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There is an upcoming visit from one of my companies clients, where I do development work for. My company usually invites clients to dinner at the same place each and every time if they visit us. For strong personal (even ethical) reasons I do not want to take meal or anything else from there (**before you ask: details at bottom, though I don't think they are of particular value to this question).

I told my supervisor this the minute he said that the client would come over for a visit and asked how we come over this problem. He was very understanding, remembered that he did not see me there for ages and said that this would not be a problem, since there is no dinner planned in the tight schedule for the meeting. Problem solved (i.e. not even to come up), great!

Now I got the invitation for the dinner at the said place anyways. How can I avoid the dinner without being 'that guy' to both my team and the client?

Please note that dinner is the first point on the agenda where everyone will get to know each other. Some people from their company already met some people from our company at a previous meeting at their place (I was not with them). I already had contact to some of them via audio-conference.

**Details: Several points make me avoid this place (although I do not think this improves the question):

  • I am vegetarian (on the way to vegan) and once their vegetarian offer contained meat. They only confessed after I stressed this issue to their management, they never apologized. Ever since then, I never showed up there again and plan to never show up there again.
  • Their products are generally of very low quality (from mass animal agriculture, even their eggs are from mass agriculture) and do not even taste well.
  • I usually bring my own meal cooked at home with high quality products to work.
  • The only real reason to go there is the insane proximity (like a 2 minute walk) to our company.
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    Would it be acceptable to go there and have a glass of water only? – nvoigt Mar 14 '17 at 11:38
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    @Nras, have you asked your supervisor what he/she recommends you do? They already said it wouldn't be a problem. If the dinner location cannnot be changed, I don't see it as a big deal if you don't go. You'll have plenty of time later for meet and greet. – mikeazo Mar 14 '17 at 11:41
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    I second nvoigt's comment. I would go and maybe get a drink and if anyone asks, just say that you will eat a little bit afterwards and had eaten a little beforehand because you are not a fan of their vegetarian options. I think the vegetarian thing is a legitimate reason (possibly cultural-dependent) without having to go into all the dirty details (as you had not wanted to here). – Teacher KSHuang Mar 14 '17 at 12:21
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    @Nras You might want to say instead "I already ate" or "I am still full" if you want to avoid drama. Everyone understands that, while stating that you don't like their vegetarian food opens up a bunch of question ("Why don't you eat meat?") as many people still don't feel comfortable with vegetarians. Also, they might simply ask "Why?" and when you tell them about your bad experiences there I would wander why my business partners bring me to such a bad restaurant... – dirkk Mar 14 '17 at 14:13
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    @Nras If questioned, all you have to say is, "I'm on a restricted diet." and leave it at that. Any further probing on their part is unwarranted nosiness. If you want to add something to be polite, you can say, "It's for health reasons." Beyond that and they're just being rude. – DLS3141 Mar 14 '17 at 14:53
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To answer your question: You can't.

There has to be something there that will work for your diet on this occassion. Perhaps a bottle of water and a salad or small cup of soup? Side of vegetables?

If MGMT thought enough for you to be invited, they obviously value your presence. If this happens all the time, then you can press upon your management how much you dislike the restaurant they are choosing.

I think you need to go.

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    I agree with both the answer and the comment, and only will add stress to the already stressed perceived value. The management invited you even after you said you spoke to your supervisor. Take Joe's advice and scope the place out, and MP's advice about stretching. Just because you have a moral stance doesn't mean that the world will bend to your will. It's either stand on moral and take your lump or compromise and take the consequence. – SliderBlackrose Mar 14 '17 at 12:52
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    I agree with this, particularly about the follow-up to try and prevent this in the future. Find another restaurant, have catering brought in, etc. – David K Mar 14 '17 at 13:25
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    I think this answer pairs well with some comments on the question. I will just have my own meal in beforehand and will just go for something to drink when we have dinner with the clients. If questioned, stating that I do not like their vegetarian offer [at that day] is also coincidentally not a lie. – Nras Mar 14 '17 at 13:43
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I'm not sure you can avoid being "that" guy, because that is what you are doing. I understand your objections, and I wouldn't have a problem with that. But you can't make other people not care about your being absent, regardless the reason.

It really comes down to how important your management feels it is that you be present. You can have them try to downplay your absence if it comes up, but people are likely to ask and I certainly wouldn't recommend lying to clients, sooner or later someone will find out and then your team/company look bad for lying about something that isn't really that important in the big picture.

You need to work with your boss to find the most agreeable solution that meets the company's needs. Client relationships are key to the success of the business, sometimes we need to do things that we don't personally like to help maintain those relationships.

  • TLDR; How to not be that guy when you are that guy. – Gabriel G. Mar 14 '17 at 19:31
  • "Sometimes we need to do things that we don't personally like to help maintain those relationships". Would you be willing to eat dog, cat or monkey for the sake of a client? – Jimmy Breck-McKye Mar 25 '17 at 20:25
  • Personally, no. But I'd be willing to be there and eat something else while the client ate that, or eat earlier and just get a drink. Not saying OP must go, but pointing out what may be at stake – cdkMoose Mar 25 '17 at 20:29
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It's possible you're being invited as a courtesy to you so you don't feel left out. You could feel like you should be able to decline the meal in this case. If you're crucial to working with clients, you may want to consider another approach.

Instead of having a total boycott of the restaurant due to the incident you had, try to get them to be more honest about meat in their meals. Maybe you can talk to the waiter on the side and not in front of your group. Ask about "true" vegetarian options and let them know you caught them in a lie.

Sometimes when you're with a group that frequents a place, you have a little more leverage. I realize this won't account for the other flaws you find in the quality of their food, but it is a start. Don't let them get in the way of your career.

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