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Background: I work in a team of 10 software developers, of which more than half are Indian, including my manager. We have mandatory team lunches every month or two, but we do pay for our own meals at these lunches.

Every time we go out to these lunches, we always go to an Indian restaurant, sometimes expensive ones. The problem is that I don't like Indian food at all, to the point where it's a bit difficult for me to fake. This is despite trying different dishes the last 4 times we've gone to these restaurants.

This is complicated by the cultural vegetarian dietary restrictions of some of the team members (including my manager). I feel uneasy asking that we try a different cuisine for fear of being thought of as culturally insensitive, but I do not wish to buy food I don't like, especially since some of these restaurants are ~$30 a plate.

I've tried talking to my manager to suggest other places, but he always vetoes saying that the vegetarian options aren't good enough (he's very picky about this) and then finds an Indian restaurant instead.

How can I tactfully bring up my feelings regarding the choices of restaurant?

  • 5
    What country is that? I wonder how lunch can be mandatory. – puck Jun 6 at 16:22
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    Can you go and just not eat? Or would this be culturally unacceptable in your area? – Vality Jun 6 at 23:20
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    I was thinking what @Vality said. It might be awkward. Or could you come up with a special dish that's not on the menu that would be more to your taste? Some restaurants are fine with cooking custom orders, some never do it. – DaveG Jun 6 at 23:50
  • In the end I took the ally approach and talked to someone else on team about it. I think it will work out next time we go out to eat – Michael Kniffen Jun 7 at 17:26
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I have a very narrow palate due to being on the autism spectrum. There are a number of foods and entire cultural cuisines that I just can't stomach. Because of this I've been in the same situation as you a few times with coworkers. I've had managers who either overlook my dietary needs, or recognize them and actively don't care (I've had coworkers tell me about some less than nice comments made about my dietary restrictions by managers when I wasn't present).

The solution that I've found most helpful is to find an ally. You mentioned

I've tried talking to my manager to suggest other places, but he always vetoes saying that the vegetarian options aren't good enough (he's very picky about this) and then finds an Indian restaurant instead.

Since he won't listen to you, it's time to go to someone else. When I was having issues with eating out at unsuitable (for me) restaurants, I talked to someone on my team about it, and then she talked to the manager. Having more people bring something up as an issue makes the manager more likely to see it as an issue, and in my case having another person bring up my dietary restrictions caused the manager to take my needs into consideration more, and our lunch options got better for me. Getting another member of your team to suggest alternative restaurants with you will make your manager more likely to listen.

Since the manager's issue with your suggestions is the poor (in his opinion) vegetarian options, I would recommend picking one of your coworkers who is a vegetarian. Work with them to come up with lunch options that have a good selection of vegetarian dishes while still serving your tastes. Then, once you've gotten some options, you and your team member can present them to the manager.

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How long have you been having those lunches or how many occurrences were there, up until this point? Because the way you said it, it sounds like many of them, so I'll assume so.

Vegetarian restrictions do make things a little bit more complicated, but restaurants for vegetarians or vegans have been on the uprise for the past few years, so it is very possible that you'll find one on your area. If you state where you are it would help as well.

Personally whenever I'm involved in this kind of conflict of different choices for going to lunch or dinner, I try to find a compromise of going into something that will satisfy both. Indian food tends to be a bit spicy or with a lot more seasonings than some cultures are accustomed too, I don't know if that's the case or if you just don't like it.

One thing that can work is just stating that you always go to the same type of restaurant and that it might be fun if you try a new one. If you think they'll think that "Michael just wants to go to the place he loves" you can try to counteract with "I found out about these places (2, 3 or a handful) which I never went, but are well reviewed/spoken about. Can't we try it some time?"

Bottom line, whether you like it or not, you can just argue that varying would do no harm! You might even want to vouch for a restaurant of your culture or any of your non-Indian colleagues by saying "it'd be great if you could try our cuisine" :)

They might not be inclined to change it, because they're accustomed to going to their preferred cuisine, so you could:

  1. Try finding a place that has their cuisine + another one.

    • Ask for something new there, which you think they'll like
    • Vouch for them to try/taste it
    • Hope they like it
  2. Order food or cook something on any other day and have them try.

Both approaches try to work with the approach of making them try something new that they might like. Number 1 worked when I went to a place with a friend and he always ordered the same things. I picked something and told him to try and he genuinely admitted it was better than the things he'd been having and thanked me.

You don't need to expect such a positive response all the time, but if they at least like it or are willing to try it, you can propose a new place next time, or maybe some months from now.

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    Hi ConfusedHuman! Although this may be a good tactic to suggest that the team could try something else, you don't say what reactions we can expect from proposing a handful of other places that are not serving what seems to be their preferred cuisine. Could you edit your answer to provide this information please? – avazula Jun 7 at 15:06
  • @avazula sorry it took so long, I just edited it to include what you requested. – ConfusedHuman Jun 19 at 12:08
  • No worries! Thanks a lot :) – avazula Jun 19 at 12:28

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