The hermit’s guide to eating out

Whether you’re browsing through the weekend paper or trolling the internet’s many fine blogs and magazines, there’s no shortage of counsel on what to eat and where. Sydney’s best sushi? Covered. Top 10 cheap eats? There’s an app for that. Penrith’s best first date destinations? I’m… sure someone has done the hard work and lived to tell the tale.

To all those who have offered their time and effort to compile these lists, I say thank you – you guys are killing the food guide game. However, these lists are built on the presumption that the reader is actually familiar with the process of eating out. Who’s to say the reader isn’t a recluse, an expat from a country without restaurants or someone who simply hates human contact? So for those of you who, of or against your own free will, are venturing out for some group grub, here are the tips you’ll need to eat with the big boys.

1. Picking a restaurant

Whether it’s a classed-out restaurant full of delightful yuppies, or a dingy kebab store that makes way too much money to be selling just kebabs, the joint can only possess two of the following three qualities: good service (e.g. fast); quality nosh (e.g. healthy); or affordability. If you think you’ve found a place that can boast all three, you’ve probably died and gone to heaven, so as long as you’re kicking, you’re going to have to decide which two qualities are most important for your next meal.

2. Picking your seat

When deciding where to sit, the one thing to keep in mind isn’t avoiding sitting next to the weird guy, but factoring in the size of your group. (Besides, being the hermit, you’re probably the weird one.) You’ll want to be sitting inside a ‘conversation cluster’ so you don’t need to poke your head and try join in the chit-chat.

a) 2-5 people: The table will be small enough for everyone to partake in the convo. If it’s a group of five, be sure to put one seat at the head of the table to keep it a Nigel-free zone. Timing: As this arrangement is risk-free, timing is irrelevant.

b) 6-8 people: You’ll want to nab one of the middle seats, which will allow you to converse with the most people. Timing: Don’t be the first or last to join the table – you need to walk in the middle of the pack.

c) 9+ people: Finally, the oppressed rise up against their oppressors! In large groups, the conversation clusters will form on the table ends. Timing: Lead the pack or, better yet, be the one who holds the door for everyone – you’ll be rewarded soon afterwards.

3. Picking a dish

Some people get antsy about ordering a meal that’s similar to another person’s. You mean to say we’re all eating chicken!? Whatever will chef think!? The real question is why on Earth would the chef care? So if only to prevent anyone from suffering an aneurism, abide these guidelines:

a) 2 people: Order two different dishes, each with different meats.

b) 3 people: Order three different dishes, but two may share the same meat.

c) 4-6 people: Two people may order identical dishes.

c) 7+ people: Too many dishes for anyone to give a crap.

4. Splitting the bill

If the restaurant doesn’t allow for split bills, not only are the owners likely Satanists, they also make working out change nightmarish. Most people are smart enough to remember how much their food/drinks cost, but there are always a few people (read: arseholes) who think they can get away with paying less than their fair share by rounding down their $23 dishes to a $20 note. Honestly, why be a dick and make other people pay for you? If you can’t pay an exact amount, just round up to the nearest $5 or $10. You’ll probably get a bit of change back at the end.

Bonus tip:

Lord knows why, but girls like eating dessert. Weird, right? They can’t finish their mains, yet they want to order more food. If you’re taking a girl on a date, estimate how much it’ll cost and then add another 50 per cent – dessert ain’t cheap.

Words by Vincent Varney, who if paid for over-thinking something as simple as eating, would be filthy, filthy rich. Follow him on Twitter.

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