What to Order When You’re Not Paying

Out to dinner with your boss, girlfriend, in-laws, girlfriend’s parents, co-workers, or friends and you know you aren’t picking up the tab?  What should you order so that you don’t look like a snob?

Lunch.  If this is a lunch date or gathering it’s pretty difficult to over-order.  Try not to order any appetizer other than a salad and don’t be the one to ask the table if they would like to order one.  In regards to an entrée, our advice is to order off of the lunch menu.  Often, restaurants give you menus that allow you to order from their Lunch and/or Dinner Menu.  Almost always, the dinner entrées will significantly out-price the Lunch entrées.  Stick to the Lunch menu and you will be safe.

Dinner.  This can be a bit tougher.  With dinner, most often come drinks.  We all know that alcohol is where restaurants really make their money.  My advice here: Try not to be the first to order.  You don’t want to look like some alcoholic snob ordering a fifteen-dollar Martini while coming to find out your spouse’s parents are recovering addicts.  Let someone else break the ice in the booze department.  If it comes to a point where you are either forced to order first or asked by your company, “Do you want a drink?” order a glass of water for starters and see what everyone else does.  If they order drinks, you should wait to place your drink order when appetizers, bread, or salads come out.

Ordering your meal can be stressful when you know you aren’t paying.  That fifty dollar bone in rib eye steak is literally making you drool you want it so bad.  My advice: Hold off.  Unless your Father-in-law says, “You’ve got to try the rib eye”, it will most likely save you a few eye rolls if you order something in a different price range.  Pastas, chickens, and most seafood are normally much more moderately priced.  Take the hit and order something that will be lighter in your stomach and on their wallet.

Four rib eye steaks being prepped for cooking.

Don’t ever announce that you are ordering what you are ordering to save someone a buck.  It can be quite insulting.   If you are not worried about your impression or if you know money is not an issue, order all the appetizers you want, get that juicy steak, and make sure the table gets some desserts!

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2 thoughts on “What to Order When You’re Not Paying

  1. How about dinners at country clubs? Where the member’s menu has the prices and his guests receive menus without prices.

    I usually settle with a chicken meal or simple club sandwich in those situations.

    • A very valid point. There are certain options that are more appropriate than others. A basic education of what foods are priced at what cost is never a bad thing to know.

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