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I am a vegetarian (and also I don't drink). Our manager takes the team out to lunch, say, once every quarter.

This time they are planning to go to a restaurant that has no vegetarian options. Monetary value is not a concern here, but I find it awkward to remind them that I am a vegetarian every time.

I am planning to either skip the event or to ask for a change of venue.

Would it be considered rude to do either of these? Which one would be the lesser evil? Or is there an alternative way that I can handle this situation?

  • 2
    This other question addresses yours, I believe: workplace.stackexchange.com/questions/57436/… – GreenMatt Dec 11 '19 at 19:06
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    @GreenMatt I also think it does. Dexter, does that post help or is your situation different somehow? If it's different, please edit your post to explain how so. – DarkCygnus Dec 11 '19 at 19:08
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    What is the location? In most countries the idea of not-having veggie option is insane, and may just not be on whatever menu OP saw. I would first talk to the boss and ask if they have the veggie option somewhere (or just call the place yourself). Even if it's off the card, any restaurant worth it salt will serve a veggie option. – Tymoteusz Paul Dec 11 '19 at 20:33
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    @Dexter Assuming your manager is a sane person with just a problem about remembering things, it will be happy to be reminded every time it is needed. In the end, being a vegetarian is something personal to you so I think the right approach is to appreciate who remembers but have no hesitation to say it every time it is needed. – bracco23 Dec 12 '19 at 13:12
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    @Dexter Perfectly reasonable to send a reminder, especially if it's only quarterly. I do this for my group and they are always very nice about providing a vegetarian meal for me, I just work it into the planning discussion... "Sure, I can attend xyz time, as long as there's a vegetarian option, please, thanks!" – user3067860 Dec 12 '19 at 15:12
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Don't ask to change the venue directly. Presumably this lunch is on the company's dime, it might look ungrateful.

You can subtly/indirectly seek a change of venue if you politely decline and highlight the lack of vegetarian option as your reason. "I'd love to go but they don't seem to have any vegetarian option on the menu so I'm afraid, in this instance, I'll have to pass".

My guess is, if your company are good enough employers to have regular team lunches, this was most likely an oversight on their part - somebody forgot you are vegetarian or maybe didn't know in the first place if all the other venues had suitable meal choices. Upon receiving your reply, I'd imagine they will apologise profusely and change the venue if possible. (In the event that the venue can't be changed, I don't think skipping will be a problem)

Of course, if the meeting is a mandatory work meeting, then you'd need to approach this a little differently

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    But first, make sure that the restaurant indeed doesn't have a vegetarian option on the menu, because if it does, your manager is sure to bring it up. If on the other hand, you don't like any of the vegetarian options it has on the menu, say that instead. – Stephan Branczyk Dec 11 '19 at 19:56
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    To take it one step further, don't just check the menu: call the restaurant and tell them what party you will be coming with (company lunch from X Inc and the date), and ask if they have or can make something off the menu. When reserving, your team may have had the foresight to ask, and the restaurant may have been secretly accommodating. – msanford Dec 11 '19 at 21:12
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    @msanford I think that could probably be an Answer in its own right. – nick012000 Dec 11 '19 at 23:57
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    @nick012000 Done! Thanks. – msanford Dec 12 '19 at 1:31
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    "Presumably this lunch is on the company's dime, it might look ungrateful." Why on earth would you be grateful for a lunch where you can't eat anything? – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 12 '19 at 12:14
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To take it one step further, don't just check the menu: call the restaurant and tell them what party you will be coming with (company lunch from X Inc and the date) and ask if they have or can make something off the menu.

When reserving, your team may have had the foresight to ask, and the restaurant may have been secretly accommodating. You'll also be able to suss out what kind of options they might be able to offer by speaking to them.

That has been my experience.

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    +1 - I've done exactly that. I asked this in a Greek restaurant where every option of the menu was meat centered. It turned out, our server, who happened to be the owner of the establishment, was a vegan, and was very happy to help. They brought out the most amazing vegan Greek pasta I have ever had. Only good things can come from asking. – Andreas Grapentin Dec 12 '19 at 5:43
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    Extra benefit is that this will show the restaurant the demand for vegetarian items, and eventually they might add some to the menu. – jpa Dec 12 '19 at 7:58
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    This doesn't solve the problem that your own team is routinely completely ignoring your needs and wants when they organise something that should be for everyone. – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 12 '19 at 12:13
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    Every time I've been to a restaurant where they didn't have a vegetarian option on the menu, we asked and they could always make something. I do not agree with @LightnessRaceswithMonica that the team is ignoring his needs. OP follows a special diet and there are plenty of ways to deal with the issues that might arise with this diet, rather than just saying "you other 19 people are bullying me" – Caroline Dec 12 '19 at 12:21
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    @FreeMan Dietary requirements clearly stated for a work lunch, and "I don't like the colour red but someone keeps wearing it" are entirely different things. Being a vegetarian doesn't make you "a self-centered, self-righteous little snowflake", nor is it "a weird proclivity". You're being utterly ridiculous. – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 12 '19 at 14:50
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Ask the venue for a simple salad or something equivalent even if it is not on the menu. Restaurants agree to this, as long as they can charge you for some standard menu item. I have done this multiple times in different places due to a family member's food sensitivities.

It would seem unreasonable to try and change everything for your food preference when the event is about team building. Focus on the building and have a nice meal before you go and then just snack there on a small substitute meal.

  • “It would seem unreasonable to try and change everything for your food preference when the event is about team building.” I disagree. If the OP goes into this event with some (not unreasonable!) resentment because the company ignored their dietary restrictions, they’re not going to be very amenable to the team building the company is trying to accomplish. It’s very much in the company’s interest to make sure the lunch is held at a venue where everyone can at least find something to eat. (Even better, obviously, if everyone is actually happy with the choice of restaurant.) – bdesham Dec 12 '19 at 18:20
  • That being said, it’s not totally clear whether the company is ignoring OP’s restrictions or is just unaware of them. – bdesham Dec 12 '19 at 18:21
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I do face the same situation sometimes. I'd go to lunch out, enjoy the companion, come back and have my lunch the same as I usually do.

If we need special needs, we better take our self to take care of us. None of the others should change their plans for us. A kind request could be an option but in these kinda workplace matters, better to stay away from changing other's plans.

Don't miss the lunch, these social, teambuilding events are essential to staying relay on your job if you are not working remotely.

  • This is a reasonable accommodation to do. Forcing others to eat on vegan only restaurant is actually the problem. – Anish Sheela Dec 12 '19 at 6:12
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    @AnishSheela Nobody would reasonably expect them to switch to a vegan only restaurant. Furthermore I don't see why this is more of a problem than the other way round. Omnivores can eat vegan foods, too. They might be prejuidiced, but this is their issue and therefor their responsibility to take care of. – Paul K Dec 12 '19 at 6:30
  • We can ask for changes and usually, it's not a matter in family life, but when we are in our workplace, we better act in a professional way, better not to interrupt other's plans. Apparently the company seems like not acted in a professional way, as usual, an HR manager would not arrange meat only locations or total vegan rather selecting a place that can cater to most of the categories. – Shammie Dec 12 '19 at 6:42
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    @SoraPro Intent does make some difference, and since we cannot gauge it remotely, I'll leave that one alone. But, still, if after five or six goes you're still not getting that somebody on your work team is a vegetarian, regardless of your intent you need to buck up your ideas a bit. – Lightness Races with Monica Dec 12 '19 at 16:16
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    Please note that this is a new contributor and avoid downvote brigading this. This is a valid way that a person who wants to be completely nonconfrontational could approach it (remember that people are different in their social choices as well as dietary). It could be significantly more memorable for the organizer to have the experience of "I chose a restaurant that had no vegetarian option and one person came and didn't eat" than "someone reminded me they were vegetarian last time" (which is a much less odd occurrence, more forgettable), which might solve the problem in the future. – msouth Dec 12 '19 at 16:30
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Which is more important to you, food or being with the team? (Either is okay I think but your strategy will change).

If food is important

Which means the quality of food you eat has to be great and as per your taste, then you can request a change in menu or politely decline like others have answered.

If being with the team is important

Then you just compromise on "tasty meal" and order some salad or ask something to be made which is vegetarian. It may not taste great but it will serve your hunger. I have been to many restaurants in several places around the world where one would think that it is impossible to have anything vegetarian, but on request they will always make something for you. You cannot be too picky but you still get to eat with the team without requesting a change.

Of course if you are afraid and are particular about your food not accidentally touching with meat in the kitchen, then it is best to avoid eating "vegetarian" food anywhere outside. No can guarantee what happens in the kitchen!

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I find it awkward to prompt that I am a vegetarian every time

So, it seems they're already very aware you're a vegetarian.

I am planning to either skip the event or to ask for a change of venue

Yes, ask for a change of venue, with a smile, citing the reason.

They've most likely simply not realised the place has no options, or they've somehow forgotten you're a vegetarian in the (perhaps hasty) choice of place.

You're not in any way the one who has to worry about being rude here. It's a team lunch - everyone in the team should be catered for, full stop.

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    To ask for the entire team to change venue just for you strikes me as a bit selfish. It's a rule of life that You Can't Please Everyone. If you think you can, you're already f*ed. – Reverse Engineered Dec 12 '19 at 12:58
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    "You can't please everyone" is not really an acceptable excuse to short one subset (e.g. vegetarians) every time, or to not check for vegetarian >options<, which would still allow the non-vegetarians to have their non-vegetarian options as well. Standing up in that instance cannot possibly be considered selfish in any reasonable team. – DariM Dec 12 '19 at 23:55
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You shouldn't feel bad for bringing up the issue, in fact, it's somewhat insulting that they either forget your dietary needs or worst, disregard them entierly.

You should approach the issue respectfully but firmly and ask for a change of vanue. Remind the organizer that you are a vegetarian and that the place they chose has no vegetarian options*. Also, you should also remind them that this is not the first time that the issue has come up (if it's the case) and that you would really appreciate it if the next time they will remember this and will choose a place that can accommodate your dietary needs from the start.

You should do it as fast as possible, don't wait until the last minute, when it may be hard to make any changes, give enough time in advance to make the change.

This lunch is paid for by the company and is part of your job, even if it's not mandatory participation, it's a bonding activity for the team and excluding people from it because of their dietary needs is the exact opposite of the desired result. A meal supplied by the company should accommodate all the workers and be inclusive.

* - unless it's the case, as some suggested that the organizer has made arrangements to have a vegetarian option beforehand. In any case, it's not your job to make sure that the lunch is inclusive to all, it's the responsibility of the organizer.

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