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The Quirks of Food in Business

Updated: Nov 5, 2020

Pausing the Mental Harassment series for a while, which is a more serious topic, I thought of picking up a rather quirky subject for a break.

Your Dish Says it All

The food you eat and the way you eat it says a lot about your personality. I learnt this mantra during the first few years of my corporate life. I have seen people ordering lentil soup and brown rice during a Business Meeting, and then switching over to eating dal chawal with their bare hands at home. I too have evolved from filling my plate with every dish on the buffet to ordering just soup and salad :-D

As you grow up the corporate ladder, your thinking and lifestyle gradually evolve. Irrespective, for many, it is the realisation of being in a high-end place that makes one conscious. But here, I am not going to touch upon the do’s and don’ts and the etiquettes, rather the peculiar behaviour people portray in a business environment and elsewhere. I look at some quirks of being a foodie, even though a socially-conscious one.

The Art of Food Ordering

Business Meal Sessions like a Luncheon or Dinner haven’t been a part of our lives for more than 6 months now and don’t seem to be returning anytime soon. But they have been a part of our corporate lives since ever and will return.

Since food choices offer a sneak peek into personalities, I have heard many stories about the dormant snob in people waking up at the time of ordering. Maybe that’s why even the ‘cool, casual and contemporary’ guys, who might be wearing casuals all five-days of the working week, like to order a butter croissant with cappuccino instead of bun-maska with cutting chai in a high-end restaurant.

The same bosses who host chai-samosa parties for employees on awesome-weather days, turn to the best restaurants to treat their senior management and board members. Although I agree that different audience demand different treatments, but it is interesting to see the different facets of people when it comes to food for business. There are people who advocate flat hierarchies and the culture of first-name based communication, but keep separate tables and designated waiting staff allotted for their lunch in the employee cafeteria.

But then there are those who like peculiar dishes too. In another incident, one of my friends took his client to a restaurant in Bengaluru which served Jain Chicken (without onion or garlic) as one of its best sellers!

The more sophisticated the dish, the cooler the guy!

One of the practices I have seen is related to the rank of the person. The more sophisticated the profile, more complicated their food choices seem to be. Have you ever seen (and not understood) the people who order sushi? I have nothing against the dish or its admirers, but I do judge those vegetarians who claim to like a myth called Vegetarian Sushi.

Business Lunch = Free Food!

Yes, as a fresh Salestor, that was my mantra. And now that I know a lot of people who loved Business Lunches for the same reason, I am not ashamed to admit it 😊.

As a fresher in the corporate world, I am sure most of you would have looked forward to the business parties for the free good food and, in many cases, booze. Business Dinners are a tad less formal than a lunch as the day has ended, people are more relaxed and hence liquor is also included. One of my best friends and his friend had spent one ‘Business Dinner’ finishing off the hotel’s quota of Gulab Jamuns.

When Boss Takes You to a Five Star Hotel…

…you expect nothing less than mutton biryani or its equivalent, right? How would you feel if you get baingan bharta instead? True story!

And being a new entrant in the company, very few people can ask for what they want. So when hesitation takes over the hunger, you end up ordering an all-season dish like a club sandwich. How many of you have ended up dropping half the vegetables while eating that God forsaken dish?

As an intern, a friend of mine had ordered Chai in a high-end hotel with the bosses, while the bosses ordered variants of green tea. Everyone received their cups and saucers, while this junior-most guy on the table received the complete tea service with kettle, creamer, and sugar bowl!

The Swankiest Restaurant for the Board!

In such cases, I have seen people usually listening to their minds over hearts to order something that sounds fancier and looks lavish. Barring personal likes and dislikes, I have hardly seen or heard of a Delhi guy ordering Chhole Bhature, a Tamilian ordering Puran Poli, a Gujarati ordering Undhiyu, or a Rajasthani ordering Daal-Baati-Churma for their Board Meeting. Somehow, the dish you will order without blinking an eyelid outside workplace, ranks lowest on the charts in front of the corporate audience. To serve the big guys, you need to call the swankiest restaurant in town.

Higher the Rank, More Expensive the Restaurant

That’s a given, right? You don’t expect the CEO to take you out for a cup of tea to a chai-tapri. Even though you like that Rs 15 tea much more than a Rs 250 cup in a 5 star hotel.

Friday Eve Team Outings = Great Music and Greater Booze!

Each one of you will have stories to tell from your Friday evening team outing. Here’s one from my closet.

So the whole office decided to go out on a Friday evening to a pub nearby. It was a great pub with great music and awesome food. The boss, much to our horror, ordered broccoli in white sauce along with the drinks. Talk about creating a balanced diet.

Be Indian, Buy Indian

Food in Business is not a problem, rather just a human behaviour/practice that produces interesting anecdotes. Hence, I am not looking for solutions, rather just some more quirky thoughts.

This is the era of becoming Atma Nirbhar and Being Indian, Buying Indian. If we are looking for Indian substitutes for apps, electronics and everything else, why not food?

Hence, I look at some dishes that are usually a part of a business meal over breakfast, lunch or dinner, and their equally good and quite ignored Indian counterparts.

  • Plain or Butter Croissant: A desi patty, butter toast or bun maska

  • Danish pastries or pancakes: Maal puye or meetha cheela

  • Bruschetta: A typical Mumbai masala sandwich or vegetable toast

  • Pasta or lasagne: The traditional Indian Poha, upma (semolina) or vermicelli

  • Salads (for when you want to keep it light): Until you want to have a strictly green diet, try the traditional south Indian curd rice or lemon rice. It is filling yet light at the same time and low on calories too.

  • The Green Revolution: Methi paranthas cooked in little or no oil, palak ka saag, dhaniye/pudina chutney are some Indian offerings for the go-green folks.

The business of food is very peculiar. Personal choices change regularly based on various experiences and factors. What does not change is the fact how food shapes our personality and, in turn, our thinking influences our food choices.

I would love to hear your stories on the food for business! Please login to share your comments below!

And show some love! ❤️

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