hire, date or be friends with a fusspot? If you're picky, be picky when you pay.
Now what of the person who is paying the bill? Here are some suggestions that will show extremely honed social skills.
Ask the guest to order first, but tell the poor soul what you are ordering. At some time while looking at the menu, let it be know what you are ordering, and if you are ordering an appetizer or alcoholic beverage.
Don't sound like Mr.or Mrs. Big Time: "The sky's the limit; order whatever you want." It puts people down. Respect your guest.
Arrange to pay before or have the bill sent. Whenever possible, do not have the bill presented to you at the table.
All advice aside, if you enjoy yourself and are having a good time, nothing else really matters.
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