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I started a new job half a year ago. I am very satisfied, there's just one thing. The team is pretty outgoing and they like to go out for a dinner together once or twice a month. I don't mind that, but they have completely opposing food and drink preferences to mine (4 out of 6 people, the fifth is is open to alternatives). They go out to eat greasy meat and flush it down with a couple of beers, which is disadvantageous for me as a vegetarian drinking alcohol only on special occasions. Even if I go with them sometimes and order something meatless (the vegetarian selection is not usually impressive in these kinds of places), we divide the costs and I am €40 behind for something that cost €15 and was worth €5.

What are my options? We tried voting a couple of times and none of my proposals went through. Also, the team has been together for a couple of years now and I don't want to be the weird new guy that breaks up existing customs.

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    Just ask the waiter for a separate bill. That's what I do. – Ed Heal Nov 9 '15 at 21:12
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    Is your concern mainly financial? If so go for the desert in a big way :-) – Ed Heal Nov 9 '15 at 21:23
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    Make sure to ask the waiter for a separate bill as you're ordering your own vegetarian option. Do not wait until the end of he meal. Make sure the waiter understands you're not asking for separate bills between everyone else, otherwise he/she may refuse. Don't put this issue to a vote. This is between you and the waiter. If the waiter says "no" (which is unlikely if he understood you correctly), cancel your order, wait a few minutes, go sit temporarily at a different table alone, and order from there instead. – Stephan Branczyk Nov 9 '15 at 22:48
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    Voting didn't work, so what if instead you roster it such that each dinner is up to one specific team member to plan (they get to choose where the meal is held, and nobody can complain)? Then you're guaranteed a more palatable meal at least once in every six dinners. Or once in every three if you can get the fifth coworker on your side. – aroth Nov 10 '15 at 5:20
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    Asking for a separate bill is probably something that had already occurred to the OP and in most contexts it doesn't go well with I don't want to be the weird new guy that breaks up existing customs. I don't see any way out of this without sacrificing any aspect (paying a fair amount and not breaking existing customs and having the preferred food / drinks). But I wouldn't feel bad about that; it's called life and as far as I am concerned when I had to give up something in such situations sometimes I at least enjoyed the feeling of being flexible to some extent. – SantiBailors Nov 10 '15 at 11:33
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It sounds like the primary purpose is social (and you're interested in that) and the food is secondary -- but it's an important secondary to them. So it's best to find some way to fit into the outing, lest you be excluded in other ways.

As somebody with dietary restrictions I sometimes can't find much (or any) food I can eat on a menu. If I know about that in advance and I still want to socialize, I'll bring something along for myself (if the restaurant permits this; not all do), join in appetizers if feasible, order a drink, and otherwise be there to be with the people. If you are clearly ordering less than other people (not just different food, which they might not stop to think about the economics of), it's easier to ask to pay your bill separately. Since you're new and you want to maintain a good relationship with this group, I'd try something casual like "hey, I really enjoy hanging out with you, but €40 is a bit steep for my Coke and side salad, so any objections to my paying separately?". Note: if you join in on communal appetizers (something ordered for the whole table), you should also contribute to that if you ate any of it, and occasionally just put that on your tab instead of theirs. You don't want people to think you're a moocher, after all, and that'll probably be less expensive for you in the long run even if you buy a round of (vegetarian) nachos every single time.

  • Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Jane S Nov 10 '15 at 23:13
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"Don't come to me with a problem. Come to me with a solution" - my ex-boss.

Instead of either simple complaining about their choice of venue; or asking those guys to go to a different place where they can't eat what they prefer; the best option is to carefully pick a place that offers both the kind of food they like (at similar prices) and a full fledged vegetarian option. The important part is to do the research and offer an exact proposal, not just a comlpaint.

Most likely, they will agree at least once, to be nice to a coworker. Unless they are total {{insert_expletive}}, in which case you wouldn't have been successful socializing with them in the first place.

If they refuse to go to such a place nicely (after being explained that they can still get their grease at your offered option), or try your place and dislike it, fall back to @MonicaCello's solution of ordering on a separate tab.

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    Sounds like Erik's already tried this, though - "We tried voting a couple of times and none of my proposals went through" – user56reinstatemonica8 Nov 10 '15 at 14:31
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    @user568458 - there is "let's go to this place I like" proposals and "let's go to this place I think you people will like" proposals. OP wasn't clear on which it was. – user13655 Nov 10 '15 at 15:10
  • The OP's situation sounds similar to mine ... except I'm no longer new. In my case, I learned early on that my co-workers aren't interested - or even willing - to try places I suggest, as I'm the one with the "weird" diet. So, I quit suggesting and usually just say "Thanks, but not today." when the put together an outing. – GreenMatt Nov 10 '15 at 21:58
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Find and propose a place which serves decent meat and vegetarian options, and beer. (Turkish, Greek, Indian, Pakistani, Vietnamese, Chinese, Buddhist, etc. should all be good choices.)

Suggest well in advance "let's go this place next time", and remind them you're vegetarian and can't get a decent main course. If they disagree, ask them to come up with a proposal that includes you.

In a department I used to work in, we had a tradition of rotating which group member got to pick a couple of suggested places for the next group dinner, then we voted on that shortlist. See if you can make that the tradition.

If you can't get any buy-in, it's your call whether to refuse to go to the greasy beer place in future, and tell them "I'd love to join you but I dislike the restaurant and I'd appreciate if you factored my vegetarian choice in".

Last fallback option is to tell the place you're a strict vegetarian, and ask can you bring in a (pre-ordered) vegetarian dish from another restaurant, which you order in advance and pick up on your way. Make up some medical/religious reason if you need to, legally the restaurant will be unable to refuse. And/or contact them in writing to ask them to improve their vegetarian options.

As to the uneven division of the bill, I don't see that aspect is the primary issue, but you can always do separate bills. (I'm surprised the company isn't paying anyway, for a monthly team dinner). That aspect seems minor.

PS I don't understand the truculent or take-it-or-leave-it attitudes from other posters. Your group has a social event, they have traditions, these are all good signs of a group that works well together and gets along well, which is rare. The question is presumably how a newcomer can engage with and shape that to accomodate them, not start throwing out ultimata.

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    Good idea. Might suggest the new place as an additional night out instead of a replacement at least the first time or two. Will make it more likely the Old Guard will try it and if they don't like it, they're not irritated that they lost a "good" night out. – JS. Nov 10 '15 at 23:42
  • @JS sure, whatever OP needs to do to gently sell the concept without appearing to break tradition... even if they agreed to go the other place every second month or something. – smci Nov 12 '15 at 22:24
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I don't want to be the weird new guy that breaks up existing customs.

So you'd rather be the weird new guy who feels forced into doing something he doesn't like?

"Thanks, but I'm not interested" is a perfectly acceptable response in this situation. Especially when the difference in desires is that striking. I know it's not easy as the new guy, but this should build some level of respect for not bending on your desires and principles. If they can't respect that, you have a whole different problem.

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    This is a fantastic way to be excluded from many important decisions, because often such decisions are either made at such social gatherings, or made on the basis of relationships cemented at them. – Amy Blankenship Nov 9 '15 at 22:01
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    Possibly, depends on the makeup of the group/department and who is actually going out to eat. OP will have to evaluate and make their own decision, I'm not going to tell a vegetarian they have to put up with these great meat meals to be able to have a career. – cdkMoose Nov 10 '15 at 0:21
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    @AmyBlankenship having a hard time understanding your comments. Now you seem to be saying that a non-smoker should start smoking not to be left out of decisions made on smoke breaks. – Chan-Ho Suh Nov 10 '15 at 2:26
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    It's obvious from just reading the question that just refusing to join the team is a non-starter for the OP. The OP wants practical answers, not someone to feign moral outrage in his place. This is a comment deliberately misinterpreting the question, not an answer. – Lilienthal Nov 10 '15 at 12:35
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    @Lilienthal, Based on the fact that the co-workers have already demonstrated their unwillingness to change, it looks like there are only two options: go and put up with the things OP doesn't like, or don't go. I'm just letting OP know that politely choosing to not go is an option. I am not feigning moral outrage in his place, I'm just pointing out that OP should be true to themselves first. – cdkMoose Nov 10 '15 at 13:56
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I'll address the part about paying a 1/(N bodies) share of the total when you had a lot less than others.

I sometimes find myself in these situations. Somebody takes the bill, adds a tip, divides by the number of people, then announces that's what everyone owes. Usually money is thrown in a big pile. Instead of tossing in the computed amount, say "I only had a salad and no drinks. Here is my share with a tip.", and toss in what you legitimately owe. Round up to the nearest $5 or whatever if you feel generous and want to make it clear you're holding up your obligation.

Personally, I've never had a problem with this. People will see that you paid your way and maybe a little more, and nobody will be upset. They may need to recompute how much everyone else owes, but that's their problem. Most of the time they didn't even notice or stop to think that asking you to pay the same for your salad as their steak and a glass of wine is unfair. They're not doing it to rip you off, just hadn't thought about it and were doing the logistically easy thing.

Do NOT ask for a separate bill. That makes you look like a weenie and emphasizes how you're not really part of the group. Especially if you're coming along for the social aspect, this is a bad idea.

  • +1 for this if the difference in price between yours and theirs is significant (which it definitely seems to be based on the question). If it's only a few $/€/£/... though I would say you're better off just paying the even split or else it may make you look bad. – rooby Nov 11 '15 at 0:17
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Just decline to go out with them, no reason needed and a bunch of money saved. I don't drink but colleagues I worked with used to do this sort of thing all the time, I just bowed out. No one will think you're weird, just a bit unsociable perhaps.

If you're not comfortable then don't do it.

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    He's also not comfortable with not doing it. – SantiBailors Nov 10 '15 at 15:27
  • @SantiBailors yep, got to draw a line somewhere though, I can't think of a solution that lets him have his cake and eat it too without venturing into the surreal, which is probably why I'm not getting much of a score on this question. :) I'm a family man, that is my family time which I wouldn't compromise to use on an overpriced meal. People realise that if they want me at a social event they need to invite my wif and the four rugrats, so basically they stopped inviting me. – Kilisi Nov 10 '15 at 20:55

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