Invited to a colleague or manager’s home for a holiday celebration? There are questions that arise when thinking about how to prepare for a home situation that wouldn’t come up if you were indulging in a restaurant meal. Here are half a dozen tips to help you feel comfortable in this intimate setting.
- Do I come empty handed to the boss’s home?
When you respond to the invitation, ask if there’s anything you can bring. If the answer is no, consider bringing a small ‘host’s gift’; a box of chocolate, a bottle of wine, or fragrance-free flowers. If it’s an edible or a libation you choose to bring, mention to the host that this is meant for enjoyment at a later date, so there is no obligation to put out something that is not strategically aligned with the evening.
- I have allergies to certain foods. Do I wing it and hope for the best?
While responding to the invitation, mention your particular dietary restriction or allergy to the host. Unlike in a restaurant venue, you may have to explain what parameters this imposes. Offer a suggestion of a simple substitution to a course (a salad for an appetizer) or to actually bring your own food, if your restrictions are rigid. Being forthcoming at the onset will prevent embarrassment during the celebration.
- The entrée was overcooked and is inedible. What do I do?
If you simply can’t eat a dish being served at a sit down, in-house dinner, try to eat the accompaniments and then claim that you filled up on hors d’oeuvres, side dishes, or the appetizer, and want to save room for dessert.
- Should I help clear the table?
If the event is a catered affair, adhere to restaurant etiquette and help the servers by leaning away from them when being served (lean to the right) or being cleared (lean to the left). If the host team is serving food themselves, feel free to step up and offer to assist in serving and certainly in clearing the table. Think of it as an extended family affair.
- How can I be an ideal guest?
Be aware of your host’s body language and level of engagement if the night begins to go long. If you sense the host is tired, say your goodbyes and begin to head on out. Once you begin to depart, others will feel free to follow suit, leaving the host to clean up and relax after a long day of preparation and attending to guests – which can certainly be exhausting.
- What’s one of the biggest faux pas I can commit?
Whether it be at an individual’s home or at a restaurant, at a gathering involving food and beverage, avoid wearing perfume, cologne or heavily scented lotions. 80% of taste is smell and when a host exhibits the care to bring you into private space and serve you a home cooked meal, it’s rude to overshadow that effort with a designer fragrance. Feel free to dress up, but leave the smelly stuff at home.