Even if you are going to order off-menu.
Eating out can be a challenge when you want to eat the Whole Food Muscle Way. Most menus have nothing on them, except maybe a salad, that isn’t slathered in animal products and oil. And while you could sit at the table and not eat while your friends do, that can be a little awkward for everyone (for the record, we have done that on fasting days. It’s not as bad as it sounds). Let’s assume you want to be able to eat. Here are some tips for making it as painless as possible for everyone:
- Arrive prepared – If at all possible, visit the restaurant’s website and check out their menu before you get there. Trying to read an entire menu while talking to friends simply won’t work. Many websites now have a “contact us” function. Use it if you know where you will be dining a couple of days in advance.
- Use self-deprecation to your advantage
– Smile apologetically and tell the server upfront, “I’m going to be a little bit difficult. I’m vegan.” I like to wrinkle my nose as if to say, “I know that part of me is annoying.” Servers usually say, “Oh that’s okay!” It’s what they are trained to say. But once they say it, they have unconsciously accepted helping you.
- Don’t be ridiculously difficult – Asking questions like, “Is your Alfredo sauce vegan?” Is going to get you put on the short list for lousy service. If you have already scoped out something you can tweak to make it work, let your server know. But don’t expect to make more than two or three changes to a dish. After three you are likely to get only two and they will be wrong.
- Feel free to ask for advice – You will be able to tell pretty quickly if your server knows what can and can’t be made vegan. We asked once and the server brought us the gluten free menu. She didn’t know. And that was okay. Sometimes they are really well informed and can point you to some great options.
- There will be oil – Asking for no oil might get you less oil. But that’s as good as it’s going to get. Unless you have raging heart disease and are following a strict Esselstyn diet, it’s not a big deal a few times a month.
- Be calm and kind – Mistakes happen and a lot of them aren’t your server’s fault. We once ordered two vegan bean burgers, no cheese, no mayo. The waitress was very accommodating, even telling us she had a good friend who was vegan. One burger came out with what looked like cheese on it. I said, “I think this has cheese on it?” (Yes, that is a statement that I used as a question.) She was very upset and printed out the order to show us that she had made it very clear that it was a vegan plate. I told her, “If that’s the worst thing that happens to me all day, it’s a pretty good day.” Never get bent out of shape and cause a scene. It’s not helpful for anyone and it’s bad for your blood pressure.
- You can always default to pasta, rice or a potato – Sure those options aren’t ideal and we all wish that restaurants would step up their options. But a starch with a tomato sauce, or an Asian dressing isn’t a bad option in a pinch.
- Be a reasonable human – Say please and thank you. Don’t snap your fingers to get your server’s attention. Try not to ask for something else every time they walk passed your table. If you know you want a condiment try to remember to ask for it when you order. Just make their job as easy as possible.
- Tip well – It’s good karma in general but especially if you frequent the same place. Servers remember people who are friendly and tip well and those who don't.
- Bonus – Don’t say you are allergic to all animal products. That is going to make them huff and roll their eyes. Deception is never a good strategy.
Generally, getting good service boils down to realizing your server is not a servant and you are in their place of business. A paying customer yes. A king/queen who gets to expect everyone to bow down, no. The best advice on this list is the second one. Be amiable and get their buy-in to your “silly” needs and they’ll gladly help you. At least that has been our experience most of the time.
Are you struggling to make plant-based eating work for you? Book a session with Dr Robyn to get on your way. Email Health@RnRJourney.com to schedule a 15 minute chat to see if she is a good fit for you.
Picture credit Photo by Lefteris kallergis
Dr Robyn is a former competitive volleyball player turned psychologist with continuing education in nutrition. Russ is a former competitive bodybuilder and trainer on the Mr. Olympia Tour. They are the co-founders of Whole Food Muscle and the authors of How to Feed a Human The Whole Food Muscle Way. To work with them one on one to improve your health and fitness or to have them speak at your event or organization email them at Health@RnRJourney.com.