When I graduated from college my mentor gave me a list of business rules* to follow. One of her recommendations was to never take anything home from a business lunch in a doggie bag because it makes you look cheap. Recently at an interview lunch, I was nervous and unable to eat more than a few bites of my entrée. While I would have appreciated the leftovers, when the waitress asked if I needed a take-out box I said no. My interviewer appeared annoyed and asked why I wasn’t taking my leftovers home. I blurted out I was told you should never request a doggie bag at a business lunch. He said that was ridiculous and I walked out with a doggie bag. Was I wrong?
In this instance I think you were not wrong to refuse the doggie bag, you were wrong to not attempt to eat more. When you didn’t accept the take-out box the interviewer must have thought you were being wasteful. I once attended a business lunch where a guest ate only a few bites of her salmon entrée. She too refused the take-out bag. I didn’t say anything, but surmised she had not liked the food.
In choosing what to order at a business lunch, I always select the easiest item to eat in the mid-priced category. Usually for a lunch this is a sandwich. I then focus on eating the main entrée leaving the sides especially fries or chips for last. If I can’t finish all my food, it still looks like I’ve eaten the majority of my plate. I also sometimes stop eating if everyone else has long since finished.
On a side note, the person requesting the lunch should always pay the bill. I’ve had a couple of business meetings at coffee shops where the party requesting the meeting was late. I usually give them a few minutes, then go ahead and buy my own coffee. This too is probably a mistake, but it just feels weird to me to sit there with nothing and wait.
Do you request a doggie bag at a business lunch? What about coffee shops, if you are the first to arrive do you buy your own coffee?
*Other items on her list were to never hang your sweater over your chair, never let them so you cry and to always go alone to networking events – you are forced to meet other people.